The Business of IT Blog

Must-Read Emotional Intelligence Books for CIOs and IT Leaders

7 minute read
Laura Shiff

While it is crucial for company leaders to have strong content knowledge, what separates great leaders from mediocre ones is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to not only express, control, and be aware of one’s own emotions, but also to have the capacity to understand and empathize with others’ emotions, as well.

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Research has shown that emotional intelligence is a key leadership skill, made up of components like self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and general social skills. The good thing about emotional intelligence, however, is that it can be learned, so even if it isn’t currently your strong suit, you can be well on your way to developing effective leadership skills with some practice. We have put together a list of the top ten books on emotional intelligence for CIOs and IT leaders.

On Emotional Intelligence
By: Harvard Business Review

About: Comprised of ten articles by experts in the emotional intelligence field, including bestselling author Daniel Goleman, this book is the perfect launching point to begin your emotional intelligence journey. Covering topics like how to manage conflict and regulate emotions, On Emotional Intelligence will help you to better understand your strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals.

This collection of articles includes:

  • “What Makes a Leader” by Daniel Goleman
  • “Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance” by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee
  • “Why It’s So Hard to Be Fair” by Joel Brockner
  • “Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions” by Andrew Campbell, Jo Whitehead, and Sydney Finkelstein
  • “Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups” by Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steve B. Wolff
  • “The Price of Incivility: Lack of Respect Hurts Morale―and the Bottom Line” by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson
  • “How Resilience Works” by Diane Coutu
  • “Emotional Agility: How Effective Leaders Manage Their Negative Thoughts and Feelings” by Susan David and Christina Congleton
  • “Fear of Feedback” by Jay M. Jackman and Myra H. Strober
  • “The Young and the Clueless” by Kerry A. Bunker, Kathy E. Kram, and Sharon Ting

EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence
By: Justin Bariso

About: EQ Applied provides a variety of real-world strategies for applying emotional intelligence in day-to-day situations as well as in professional settings. Using compelling research and high-profile practical examples, like Steve Jobs’s exit and return to Apple, stories from the FBI’s former lead kidnap investigator, and a famous singer, this book offers insights into increasing your emotional intelligence quotient (EQ).

Author Justin Bariso covers topics like processing your emotional reactions, breaking bad habits, discovering how to protect yourself against toxic people, and learning how emotions can work for you instead of against you.

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

About: Critical thinking, the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment, is a crucial skill not only for the workplace but in general relationships, as well. Improving critical thinking skills will help you:

  • Become a more effective communicator
  • Filter out irrelevant information
  • Understand different perspectives
  • Enhance your problem-solving approaches
  • Improve your logical thinking and reasoning skills

The Critical Thinker gives you a complete understanding of the rules and principles of critical thinking practiced by Einstein, Plato and every great thinker in history. Utilizing their methods, become a more solution-oriented leader, solving difficult tasks while unifying your workforce.

Show Up as Your Best Self: Mindful Leaders, Meditation, & More
By: Cathy Quartner Bailey

About: In Show Up as Your Best Self, executive coach Cathy Quartner Bailey presents a roadmap to becoming a more mindful leader. With experience working with hundreds of Fortune 500 executives, Bailey teaches you techniques that will help you increase your leadership potential by enhancing your confidence, decisiveness, and ability to stay calm amidst chaos.

Featuring engaging leadership stories and interactive worksheets, this is a book for leaders wishing to become more adept at setting priorities, solving problems, managing uncertainty, and developing strong relationships. As an added benefit, ten percent of royalties from Show Up as Your Best Self will be donated to Sheltered Yoga, a nonprofit organization that facilitates mental health and wellness through yoga and mindfulness education.

Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership
By: Michael Ventura

About: Although it is often considered one of the most challenging emotional intelligence characteristics to strengthen, empathy is vital in being an effective leader. For leaders at any level, this groundbreaking guide provides the foundation needed to establish a strong and innovative team by seeing things from their perspective.

Michael Ventura, entrepreneur and CEO of award-winning design firm Sub Rosa, shares practical strategies he has utilized in cultivating empathy with iconic organizations like General Electric, Google, Nike, Warby Parker, and The United Nations. Applied Empathy offers CIOs and IT leaders a radical new business book and way forward.

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

About: Difficult conversations are a necessary part of being in charge, and emotionally intelligent leaders cannot simply shy away from these types of situations. Emotional Judo is a book that helps decision-makers learn better ways to communicate in tricky scenarios, covering how to know what to say and when to say it.

Full of ten different engaging strategies, this book digs into easy-to-learn, memorable communication skills:

  1. Learn the hidden, crucial key to building winning relationships
  2. Assess your relationships through the five aspects of trust
  3. Learn how to say “no”, set your boundaries, negotiate, and resolve disagreements
  4. Bring up difficult subjects in a way that invites collaboration, minimizes push-back and conflict, and gains win/win outcomes
  5. If people do push back, learn how to manage that with ease
  6. Quickly assess whether now is the right time or situation to speak up
  7. Deal effectively with a bully or a person who is not respectful of your boundaries
  8. Gain courage to call people on their unethical behavior
  9. Get people that are stuck to their viewpoint to see an alternative
  10. Build stronger relationships with people across generations and cultures

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

About: No matter what industry, but especially in one as ever-changing as tech, when you take big chances you also take big risks. With these risks comes the potential of big failures. Brought to you from bestselling author and social scientist Brené Brown, Rising Strong is a compilation of hundreds of stories of failures and how the subjects learned from them.

With stories from leaders in Fortune 500 companies and the military to artists, couples in long-term relationships, teachers, and parents, this book uncovers how these individuals recognized their emotions throughout their struggles and leaned into the discomfort, rising stronger than ever before.

The Power of Your Potential: How to Break Through Your Limits
By: John C. Maxwell

About: One of the biggest components of emotional intelligence is self-awareness, which includes understanding and developing your own strengths as a person and as a leader. This book from John Maxwell identifies and examines the 17 key capacities each of us possess as well as offers clear and actionable advice on how to improve them.

Some of these key capacities include:

  • Managing your emotions
  • Increasing energy
  • Conquering procrastination
  • Becoming more comfortable taking risks

Utilizing these skills, Maxwell ensures you will discover your true potential, becoming a better leader than you ever thought possible.

How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind
By: Leah Weiss, PhD

About: Based on Dr. Leah Weiss’s overwhelmingly popular course at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, How We Work offers a practical guide to embracing emotional intelligence to become our best selves at work and in our personal lives.

Through techniques of mindfulness and awareness, Dr. Weiss emphasizes how we must stop being our false self in the business environment and instead bring our whole selves to the office, including oftentimes more negatively viewed emotions like anxiety, fear, or envy. By learning how to attend to these difficult emotions at the workplace without becoming consumed by them, we are able to increase our overall success by sharpening abilities, enhancing leadership and interpersonal skills, and improving satisfaction.

HBR Guide to Emotional Intelligence
By: Harvard Business Review

About: Another resource from Harvard Business Review, HBR Guide to Emotional Intelligence is the ultimate how-to on all emotional intelligence essentials, covering basic definitions and examples as well as how to understand your own personal EQ and how to cultivate the EQ skills on your team.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • Determine your emotional intelligence strengths and weaknesses
  • Understand and manage your emotional reactions
  • Deal with difficult people
  • Make smarter decisions
  • Bounce back from tough times
  • Help your team develop emotional intelligence

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About the author

Laura Shiff

Laura Shiff is a researcher and technical writer based in the Twin Cities. She specializes in software, technology, and medicine. You can reach Laura at