In book writing, we have an expression — “that’s evergreen,” meaning topics that are always in fashion. For example: Weight loss, effective communication, and saving for retirement never go out of style. From my point of view, emotional intelligence is the evergreen topic of CEO reputation management.

The term emotional intelligence became part of the popular business vernacular when author Dan Goleman wrote a book about it. Emotional intelligence (or EI, aka emotional quotient or EQ) is defined as the ability to “recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.”


In my work I’ve seen undeniable parallels between developing executive presence, CEO reputation management and EQ. Here’s my take on the connective tissue between them.

If you don’t know what you’re feeling, you can’t be authentic. Positive reputations are built upon authenticity. But being authentic requires the honest expression of what you think — and feel.

Too often leaders lack the EQ to identify their specific feelings. For example, instead of saying “It makes me sad that our company made this mistake,” a statement that requires great vulnerability and humility, an executive lacking in emotional intelligence will say a colder “It’s unfortunate this situation occurred.”

One only has to look to the recent spate of PR disasters (United Airlines, Facebook, etc.) to see that initial responses lacking in feeling don’t play well with the public.

Your reputation is what others say about you. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.” A big part of the work I do on CEO reputation management is working with executives on developing executive presence. The reason? It’s their presence that has the biggest impact on how they’re viewed, both within their companies and to the world at large.

In my experience leaders with high EQ use their well-developed ability to recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others to create an authentic, non-manipulative presence that has a positive impact.

If you’re not growing, you’re standing still. Leaders who change with the times often enjoy the best reputations. Attempting to manage your executive brand the same way year after year leaves you in the dust.

For example, I worked with a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company who complained that the “younger folks” in his new start-up wanted him to have a stronger presence on social media.

“Why do I need to be on LinkedIn?” he asked. “Everyone who needs to know who I am does.”
I gently explained that this mindset was not going to serve his CEO reputation moving forward. The part of EQ that requires “managing our emotions” means being able to do things we don’t like or feel comfortable with.

Be it finding and sharing your feelings, doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable, or developing executive presence, ultimately, the goal is to engage your EQ as a tool in managing your reputation. After all, it’s smart thing to do.

Karen Tiber Leland is the founder of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding & marketing strategy firm helping individuals and companies build stronger brands. She is the best-selling author of The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand. For more information please contact [email protected]

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