Why Your Leaders Need Emotional Intelligence

For years emotional intelligence has been a desirable trait for leaders, but one that has primarily been focused on only during the hiring process, if at all. By leaders either not being aware of the importance of emotional intelligence within an organization, or not being equipped to train and coach team members in this important area, companies are allowing the untapped potential to walk into and out of their workspaces day after day.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Tapping into that resource begins by understanding what exactly it is, and its potential effects within an individual and organization. According to Jeff Moss in a recent Forbes article, “Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to recognize, understand and manage their feelings and emotions, as well as those of others.” The impact within an organization or even a single team member’s high or low emotional intelligence can have ripple effects through an entire culture; particularly if that individual is in a position of leadership.

It does not take much effort to think of several examples of individuals with all of the talent or IQ needed to excel but who lack the emotional intelligence needed to succeed. Examples of celebrities, athletes, and high-profile executives can begin to fill a page rather quickly. That’s because extremely low emotional intelligence is very easy to spot. Talent and ability may mask some issues for a time, or worse, cause leadership to turn a blind eye, but the ticking time bomb of low emotional intelligence will ultimately explode if not dealt with upfront.

A 2017 article from Harvard gave tips for communicating with someone who isn’t highly emotionally intelligent that included:

  1. Being a good listener.
  2. Being careful not to show confusion or bewilderment in the conversation.
  3. Talking out our feelings and explaining why/how we came to them.

Effective Leaders and Difficult Employees

Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence

An emotionally intelligent leader is dynamic in character. From displaying a keen ability to empathize to a strength in communicating feelings, an emotionally intelligent leader is well-rounded in several personality traits. Furthermore, it isn’t the display of merely just one of the necessary qualities but rather the sum of all characteristics that signifies true emotional intelligence in your leaders. The following 5 traits contribute to emotional intelligence:


A successful leader is empathetic and in tune with his subordinates. Moreover, she has the capacity to make employees empathize within the context of their jobs. For instance, a CEO who starts his staff meeting with the number of lives their drug has saved is far more influential than one who starts off with a balance sheet assessment.


Self-aware leaders are continuously cognizant of both their emotional and physiological states. Therefore, they don’t let threats, foul mood, hunger, or headache decide how they respond to situations. They are not prone to impulsive reactions and tend to reflect before making decisions.

Motivation & Commitment

Leaders with emotional intelligence do not let anxiety, fear, or anger influence their actions and decisions. In effect, when dealing with failure, they are clear-headed. They analyze the possible causes of failure instead of trying to pass on the blame. This magnetic attitude motivates team members, as it reassures them of the leader’s commitment to the team.

Emotional Competence & Self-Regulation

According to Daniel Goleman, the author of “Working with Emotional Intelligence,” people with the capacity to self-regulate are not slaves to their impulses. They don’t have emotional outbursts. Instead, they respond to situations and come up with workable solutions. This is a useful competency to cultivate in order to maintain a fair ambiance at work.

Strong Social Skills

Effective leaders’ social skills don’t end with knowing how to “work a room.” They also know how to “read the pulse” of all the players, especially in sensitive situations. And they possess the emotional control needed to deliver negative feedback with sensitivity. To a large extent, this skill counteracts demotivation and resentment.


Leading Yourself First

Once you as a leader have an understanding of what emotional intelligence is, it is time to get honest with yourself and improve upon your weaknesses. As a leader, you must evaluate if you excel in the areas of self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy, and people skills. Being adept in each of these areas is vitally important, as even one area of weakness can cause a negative effect on your leadership and within your organization.

It is also of particular importance to evaluate other leaders in your organization. A single leader without strong emotional intelligence traits can cause chaos and false problems within a company. Countless hours and dollars can be poured into efforts to improve culture, leadership, processes, and systems with no results to show for it. The root issue on those teams will always be the lack of close relationships and trust that can only be developed by a mature leader. “If you (or your leaders) are unable to understand and manage your own emotions, it will block you from creating strong bonds, because you can not express how you feel and understand how others are feeling (Harvard, 2017).” It is up to you then. Take the steps today to improve the emotional intelligence of yourself and your team!

For more information, including focused individual training on emotional intelligence, visit the new training on Emotional Intelligence from A Better Leader. The following video is a quick preview of this leadership lesson. If you’d like to learn more, head over to A Better Leader. We’d love to help you improve employee engagement, retention rates, and employee satisfaction with strong, confident leaders in your workplace.

Emotional Intelligence – A Better Leader

About the Author Chris Craddock

As the leader of Projections' production team, Chris loves to inspire others to perform at the highest levels! From the most challenging leadership opportunities to brainstorming the latest topics leaders want to learn about, Chris provides clear direction and vision.

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