10 must-read emotional intelligence books for leaders

Carla Rudder
14th June, 2018

Strong leaders have strong EQ. These books can help you hone all aspects of your emotional intelligence – from showing empathy to having difficult conversations

Emotional intelligence often separates great leaders from mediocre ones. It’s also a skill set that can be learned. So even if  EQ isn’t your strong suit today, with some practice, you could be well on your way to developing an effective leadership style that taps into the best of both your head and your heart.

[ Working on your emotional intelligence? Learn the behaviors to avoid as you build your EQ: 10 things leaders with emotional intelligence never do. ]

To help you get there, we’ve rounded up 10 insightful books for IT and business leaders. Each offers guidance and wisdom that you can use to hone all aspects of your emotional intelligence – including understanding your strengths, dealing better with failure, and leading with empathy and mindfulness. Let’s dig in:

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On Emotional Intelligence

By: Harvard Business Review

About: Featuring articles from Daniel Goleman and other leading thinkers on emotional intelligence, this book is a great starting point if you’re just beginning your EQ development journey. From the Amazon description: “If you read nothing else on emotional intelligence, read these 10 articles by experts in the field. We’ve combed through hundreds of articles in the Harvard Business Review archive and selected the most important ones to help you boost your emotional skills―and your professional success.”

EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence

By: Justin Bariso

About: EQ can be a fuzzy topic. But this book offers examples of what emotional intelligence concepts look like in action. From the Amazon description: “In this age of social media attacks, constant distraction, and rampant corruption, a high emotional intelligence quotient, or EQ, is more important than ever. Justin Bariso brings the concept of emotional intelligence up to date and into the real world, combining scientific research with high-profile examples and personal stories.”

The Critical Thinker: The Path To Better Problem Solving, Accurate Decision Making, and Self-Disciplined Thinking

By: Steven Schuster

About: If irrational thoughts and snap judgments are clouding your decisions and relationships at work, add this book to your reading list. From the Amazon description: “Improving your critical thinking skills will help you save time, filter out irrelevant information efficiently, and prioritize your resources to get the best results. Critical thinking will enhance your communication skills, reasoning, and logic. You will also become more compassionate and understanding for the perspectives of others.”

Show Up as Your Best Self: Mindful Leaders, Meditation, & More

By: Cathy Quartner Bailey

About: Leaders with strong emotional intelligence don’t get rattled – even when things are chaotic. Some keep their cool by practicing mindfulness. If you want to give it a try, this book can help. From the Amazon description: “Executive coach Cathy Quartner Bailey presents a roadmap to becoming a more mindful leader. By applying the techniques she has shared with hundreds of Fortune 500 executives, you will learn how to cultivate a mindfulness practice to help you reach your leadership potential by being more confident, decisive, and grounded.”

Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership

By: Michael Ventura

About: Empathy is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence, and one of the more challenging EQ characteristics to strengthen. If you are struggling to see things through anyone’s perspective but your own, this book can help. From the Amazon description: “For leaders of all levels, this groundbreaking guide lays the foundation to establish a diverse, inventive, and driven team that can meet the challenges of today’s ever-evolving marketplace. If you want to connect to the people you work with and for, you first have to understand them.”

Emotional Judo: Communication Skills to Handle Difficult Conversations and Boost Emotional Intelligence

By: Tim Higgs

About: Emotionally intelligence leaders don’t shy away from difficult conversations: They use them as an avenue to strengthen their working relationships with others. With practice, anyone can get better at this skill. From the Amazon description: “Learn the sneaky tactics people use when stakes are high in conversation. Find out how to counter them to get a desired outcome… and much more. Emotional Judo is a set of 10 easy to learn and memorable communication skills. The tools help you manage your own emotions and the emotions of others in difficult conversations, to know what to say and when.”

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

By: Brené Brown

About: IT leaders have to be comfortable with failure – and the ability to dust yourself off after a mistake or disappointment takes a healthy dose of emotional intelligence. (Failing fast – and learning from failed experiments –  is also a key part of the DevOps way of working.) This book can help you find the silver lining when things get tough. From the Amazon description: “Regardless of magnitude or circumstance, the rising strong process is the same: We reckon with our emotions and get curious about what we’re feeling; we rumble with our stories until we get to a place of truth; and we live this process, every day, until it becomes a practice and creates nothing short of a revolution in our lives. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness. It’s the process, Brown writes, that teaches us the most about who we are.”

The Power of Your Potential: How to Break Through Your Limits

By: John C. Maxwell

About: Emotional intelligence depends on self-awareness. This book can help you develop a better understanding of your own strengths. From the Amazon description: “John Maxwell identifies and examines the seventeen key capacities each of us possesses. Some we are born with, such as how we think or how we naturally relate to other people. The rest are choices, often unconscious, including our attitude or personal disciplines. Maxwell gives clear and actionable advice on what we can do to improve in each of these areas. From learning to manage your emotions and increase your energy, to conquering procrastination and becoming more comfortable with taking risks, you will surpass your own expectations to become a better you than you ever thought possible.”

How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind

By: Leah Weiss, PhD

About: The workplace can be a hotbed of negative emotions. Leading effectively and with emotional intelligence isn’t about burying those feelings: It’s about embracing them. This book explores this idea. From the Amazon description: “Nothing provides more opportunities for negative emotions — anxiety, anger, envy, fear, and paranoia, to name a few — than the dynamics of the workplace. But the good news is that these feelings matter. How we feel at and about work matters — to ourselves, to the quality of our work, and ultimately to the success of the organizations for which we work. Using mindfulness techniques, we can learn how to attend to difficult feelings without becoming subsumed by them; we can develop an awareness of our bigger picture goals that orients us and allows us to see purpose in even the most menial tasks.”

HBR Guide to Emotional Intelligence

By: Harvard Business Review

About: The ultimate how-to guide covers all of the emotional intelligence essentials, from understanding your own EQ to helping you develop the EQ skills on your team. From the Amazon description: “Emotional intelligence is a more powerful determinant of good leadership than technical competence, IQ, or vision. Influencing those around us and supporting our own well-being requires us to be self-aware, know when and how to regulate our emotional reactions, and understand the emotional responses of those around us. Emotional intelligence is composed of skills that all of us can learn and improve on. In this guide, you’ll learn how.”

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