What is Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a concept introduced in 1995 through Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” The psychologist innovated the concept of emotional intelligence, which he referred to as EQ, as playing a vital role in becoming a successful leader. Since then, this concept has been widely adopted in various industries, such as education, business, and personal development.

Emotional intelligence in leadership is the ability to understand and manage your emotions. It also involves your ability to gauge others’ emotions and respond in accordance with how others feel. Essentially, it is an understanding that emotions influence behaviour.

It showcases high emotional intelligence when you are able to use emotional insight to inform your actions and decisions at work. High EQ leaders are also able to self-regulate their emotions when communicating with others and assessing their needs in the workplace.

When you can master the above, you become a more effective leader who fosters a positive work environment and working experience for everyone on your team. Therefore, understanding what emotional intelligence is and how to develop this leadership skill is vital to your ability to succeed in the leadership role.

As mentioned earlier, the increased diversity in the modern workplace showcases the importance of emotional intelligence. It’s now a must-have skill for those aspiring to become good leaders.

Four Components of Emotional Intelligence


Self-awareness is the centre of everything when it comes to emotional intelligence.

It refers to the ability to recognise one’s emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. It is also about knowing how their actions may impact others. Thus, being self-aware means having full control of your own emotions.

A good leader knows how to bring out the best in others. But before anyone can do that, they first need to bring out the best in themselves. For leaders, understanding their complex emotions helps influence other people’s attitudes, responses, and actions in the workplace.

Subsequently, successful leaders are self-aware of their abilities and qualities to effectively guide and manage a team. It helps people make sound decisions that bring positive results and benefit their organisation.

While no litmus test can measure self-awareness, 360-degree feedbacks are probably the best way to gauge a leader’s self-awareness quotient.

Moreover, self-awareness is a great skill to have in identifying the cause of stress and tension in the team and resolving any issues before they can cause any harm to the team.


Self-management, also sometimes referred to as self-regulation, is another crucial component of emotional intelligence for leaders. It is described as the ability to manage (regulate) your own emotions when facing challenging and high-stress situations and maintain a positive outlook despite setbacks.

Self-management equips leaders with the potential to take on difficult situations head-on. More importantly, it teaches people to assess problems and react appropriately rather than impulsively.

Social Awareness

No organisation operates in solitude, so leaders must know their environment and the people around them. This is what social awareness is about – effectively communicating with others (especially among colleagues and team members). Social awareness enhances empathy, which is key to understanding other people’s emotions and showing compassion for their situations.

Empathy also helps leaders see other people’s perspectives, allowing them to better communicate and collaborate with others. This establishes a relationship with their team, earns their respect and fosters loyalty. With that said, social awareness allows leaders to connect emotionally with people within their team and organisation.

Social awareness is an important skill for leaders to adopt across industries. Empathetic leaders are always more effective and influential, as they better understand human behaviour and cognition.

Relationship Management

A good leader can positively influence, mentor, coach others, and resolve conflicts effectively.

Most people prefer to avoid conflicts. And most employees prefer organisations with fewer conflicts and issues, which are major factors for their job satisfaction and career growth. However, a good leader will have no problem addressing issues as they rise. This is what relationship management is about – being able to communicate effectively with your team, and not shying away from problems and challenges.

Relationship management allows leaders to maintain peace among each and every member of their company. Considering the differences in personalities, values, needs, and preferences of different people within an organisation, this trait requires practice. Nonetheless, relationship management lets you determine the most appropriate management method for every unique relationship, which is the key to achieving positive results internally and externally.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important in Leadership?

Leaders don’t just lead their people – they set the tone for the entire organisation. Emotional intelligence help leaders better understand the people around them. Leaders with high EI levels have all the capabilities to build stronger relationships with their team and assemble a more efficient one.

And for a team and the whole organisation to achieve its goals, they need effective communication and collaboration. When leaders understand the emotions of others and recognise their strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to the team, it leads to creating a pleasant and productive workplace.

Emotional intelligence develops an awareness of leaders’ and other people’s emotions. This is a crucial trait in leadership, especially during highly stressful situations – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management are all equally important social skills for inspiring others to take positive actions.

Here are more reasons why emotional intelligence in leadership enhances the work environment:

  • It establishes the bond and trust between leaders and their team
  • It develops a positive work culture
  • It promotes creativity, innovation, and growth among team members and the entire organisation
  • It motivates every member of the team always to put their best foot forward
  • It helps leaders and team members make the right decisions, even in the most difficult situations

How to Build Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence skills are something that you can nurture and build. While some people possess it naturally, others don’t. Connecting emotionally and focusing on relationship-building impacts the leader’s ability to set a good example for the rest of the team. If you want to become emotionally intelligent as a leader, there are key actions you must take.

Practice Self-Reflection

Self-awareness is the first step to becoming an emotionally intelligent leader. Constant reflection will enable you to build more personal awareness. Specifically, look into how you respond to challenges and how your actions affect others. Focus on how you manage stress and how self-regulation can create more effective leaders.

Seeking Feedback

A good way to develop self-awareness is to seek feedback from others. Many leaders acknowledge that they lack social skills, so getting informal or formal feedback is a huge step toward becoming emotionally intelligent leaders.

Getting feedback is meant to help you improve specific personality traits, so you must keep an open mind and be willing to work on your behaviour to achieve personal growth. And when it is your turn to give feedback, make sure to do so constructively. Put emphasis on positive reinforcement so you can inspire as a leader.

Working with a Coach

You may consider hiring a coach to help develop a good leadership style with a high emotional intelligence quotient. A coach can teach you self-motivation and self-regulation to develop your sense of awareness. They can also help you identify common workplace situations where emotional intelligence can improve your leadership skills.

Active Listening

Active listening is one of the most important soft skills leaders must possess. When you actively listen, you don’t just hear what the other person is saying but also engage closely with them. You can show that you’re actively listening by using gestures to acknowledge that you heard what they’re saying or to summarise their thoughts.

Acknowledging and Responding to Emotions

Self-regulation of your emotions as a leader does not mean you have to dismiss those emotions. In fact, it is the opposite. You must acknowledge those emotions and focus on how you respond to emotional triggers.

Moreover, if there are any feelings of frustration and resentment among your team, you can encourage positive feelings. You might not be able to resolve the conflict immediately, but you can certainly improve the team morale.

Be Accountable For Your Actions

Accountability is another soft skill that you should aim for in your leadership style. By acknowledging the consequences of their decisions and taking responsibility for them, accountable leaders demonstrate integrity and earn the respect and trust of their team members. This willingness to be self-reflective and open to feedback fosters a culture of continuous improvement and growth within the organisation.

Improve Conflict Resolution Skills

Resolving conflicts is part of your responsibility as a leader. It is a must-have skill to become an effective leader. Your ability to stay cool under pressure and manage stress helps you maintain effective communication during stressful situations. Keeping a clear head and managing your emotions is vital as it allows you to focus on the solution and resolving issues.

Actively Seek Personal Development

Personal development is the first step toward achieving leadership development. A leader not only leads; you must lead by example.

Leaders who actively seek personal development recognise that leadership is a dynamic and evolving process. They understand that they need to constantly adapt to changing circumstances, new challenges, and emerging trends. By being proactive in their pursuit of personal growth, leaders can stay ahead of the curve and effectively guide their teams through various situations.


The importance of emotional intelligence in leadership cannot be overstated. It is crucial to building relationships and collaborations based on trust and loyalty and is as important as wide-ranging intelligence, communication skills, and experience. Effective leadership requires more than just technical skills or positional authority. It demands a commitment to personal development and accountability for one’s actions.

Embracing personal development as a cornerstone of leadership development will pave the way for long-term success in navigating the challenges and complexities of leadership in today’s dynamic business environment. By developing and mastering emotional intelligence, you will be well on your way to becoming a trusted and respected leader, while continuing to advance your professional career and your organisation to its goals.

Share to

img-jayne-ruff - Changing Point
Written by Jayne Ruff

Jayne Ruff, Occupational Psychologist & Managing Director at ChangingPoint. To find out more about how Changing Point can help you align minds to transform your business, get in touch.

From the blog

Thumbnail Image
Blog The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

The definition of what makes a strong and effective leader can be surprisingly different. One of the things that great leaders have in common, though, is high emotional intelligence.

Read more
Thumbnail Image
Blog Climate: Sustaining High Performance Through Change

Climate is the atmosphere that formulates from the thinking, habits, and behaviours displayed over time in the workplace. Here are 3 conditions to cultivate for strong organisational culture.

Read more
Thumbnail Image
Blog How to Tackle Imposter Syndrome

While it is a relief to know that we are not the only person experiencing these fraudulent feelings, allowing serious self doubt to take hold can impact on our confidence in seizing bigger and brighter opportunities. It’s important that we develop strategies to help ourselves and others tackle Imposter Syndrome, so that we can continue to develop and grow.

Read more