As this article in the Huffington Post points out, we typically get promoted for our technical skills rather than our leadership ones. Some leadership skills are innate but for the most part, excellence in leadership is gained through a wide variety of accumulated experience gained over time. One of the most important skills that affects both how we view problems and how our employees perceive us is emotional intelligence.

Though it certainly is not a simple, mechanical skill to learn, it is something that can be practiced if you’re of a mind to work on it. Here’s what I recommend for improving your emotional intelligence.

Practice active listening. The purpose of having emotional intelligence and of thinking about it in a measurable way is simply to understand people better as well as be more easily understood yourself. It’s so that you and your team can communicate and operate with less friction. Make an effort to listen actively to what people are saying. Do this not only at work, but at the grocery store or at the doctor’s office. It may seem simple, but making a habit of active listening will make an impact on your emotional intelligence.

Express vulnerability. Despite whatever cliches might be out there, people aren’t looking for flawless leaders. Real people are flawed and that doesn’t mean they aren’t great at their job. Simply allowing yourself to be vulnerable in the right situation is a great way to show that you are human too. And rather than try to manufacture a moment of human-ness, just be prepared to let it happen when the time is right.

Create a more open environment. Both of the ideas listed above are meant to help you do just this: create an environment that encourages the kind of open communication that really helps improve emotional intelligence among leaders and their teams. I’m not suggesting big changes, just small shifts in behavior and more than anything, frame of mind. Take a bit more time in your conversations. Ask one more question. Look the person in the eye one more time.

When you make honest efforts to connect with the people around you, they will feel your good intentions and respond. I think you will also notice a difference in the kind of conversations you end up having and the kind of feedback you receive. If you want to talk with me directly about this or any other topic, email

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