EPMEPM: Leadership

9 signs you may be more cut out for leadership than you think

Increased focus on the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace is helping to redefine what it means to be a leader. Ush Dhanak shows how your attitude and reaction to everyday events can reveal your true leadership potential.

Are you underestimating your emotional intelligence and power to lead? Have you turned down the opportunity to interview for leadership positions because you’re not ‘cut out’ to be a leader?

Self-doubt is common, even among very capable individuals. We live in a world where big egos abound and it can leave many feeling inadequate. But don’t allow this to hold you up from doing the things you want – and that you’re really good at.

An amazing academic background, years of experience and stellar performance used to practically guarantee you a step up. Today, though, organisations are increasingly looking for leaders who can balance emotional intelligence with other traditional metrics used to determine leadership potential.

The problem is that there is no ‘EQ-meter’ that you can put under your tongue to measure it. So how do you know your level?

You may, in fact, be doing things in everyday life that reflect a high degree of emotional intelligence, contrary to what you think.

Here are nine qualities for starters that suggest you’d be a better leader than you imagine.


Ever heard anyone say, ‘I come from the school of hard knocks’?

Well, if you’ve had hard knocks in the past and always bounced back, this demonstrates a resilience that is characteristic of most leaders. Strong leaders let nothing stop them on the road they’re following – and they’ve all met failure and plenty of obstacles along the way.

In fact, no one ever achieved success without failure; it’s how you view that failure and react to it that matters.


Emotionally intelligent leaders know that relationships matter above all else. That’s why they view every relationship as a learning opportunity and work hard to understand others, form closer bonds with them and help them grow.

You value input and seek to gain insight from others and, in the process, not only make more popular decisions; you also create the goodwill that strong relationships thrive on.

Investing in relationships like this reduces the likelihood of harmful conflict and helps get the best out of others – important aspects of leadership.


Do people turn to you when they have a problem? That can also be a sign that you are a potential leader – because you demonstrate compassion, empathy and can listen to problems.

Conflicts, issues, personal problems, bad days… they’re all part of life. Leaders who want to brush them under the carpet generally end up losing the respect of their team members. People hate their feelings being ignored.

It’s important in leadership to be aware of, and respond to, other people’s emotional states as it shows a deeper understanding of the human experience.


Being able to be yourself and live by your values is a strong sign of emotional intelligence and leadership.

It shows that you understand who you are, what you stand for and what your purpose is. Other people naturally gravitate to those who are authentic, real and live with integrity.

You don’t need to be a great ‘actor’ to be a leader. There’s no value to being artificial and you don’t need to have an ‘inspirational’ personality. If you live true to your values, you will naturally inspire others to follow you.


Did you ever meet a leader who made excuses or pointed their finger at others to cover their tracks?

Any strong and respected leader takes responsibility for their actions. This is also a feature of emotionally intelligent people; because they seek to understand themselves and others, and aim to live according to their values, they are not scared of the truth.

Such people don’t expect perfection in themselves or others and so tend to take responsibility for what they do in everyday life – good or bad. Showing a little human ‘fragility’ with a mistake can even bring leaders closer to team members.

Organisations are looking for leaders who can balance emotional intelligence with other traditional metrics.


Change happens. Leaders can prepare for it and embrace it, or try to repel it.

Most trusted leaders are confident enough to see change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Their emotional intelligence gives them the self-belief and the flexibility to meet change head on – and to help their team do the same.

Your attitude to change says a lot about your leadership potential – especially with millennials, most of whom have grown up with the world changing rapidly around them.


Strong leaders are confident, mature and secure enough to be able to invite feedback from others – and to accept negative feedback in good grace.

If you can do this socially, it places you in good stead to take the step up as it may mean you have the emotional intelligence to handle it in the workplace. If you feel threatened by criticism – maybe not.

Sometimes people love to shoot you down. If you can take that on the chin, even if it’s unfair in your eyes, it’s a very good sign that you have what it takes.


Does life throw you stressful situations pretty often? Are you a port in a storm for others in these situations or does it completely screw you up?

If it’s the former, you have a strong leadership quality that could be borne of many things – but may have emotional intelligence underpinning it.

Because people with EQ adapt well to change, are aware of (and can manage) their own emotions and are confident about the path they’re on, they’re not easily blown off course by the inevitable disruptions to their plans. They see them for what they are: bumps in the road. They don’t panic and are able to stay calm and unflustered.

If you stay cool in pressure situations and are able to make measured decisions when others are losing their heads, you may be a natural born leader.


You are a social being. You enjoy the company of others and love interacting with, having fun with and learning from people. You like making others happy and try to create a welcoming, fun environment.

If this sounds like you, you may have more leadership potential than you imagine.

The best leaders work hard but also know when it’s time to play, and they enjoy doing that with their team. They have a sense of humour and actively seek breaks from the daily grind because they know that people’s lives don’t revolve around their jobs.

Have you dismissed yourself as a leader because you’re not experienced enough, don’t have the ‘numbers on the board’ or are missing the education?

Leadership is about much more than that. Even if you’re not instantly nodding at the nine qualities described above, it doesn’t count you out. EQ is not simply something you’re born with and have to manage throughout your life. Working on aspects of it can increase your leadership potential.

But you may already have it, despite your doubts!

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