Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

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emotional intelligence in leadership

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence, sometimes referred to as EQ, is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and to recognise the emotions of the people around you. People who have developed their emotional intelligence have a high level of self-awareness. They know what they’re feeling and understand the thoughts that have created those feelings. They know what their emotions mean, how they might be expressing those emotions, and how this can affect other people. Emotional intelligence is essential for truly successful leadership.

Daniel Goleman, the psychologist who helped to popularise emotional intelligence, describes five key elements:

  1. Self-awareness.
  2. Self-regulation.
  3. Motivation.
  4. Empathy.
  5. Social skills.

1. Self-awareness

If you are self-aware, you will be able to recognise and understand your thoughts and feelings. You will also know how your emotions and behaviour affect the people around you. Being aware of this, as well as your personality traits, your strengths and weaknesses, will help you to build a strong relationship with your team. Work on developing yourself awareness as part of your leadership development.

2. Self-regulation

Learn how to manage your emotions to avoid making emotional decisions which may be unwise. Get to know your values and beliefs, see where you are making assumptions, and pay attention to how this affects your decision making. Self-regulation is all about staying in control. Also, accept responsibility and take ownership of your mistakes. You will earn the trust and respect of your team if they can see that you hold yourself accountable.

3. Motivation

Self-motivated leaders set clear goals and work consistently toward achieving them. Understand what motivates you, set inspiring goals for yourself and encourage your team to set and achieve their goals. See the article on goal setting for help. Develop a positive mindset and learn strategies to keep yourself focused and motivated.

4. Empathy

Empathy is essential to managing a successful team, but it’s also an important part of any relationship. Learn how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and see situations, challenges and conversations from their perspective. Something that may seem insignificant to you could be a big concern for someone else. Acknowledge how important the issue is for them, and respond to it accordingly. Be aware of how you are communicating, and remember that your words and actions can be misunderstood, however good your intentions. Empathy must be authentic, your team won’t trust or respect you if they don’t believe you are being genuine.

5. Social Skills

Develop your communication skills and work with the people in your team to develop theirs also. Learn how to give feedback in an effective way, and also to receive feedback. Create a culture where open communication is encouraged. Become an active listener, and learn other essential leadership skills such as conflict resolution, change management, and how to have difficult conversations. Understand the type of recognition and acknowledgement that matters most to your team, and make sure you deliver this personally. Miscommunication is one of the main challenges in all relationships, personal and professional. Continue to work on your own and your team’s communication skills as part of your leadership development.

Working on these five key points will develop your emotional intelligence, and help you to grow personally as well as professionally.



Ruth Randall is a Life and Leadership Coach, and Team Development Specialist. Ruth works with teams to help them to build trust, develop strong working relationships, manage stress, and increase productivity and job satisfaction. She also coaches individual clients who want to make changes in their lives, careers and relationships.