Leadership Should be Driven by Emotional Intelligence – Here’s Why

Aug 11, 2020 | Blog

Hiring managers are usually keen on hiring subject-matter specialists because hard skills are an essential benchmark for filling up leadership job openings. In fact, in a study, 55% of HR managers admitted to focusing on degrees, education, and demonstrable hard skills when hiring.

However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that qualities like communication, enthusiasm, dependability, and reliability, etc. are as important, if not more, than having the right qualifications.

A candidate who lacks these and other soft skills can’t be a team player and may compromise trust and security in the workplace. After all, leaders communicate, persuade, and inspire people with their ideas – and that takes emotional intelligence. You can’t hope to succeed as a leader if you can’t move your team to follow you.

As more teams adopt a remote working model, you’ll also need to take care of the emotional wellbeing of your staff – helping them develop soft skills like empathy, patience, and flexibility to ensure that work goes on as usual.

In fact, studies prove that 90% of top performers have a high level of emotional intelligence, which is why many organisations today consider it a powerful indicator of success. HR departments across Organisations are forced to change their focus and shift their priorities to evaluate the candidates in light of this information.  

What Is Emotional Intelligence And Why It Is Important

Otherwise known as emotional quotient (EQ), emotional intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to comprehend and take control of their emotions to communicate and empathise with your peers. It also measures how well you can recognise and influence the emotions of your colleagues.

In a 2020 LinkedIn study, emotional intelligence is quoted as one of the key leadership skills this year.

EQ can be measured using the following domains:


This measures your ability to control impulsive behaviours and redirect these emotions in positive ways. You take the initiative, follow through on commitments, and are willing and capable of adapting to changing circumstances.


It is imperative that you recognise your emotions and the effect they have on your behaviour and thoughts. You can quickly identify your strengths and weaknesses. You can confidently use your talents at work and learn the skills needed to fill gaps.

Social Awareness

An acute understanding of your emotions, as well as the needs of those around you, is also an essential aspect of emotional intelligence. Know how to pick up emotional cues and recognising power dynamics at play at work to be socially aware.

Relationship Management

You should be capable of developing and maintaining healthy work relationships while you communicate and inspire people with your ideas. This enables you to work well in a team setting where you may have to diffuse conflict.

Some studies correlate job performance with emotional intelligence: the higher your EQ, the better your performance as a leader. Similarly, a lack of emotional intelligence results in employee disengagement and low retention rates.

Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships at work, enabling you to achieve your career goals. It also gives you command over your sentiments and allows you to turn intention into action.

So, what do emotionally intelligent leaders look like?

Core Competencies Of Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

While emotional intelligence and related soft skills can be learned, most managers simply fail to view the concept in the broader context. While likeability and popularity are essential aspects of a well-respected manager, you need to focus on the elements of emotional intelligence traits to be a more effective leader.

The following are the 12 core competencies of an emotionally intelligent leader:

  • Positive outlook
  • Empathy
  • Emotional self-control
  • Adaptability
  • Achievement orientation
  • Inspirational leadership
  • Organisational awareness
  • Influence
  • Coaching and mentorship
  • Conflict management
  • Teamwork
  • Emotional self-awareness

Leading With Emotional Intelligence

Emotionally intelligent leadership means taking your teams’ mental state into account and responding with the tools, resources, and help they need to thrive in the workplace. 

Now more than ever, company leadership needs to focus on fostering a company culture where emotional intelligence takes the forefront in employee interactions with management and their peers. So, how do you achieve emotionally intelligent leadership?  

Be Approachable And Empathic

Leaders not only need to be emotionally aware of their employees’ feelings and situations, but they also need to come across as approachable, especially if they want to build trust and transparency into the company culture.

However, showing empathy can be a challenge for some managers, especially when the employee is dealing with a personal loss, knowing how to console someone isn’t always easy.

Here it is essential to understand that declaring an open-door policy isn’t enough. Managers also need to proactively approach workers to find out how to help them do their jobs.   

To add to that, emotions also activate chemicals that directly impact our immunity. Tension and stress in our daily lives can force us into a “fight or flight” mode that takes a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. A simple gesture of kindness from a leader can help employees see that you care about them on a personal level and ease their concerns.

When employees feel like an essential part of the team instead of just another keg in the wheel, they perform better and more confidently. This also helps reduce employee turnover.

Consequently, being emotionally aware allows you to foster a company culture that positively impacts your bottom line while keeping your employees’ wellbeing at the top of the list.  

Show Your Human Side

Let your employees see that you care about them beyond their contributions to your bottom line.

Openly share your interests, preferences, and experiences – and encourage teams to talk to each other outside of work. Differences in the workplace can be overcome by discussing hobbies and shared interests beyond the company’s sphere of influence.

Sharing your feelings and opinions, worries, and joys will not only help you cement a closer bond with your teams, but also help to unify your workforce towards achieving a common goal.  

Take Elon Musk, for example. The industrial engineer and technology leader recently thanked Tesla owners for joining him on a venture that experts said would fail. Not only does he commend their effort, but he also levels their initiative in accepting the challenge on the same level as his. True leadership!

Make Your People Laugh

Research suggests that managers that indulge in self-deprecating humour are bound to be great leaders.  Being able to joke about your imperfections and laugh at your mistakes shows employees that you’re also mess up sometimes – and that’s okay.

Employees also find it easier to relate to you as it makes you seem more approachable and authentic.  Consequently, this helps your image as a leader as employees feel comfortable coming to you with their problems.

This is even more important if the majority of your workforce is remote. Here, consistent online communication will have to substitute for candid workplace interactions to connect with teams.

A quick chat and a laugh can help with employee engagement even when your teams are remote.

Walk The Talk 

As a manager or department head, you not only have to lead with integrity but also embrace complete honesty in the workplace if you want your teams to trust them.

If you’re going to encourage employees to develop their EQ, you need to be at the forefront to show them how.

Remember, company leaders stand in as role-models and help employees build their capacity to replicate the behaviour that is representative of your company culture. You need to encourage them to tap into their own leadership qualities and take the initiative.

After all, leadership is an on-going journey, and you’ll only be able to overcome the impediments in your way with complete emotional awareness. Ultimately, your willingness to accept knowledge gaps and learn to fill them is what will set you apart as an example which employees can follow and thereby realise their own potential.

Practice Proactive Listening

The most important emotional intelligence skill you can build is social awareness – focus on listening instead of trying to be heard.

Julian Treasure’s listening framework RASA is a great way to go about doing this. An acronym for “Receive, Appreciate, Summarise, Ask,” RASA offers guidance on how leaders can engage employees in more productive conversations.

Learn to pick up on cues that employees aren’t openly talking about. Pay attention to fluctuations in tone as well as any postural changes that demonstrate discomfort and uneasiness. Appreciate the feelings and opinions they contribute to the conversation and read back everything they say.

Let them know you hear them.

Here, open-ended questions will help you derive the best value from your discussions as you move further along to create positive change. It also helps to show your employees that you’re concerned about their wellbeing.

Celebrate Successes And Milestones

The best attributes of high emotional intelligence come with celebrating the little moments.

Every contribution, every success story, even personal wins – can and should be celebrated as special events in your employees’ lives.

Not only does employee recognition help to foster a sense of belonging, but it’s also a defining characteristic of high employee engagement and positive company culture.

With the right tools, employee recognition can be just as powerful as appreciative gestures in the office. A small ribbon as a token of gratitude or a golden trophy next to their name for outperforming members – there’s no limit to celebrating employees working from home.

Similarly, you can also hold virtual meetings to recognise teams and celebrate milestones remotely.

Employee Engagement And Collaboration

Transparent communication and constant collaboration between management and company employees are vital – even more so if you’re looking to build and nurture stronger relationships. Managers that engage with their employees are more likely to run an engaged workforce.

Similarly, interdepartmental communication is vital to unifying your teams and engaging them towards common goals. However, connecting with remote employees spread out across the world will also play a key role in generating enthusiasm and innovation in the workplace.

But make sure that your collaborative efforts are back up by the right resource and engagement platforms. This helps ensure effective two-way communication between management and the workforce.  

When managers provide their teams with the avenues they need to build relationships and foster mutual growth, they allow emotional intelligence skills to be developed and mastered.

Key Takeaway

HR managers need to willingly invest efforts and resources into the workforce, whether hiring or training them. These efforts should be concentrated on building soft skills that meet their emotional needs.

In a time when so many people feel unseen and unheard, it’s time to step up and ensure employees view themselves as an integral part of your organisation. They also feel confident navigating the new normal – knowing they’re backed by leadership that cares.

You May Also Like: