The 5 EQ Traits that Separate Good Leaders from Great Ones

December 1, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed

“What separates people…is not the presence or absence of difficulty, but how they deal with the inevitable difficulties of life.” ~ James C. Collins, Good to Great


If you’ve worked with good leaders and with great leaders, you’ve noticed a difference – an array of skills that sets them apart and is based on their people management skills. What you’ve noticed but may not have been able to label, is their emotional intelligence skills. At the end of this article, I’ll provide you with an exercise to show you what I mean.

Studies have demonstrated that the ability to understand your effect on others and manage yourself accordingly accounts for nearly 90 percent of career success when IQ and technical skills are roughly similar. In other words, it is the difference between good and great leadership.

Good leaders have technical chops, set strategy and execute and make smart decisions. They problem solve effectively and know how to use company resources.

Great leaders surround themselves with great people and they know how to motivate and keep them. Truly great leaders identify, understand and manage their own emotions. They are also able to do that with others in a way that  influences team morale and productivity. Great leadership starts with self-awareness and knowing your own leadership style. Here is how great leaders do what they do:

1.      Self Awareness – This means a clear understanding of your own strengths and weakness. It is also a willingness to triple down on strengths and weaken weaknesses. It means being emotionally balanced and resilient. It means independence and self reliance and it means seeking and responding positively to constructive criticism.

2.      Social Skills – The ability to develop and maintain social relationships is everything. Socially intelligent leadership includes effective communication skills and conflict resolutions skills. It means a participatory management style and the ability to get others to buy into your vision. It’s the ability to develop and motivate teams and to provide and receive constructive feedback. If in real estate its location, location, location; at work, it’s relationships, relationships, relationships.

3.      Self-Motivation – This means the ability to works consistently towards goals while maintaining high standards for work and performance. It means having ambition and strong inner drive and knowing how to tap into that in others. It means being optimistic and resilient. Again, doing this in good times is a sign of good leadership. Doing this during times of strife, is a sign of great leadership.

4.      Empathy – This, of course, is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. What it looks like is having respect of others and listening with true intent. I cover empathy and leadership extensively in my article Emotionally Empathetic Leaders Excel at Everything.

5.      Self-Regulation – This means you do not make rash or emotional decisions or compromise your values and beliefs to win battles. You remain calm and in control in the face of adversity and challenge. You are adaptable and flexible in different situations, including challenges and crises. Above all, it means you are committed to assuming responsibility for your actions. How important is taking responsibility for your actions? The famed psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote that “Freedom is only part of the story and half the truth…. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplanted by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”


Despite conventional thinking, emotional intelligence is not a soft skill.  In fact a bevy of research and best-selling books on the topic suggest the opposite: that emotional intelligence (EI) is a stronger predictor of success which helps us think creatively about how best to leverage our technical skills.

As an exercise, I ask my coaching clients to list the characteristics of a great mentor or role model and to classify each characteristic into one of three groups: IQ, technical skills, or emotional intelligence. Almost invariably, the majority of characteristics fall into the EI bucket.

You might like to try the same exercise at home. I’d be curious to hear about your results.

Good luck.

Wait, before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: