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12 Elements of Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers

The line between good and great project managers may be drawn firmly in the sand of Emotional Intelligence (EI). The primary elements of EI as outlined by Daniel Goleman and Richard E. Boyatzis in Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements. Which Do You Need to Work On? (2017, Harvard Business Review) are Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management. How can EI, and mastery of these four broader elements, help create stronger Legal Project Management (LPM) teams?

Generally, high levels of EI help project managers run more effective meetings, maintain strong team engagement while executing project work, produce higher quality deliverables and navigate Legal nuances in a manner that feels fluid and competent. While honing in on EI-sparked signals, Legal Project Managers (LPMs) should be able to accumulate realistic perspectives of the current organizational climate - and develop tailored action plans or approaches that are well-suited for that particular project environment. Further, leveraging EI can help LPMs better assign project tasks and design workable process flows that are considerate to the evolving needs of the project team.

Self-Awareness Captured under the domain of Self-Awareness is the competency of Emotional Self-Awareness. From a LPM perspective, this entails individual project managers adequately assessing their own needs and objectives and how those conclusions may impact the project work. For example, is the LPM currently overburdened with a competing project and unable to provide the project teams proper attention? Or, are there Legal concepts associated with the project work not being grasped, creating lapses during project planning and execution? Honest assessments about the internal work required on behalf of an LPM to lead a project is vital.


Self-Management differs from Self-Awareness in that it encompasses Emotional Self-Control, Adaptability, Achievement Orientation, and Positive Outlook. Adaptability is an especially important trait for Legal Project Managers, as project needs can and do often shift - many times impacting the project’s priorities and timing as well. Changes throughout a project’s lifecycle and project manager’s role are often unavoidable across industries, making adaptability valuable within LPM work due to the nuances involved in interpreting the law and providing Legal guidance.

It can be argued that Emotional Self-Control is most useful for LPMs during meetings and ongoing Legal discussions, as disagreements can arise while arriving at appropriate Legal determinations that may either impact or stall the project work. It is an important part of the Legal Project Manager’s role to navigate any challenging areas where the project team and/or Attorneys are not aligned and guide the group back towards an actionable decision. In short, an LPM who is able to connect Emotional Self-Control to Achievement Orientation can help create a smooth project experience for the entire team.

Additionally, maintaining a Positive Outlook can be valuable in LPM work when used as a vehicle to drive engagement and motivate the project team. Genuine and well-informed belief in the best possible outcomes for the project and project team can become contagious and create ripple effects of positivity and great work.

Social Awareness

The Social Awareness domain consists of Empathy and Organizational Awareness. Social Awareness asks are we present and connected to what is going on around us? Empathy asks if we are able to understand and care about the instances we are observing? A solid LPM will combine this information to assess potential impacts to the project work. When targeting aspects of Organizational Awareness, more specific questions such as, has there been a recent organizational restructuring - or Legal matter or regulatory concern recently that may impact the project team? Taking these variables into account when developing project plans and executing on project work helps boost the probability of project success.

Relationship Management

Influence, Coach and Mentor, Conflict Management, Teamwork and Inspirational Leadership represent the competencies of Relationship Management within the context of EI. Influence - and in particular, Influencing without Authority - are huge focus areas for Legal Project Managers to focus on while running projects. Influence can be best established through strong project execution and interpersonal interactions amongst the project team and stakeholders.

In real-time, LPMs are often not Lawyers and are not required or empowered to make Legal decisions for the project. However, there is frequently an expectation that Legal Project Managers surface any process or logistical risks for Legal review. The sum of these interactions equates to Teamwork within LPM, which another core factor of Relationship Management that is essential for LPMs and project teams to function well. Teamwork is best facilitated through having clear roles and responsibilities, centralized communication spaces, enforceable deadlines and appropriate forms of Leadership oversight.

In all, strong Legal Project Managers leverage Emotional Intelligence to better lead and empathize with project team, better navigate collaborative group dynamics and inform LPM judgment calls within Legal project work.

Sources: Goelman, D. and Boyatzis, A. (2017). Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements. Which Do You Need to Work On? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from URL:


About the Author Ayana Edwards Jackson is an experienced legal professional and writer currently working and living in Silicon Valley. She has worked as a corporate governance specialist and project manager directly supporting the Board of Directors. She obtained her B.A. in Anthropology from George Mason University. Ayana is also a writer and mixed media artist.

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