Understanding emotional intelligence in leadership

Being friendly to people is a very small part of emotional intelligence in leadership. It’s a mentality that enables us to understand another person’s perspective without trying to be understood, to put ourselves in their shoes, to demonstrate empathy, and to detach ourselves from our egos.

It’s good that leadership can take many different forms since each of us responds to different leadership philosophies in terms of how we communicate, learn, and act. Future leaders will have emotional intelligence, which will allow them to appeal to all facets of our eccentric personalities and comprehend the complexity of humanity.

Understanding emotional intelligence in leadership

Your future promotion might not be assured by the technical abilities that helped you land your first one. You should take into account the emotional component if you want to hold a leadership position. It enables you to collaborate with others, offer feedback, manage stress, and coach teams effectively. Well, in this article, you’ll have understanding on emotional intelligence in leadership as the following questions will be discussed:

  • what is emotional intelligence?
  • Why is emotional intelligence important to both leaders and managers?
  • What are the characteristics of emotional intelligence?
  • let’s dive in!

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What is emotional intelligence?

It is now more crucial than ever for CEOs to demonstrate emotional intelligence (EQ) given the development of AI in HR. The ability to recognize and control your emotions, as well as the emotions of others at work, is referred to as emotional intelligence in the context of business and HR. Empathy, social skills, self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation are all parts of emotional intelligence in a leader. Well, most online leadership and management courses are focused on developing these teachable soft skills.

In addition, understanding and controlling your own emotions as well as being able to identify and affect the emotions of those around you are all examples of having emotional intelligence. Researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey first used the term in 1990, but psychologist Daniel Goleman later made it more well-known.

In a statement to the Harvard Business Review from more than ten years ago, Goleman emphasized the significance of emotional intelligence in leadership. He said that “the most successful leaders are all alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. Not that intelligence and technical proficiency are unimportant. They are important, but they are also the prerequisites for executive roles.

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Why is emotional intelligence important to both leaders and managers?

When workplace tensions flare up or when unfavorable feelings simmer just below the surface, a toxic work atmosphere is created, someone needs to keep everything together. A leader with high emotional intelligence can also support the development of a positive workplace culture that doesn’t start out hostile.

According to Chris Underwood’s article on the crucial function of emotional intelligence, leaders with high EQ can appreciate team variety and balance, inspire and influence others, and use critical thinking to make decisions that have a good impact on strategy. The followings are some reasons why emotional intelligence is important to leaders and managers:

  • Emotional intelligence gives us and others around us power.
  • When building relationships, sharing is caring.
  • Great leaders put their followers first, not the other way around.
  • Emotional intelligence stirs our emotions.


Emotional intelligence gives us and others around us power.

Being present and in the moment is made possible by emotional intelligence, which enables us to truly listen to others rather than just hearing what they have to say. It requires effort and concentration to listen. Hearing is apathetic and slothful.

High levels of emotional intelligence also encourage everyone to perform at their utmost best, setting off a chain reaction in the brain that encourages the “flow state of mind,” which can help leaders complete more tasks throughout the day with less effort. Additionally, it adds fertilizer to the soil of productivity, which may spread throughout an entire organization.

Because they have seen directly how effective intentional acts can be for developing top-notch teams, leaders who are aware of these ideas are aware of how influential they can be inside their organizations. It is also nearly impossible for them to forget once they experience what peak performance and extremely effective teamwork are like. People that are emotionally intelligent don’t need to advertise it to you. Those that engage with them frequently are aware of how they make them feel. These people can instantly brighten a space and have “something about them.”

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When building relationships, sharing is caring.

Showing vulnerability in the workplace nowadays is a strength, not a weakness. The days of hiding feelings, being dishonest about emotions, and publicly expressing insecurities are long gone. Emotional intelligence in leadership is essential in the modern world, particularly in light of the recent changes in workflow that have become standard in the COVID-19 age. There are ways to develop relationships without being immediately next to someone, whether working remotely or in the office.

By being honest about your thoughts and feelings and by encouraging others to do the same, you can build a culture of psychological safety and a relationship of trust with your coworkers. Highly effective teams are able to solve problems and come up with solutions as quickly as possible when coworkers are allowed to voice their thoughts honestly and freely.

Great leaders put their followers first, not the other way around.

Although accepting this idea could be difficult, experts agree that the best approach is to take one bite at a time. High emotional intelligence leaders encourage their subordinates, not the other way around. Why?

Because leaders with high emotional intelligence understand that providing support to their team members is the best way to enable them to take ownership of their results, promote growth, and provide the psychological safety necessary for them to make mistakes on the job while working toward personal improvement.

As teams grow self-sufficient, emotionally intelligent leaders are freed up to continue working on the business rather than in it, making this idea one of the most effective long-term moves a person could employ. Additionally, it fosters an environment where workers feel empowered to take on new responsibilities, experiment with new ideas, and consistently look for fresh approaches to pressing issues.

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Emotional intelligence stirs our emotions.

Emotions appeal to the heart of who we are as humans, which is why having strong emotional intelligence may help leaders build outstanding teams and perform at the greatest levels. Our behavior, perception of the outside world, and responses to it are all significantly influenced by the lower emotional centers in our brains. It’s challenging to comprehend how or why people react to circumstances the way they do since our subconscious processing is faster and more effective at processing data than our conscious thinking.

What are the characteristics of emotional intelligence?

The psychologist Daniel Goleman, who popularized the phrase “emotional intelligence,” says that EQ consists of:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills



A self-conscious leader are aware of their emotions. You are aware of the impact your feelings have on those around you. Additionally, self-awareness is not just limited to feelings. You are conscious of your ego and cognizant of your positive and negative traits. You want to make sure that your ego and other personality qualities serve the needs of the team and the organization.

Take your time and slow down as a leader to increase self-awareness. Pause, slow down. Don’t respond to situations right away. Spend some time processing and exercising critical thought (which means challenging your own assumptions as well as those of others). Make sure your response is considered and acceptable, free from emotional errors made in the heat of the moment.


Think of yourself as your own boss; be strict but fair. Your emotions remain under your control. You don’t lose your temper or violate your principles at work. You are responsible for your own actions. People around you feel reassured and inspired to act positively when you are composed. You are upholding organizational ethics and setting a good example when you hold yourself accountable and behave accordingly.

Keep your composure as a leadership tip to enhance self-regulation. A broad sense of increased wellbeing at work results when you constantly respond calmly under pressure. In fact, emotional literacy is essential for maintaining mental health at work, according to Ruth Sutherland, CEO of Samaritans.

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Understanding WHAT you want to do and WHY you want to do it will help you stay motivated. It frequently takes some self-reflection to understand the “why” component, which is where having strong emotional intelligence comes in. Motivated leaders hold themselves to high standards of performance and make steady progress toward their objectives. A leader with great emotional intelligence will also be able to motivate and incentivize their team members to develop their own motivations for doing their best work by understanding what makes them tick.

Value optimism as a leadership strategy to enhance motivation. Consider optimism as a useful reaction to stress. Champions are aware that optimism includes more than merely having positive ideas. It entails being able to see the positive aspects of a circumstance and employing that proactive optimism to maintain your resolve to succeed.


A leader with empathy can put themselves in another person’s position. When your team needs someone responsible in charge to guide them through challenging situations, this ability will help you be a good listener, question stereotypes and unjust assumptions, offer critical feedback effectively, and grow the people on your team. A compassionate boss creates a supportive workplace culture supported by group loyalty and respect.

Tip for leaders looking to increase empathy is to pay attention to feelings as much as words. You are aware of how body language works. Sometimes, the delivery of a message can be just as crucial as the words themselves. Long pauses following the delivery of news, a sigh that was attempted to be concealed, or an individual who simply exudes extreme exhaustion—these things matter. Aim to respond to these non-verbal signs as an empathic leader. Address the feelings that underlie them. Allow the employee to discuss any needs or problems they are having so that you may jointly come up with solutions.

Social skills

Most of us are familiar with a leader who fits the description of a “people person” or having excellent social skills. The technique of establishing an emotional connection through communication is fundamental to social skills. Socially competent leaders may break bad news and celebrate good news in a way that leaves people with the impression that there are countless prospects for development. High communication-skilled leaders are also adept at handling conflict and change in a sensitive manner that is in line with the circumstances.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence will show they respect the needs, anxieties, and hopes of the people involved while making decisions that will have an impact on their life. Resolving conflicts with compassion and communication is a leadership skill that can be improved. By concentrating on conflict leadership rather than just conflict management, you can prevent a toxic work environment. As a leader, you must be able to influence others, and how you accomplish that is a key component of your skills.

Read through the 5 healthy conflict resolution tactics to understand what we mean. With the use of these techniques, tension and conflict can be converted into enlightened discussion and moral resolutions. You can guide a team toward greater mindfulness and productivity if you have a thorough awareness of workplace emotions, including your own. It is not a “easy option” for leaders to be emotionally intelligent. It can be essential to success!

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The leader who has emotional intelligence will be better able to handle multiple relationships in a crisis. For example, leaders who can connect on a deeper level via EQ are better at inspiring people and handling conflict. High EQ leaders are aware of who they are.

Emotional intelligence has five main components, according to American psychologist Daniel Goleman, who helped popularize it:

  • Self-awareness.
  • Self-regulation.
  • Motivation.
  • Empathy.
  • Social skills.
Emotionally intelligent leaders have these 5 traits
  • They’re thoughtful and approachable.
  • They admit mistakes and know how to apologize.
  • They notice burnout and understand the importance of balance.
  • They practice self-care.
  • They honor everyone’s uniqueness.


Emotional intelligence aids adaptability in leaders. Your ability to navigate an ever-changing world and even succeed as a leader in it should be aided by your awareness of, comprehension of, and control over your emotions as well as those of those around you.

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You can inspire confidence, communicate clearly, and interact effectively with others in the workplace provided you work on developing your emotional intelligence. This essential ability makes sure you can accomplish your own personal and professional objectives while getting the best out of your team.
The ability to recognize, use, and control your own emotions in order to reduce stress, communicate clearly, sympathize with others, overcome obstacles, and diffuse conflict is known as emotional intelligence (EQ).

What is emotional intelligence and how does it apply to leadership?

Understanding your own and others’ emotions, as well as how they affect behavior, and being able to use that understanding to inspire others are two characteristics of emotional intelligence.

What are the 6 emotional leadership styles?

Authoritative, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, and Coercive are the six emotional leadership styles, according to Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. Each leadership style has a distinctive impact on the emotions of the followers you are guiding.

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What are signs of high emotional intelligence?

  • They embrace change.
  • They have a strong sense of self-awareness.
  • They show empathy toward others.
  • They pursue progress, not perfection.
  • They have balanced lives.
  • They’re curious and eager to learn.