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Emotional Intelligence as a Key Leadership Strength

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Without emotional connection with their employees, leaders risk inefficiency, disengagement, and conflict. If we don't understand people, we can't lead. This also involves self-awareness, which means getting in tune with our own emotions. This is the importance of emotional intelligence.

Getting to know how emotional intelligence in leadership works boosts our chances of success. Good leaders with high intelligence skills adopt a leadership style that works best for their company. 

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Effective leaders act as coaches beyond technical skills, using different coaching styles to improve the working environment and business performance. High levels of emotional intelligence skills are required to know the right style for any situation.

Megan Burns Explains Using Emotional Intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotionally intelligent leaders can walk in another person's shoes. It is one of the sought-after skills in the job market today, especially since automation has taken over many business processes and functions. As we know, robots can't understand emotions (yet).

Emotional intelligence is recognizing how someone feels. It involves understanding and managing your own and others' emotions. This is a critical leadership skill proposed by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990. It's now widely recognized as vital for business success.

Imagine a manager receiving constructive feedback during a team meeting. Instead of reacting poorly or shutting down the conversation, they demonstrate emotional intelligence by:

  • Acknowledging their feelings of initial defensiveness.

  • Taking a moment to reflect.

  • Using their communication skills to respond with curiosity and openness.

This level of social awareness is difficult to find, even among experienced leaders.

Since its discovery, various models of emotional intelligence in leadership have been developed. In this article, we'll go over the mixed model by Daniel Goleman

The core components of emotional intelligence in the mixed model are empathy, social skills, self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation. 



Developing emotional intelligence involves honing the lifelong skill of empathy. But this isn't just about understanding the emotions of your peers. It involves leaders practicing active listening and showing some genuine concern.

Emotional intelligence enables leaders to become empathetic, creating an inclusive working environment. Every team member feels more valued and understood. 

In change management, empathy helps leaders anticipate and address concerns, making transitions and accepting new initiatives much easier.


Social Skills

Leadership skills involve knowing how to effectively communicate. This is what having strong social skills is about. Social skills carry a wide range of abilities like conflict resolution, collaboration, and influencing others positively.

Leaders with strong social skills build strong rapport, resolve conflicts constructively, and motivate teams effectively. They create a supportive workplace where diverse viewpoints are encouraged. This can significantly improve job satisfaction, as employees feel more inspired to innovate.



Leaders with strong emotional intelligence also display self-awareness. Beyond basic emotions, self-aware leaders understand how emotions can influence thoughts and behavior. 

High emotional intelligence shows a grasp of internal strengths and weaknesses. Leaders with strong self-awareness seek feedback and adapt their approaches. This self-reflection makes you more honest and authentic, two traits welcomed in the workplace.



Challenging situations can lead to outbursts. We don't want that. Leaders with low emotional intelligence can create unnecessary tension in the workplace. 

Effective leaders who prioritize developing emotional intelligence skills have self management, which requires managing impulses and controlling emotional reactions. 

Successful leadership means being composed under pressure. Leaders should avoid impulsive actions. Emotions can then be managed productively. This is properly and productively "learning how to fight," since healthy conflicts lead to better outcomes. Leaders who can practice self-management can inspire confidence at work.



Emotional intelligence-driven motivation is about finding purpose. Money and status play a role, too. However, working with fulfillment makes it more worthwhile and lasting. 

Motivation is maintaining enthusiasm during challenging times. You then inspire others to achieve their best. Emotional intelligence helps leaders grow a strong motivation and drive continuous improvement. Employees are encouraged to take risks and grow personally and professionally.

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Why is Emotional Intelligence Important in a Leadership Role?

Effective leadership doesn't just rely on technical skills. Emotional intelligence plays a key role in rounding things out. Employees with managers who lack emotional intelligence are four times more likely to leave a company than those with emotionally intelligent managers.

Emotional intelligence is one of the leadership qualities that has become so popular but is still neglected by many leaders today. Here are reasons why you should take note of EI at work.

  • EI fosters effective communication, so there's trust and collaboration.
  • Leaders with EI connect deeply with team members for a positive work environment.
  • Navigate conflicts calmly and find a solution that works for everyone.
  • EI equips leaders to adapt to change and inspire confidence when things don't go right.
  • A leader with EI can set clear goals and develop a sense of purpose for everyone.
  • EI-driven leaders, with their self-awareness, are more authentic, attracting a more diverse workforce.

High emotional intelligence equips leaders with the tools needed to inspire, connect, and lead with purpose.


How to Develop High Emotional Intelligence for Effective Leadership

Enhancing your emotional intelligence lets you better understand and connect with your team. Here are ways how to develop EI for leadership that matters.

  • Reflect on your emotions. Identify your strengths and weaknesses to learn your leadership style.
  • Try some deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, and reframing techniques. These help manage stress and maintain composure in challenging situations.
  • Engage in active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding to show understanding, and paraphrasing what the speaker said to confirm comprehension.
  • Effectively communicate through both verbal and non-verbal communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills to build rapport and resolve differences constructively.
  • Gather feedback from peers, mentors, and team members to identify blind spots.
  • Don't be afraid to be authentic. Being self-aware inspires your team to be their best.

As stated by psychologist Daniel Goleman for Harvard Business Review, a leader's IQ and technical skills are entry-level requirements, and emotional intelligence is the core element of leadership. Despite having the highest level of training, they still won't make a great leader without a firm grasp of their own behavior.

Leaders can build a culture of empathy, resilience, and innovation when they prioritize emotional intelligence.


Unleashing the Potential of Your Organization

How often do you conduct one-on-one performance reviews with your team? Providing regular performance feedback to every employee is a critical part of effective leadership.

 If you’d like to learn more about maximizing performance through business leadership coaching, connect with us or consider attending one of our upcoming leadership events.

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Tim O'Connor