How to Lead With High Emotional Intelligence While Working Remotely

This article was originally published in Inc. Magazine. 

Emotional intelligence (EQ) has been deemed a more powerful predictor of a person's success as a leader than IQ. With much of the business world figuring out how to become fully remote, the need for high EQ becomes even more apparent.

In working remotely, high EQ individuals who display empathy, confidence, and comfort with their own limitations will be able to thrive and emerge as leaders in the pack. Here are some ways you can polish up your EQ while being remote. 

Human-centric management

Empathy is one of the strongest attributes of people with high EQ. In a remote-work world, you might have the ideal setup, but your colleagues might be miserable. Not everyone has a quiet home office, a full-time nanny, and unbreakable Wi-Fi. Being fully remote can also feel lonely and overwhelming to some. 

While all of these problems might not be easy to solve overnight, the approach we take as leaders can make all the difference. Leaders with high EQ should encourage an open dialog around the challenges their team faces. They should have a pulse on their team as humans, not just as numbers on a performance review. 


In transitioning to fully remote work, I bumped up the cadence of quick routine check-ins with my team in order to better connect and communicate. More casual check-ins give your team the opportunity to ask questions, flag roadblocks, and, most importantly, connect on a human level. 


I prefer to approach check-ins differently from typical team meetings with no set agenda. I have even purchased some fun gifts for my team, like Yeti coffee cups to encourage them to occasionally take the meeting from outside. These candid conversations can help a leader with high EQ have a better basis for how their team is really feeling. Not every meeting needs to feel structured, and if you want people to see you as more than just a manager, ditch the agenda from time to time.

Make them laugh 

Self-awareness is key to being a leader with high EQ. A Harvard Business Review study revealed that self-aware leaders are confident and often candid. They have a holistic understanding of both their strengths and weaknesses. According to new research, laughing at yourself might be tied to great leadership, and, as a bonus, it can also reduce your own anxiety.

A tangible way to spot a self-aware leader is by looking for a self-deprecating sense of humor. People who can admit to their failures or shortcomings with a smile are more approachable. Being comfortable and confident enough that you can laugh at yourself builds trust within a team.

This is even more important when you're fully remote because you miss those candid opportunities to connect that you have in an office. Remote work days that all too easily bleed into remote work nights desperately need leaders who take some pauses along the way to be human and not always take themselves too seriously. Laughter is the great connector we all need when times get tough.

Know when to ceasefire

Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other communication tools are incredible in allowing us to quickly communicate, especially when we aren't able to walk over to our colleague's desk. The problem is that these messaging tools are easy to abuse. I admit, as a manager, I have struggled with this myself. I leave a round of meetings and start firing off questions and comments that, I've realized, probably leave my team ducking for cover.


As managers, if we want to display high EQ, we need to remember not only to leverage the tools that are quick and easy for us but also to recognize how those interactions will be received by our team. A change we made was to transition all projects over to Asana, thereby allowing feedback to be more easily received and triaged. 

Mute the mic

When working remotely and adopting video conferencing tools, it is imperative that you are aware of how your actions are affecting others. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who don't mute themselves while they are not talking. No one needs to hear you slurp your coffee, mash your keyboard while taking notes, or chew on your gum.

In addition, when working remote, many times our environment is not super quiet. Your background noise can get picked up on your mic and distract others on the call. Limit that noise by only unmuting when speaking and improve everyone's experience.

Investing in your own EQ is an investment in yourself as a leader. As you continue to navigate the transition to remote work, developing your EQ skills can afford you a powerful dose of control, even amid uncertain circumstances.