Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Leadership is often painted as a picture of steely resolve and unwavering control. However, the truth is that the true key to unlocking one’s leadership potential lies not in their head, but in their heart. It’s about Emotional Intelligence (EI), the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, as well as those of others.

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What is Emotional Intelligence in Leadership?

When we ponder the notion of a “perfect leader,” what is the first thing that springs to your mind?

One might envision an individual who is capable of maintaining composure in the face of adversity and preventing their temper from dictating their actions. Alternatively, it could be someone who places unwavering trust in their employees, actively listens to their subordinates, exudes friendliness, and consistently demonstrates sound judgment.

Each of these attributes represents facets of a person who possesses a high degree of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) can be defined as the capacity to comprehend and regulate not only one’s own emotions – but also those of others. In other words, it’s about demonstrating an acute awareness of one’s own emotional states, deciphering the significance of these feelings, and understanding how they pose an impact on others.

While technical prowess may propel us into leadership roles, it alone does not guarantee success in such positions. To effectively fulfill the responsibilities of a leader, a profound comprehension of human emotions is indispensable. This understanding enables new leaders to adeptly coach team members, navigate stressors, engender positive responses, and foster collaborative relationships within the team.

emotional intelligence in leadership

Why is Emotional Intelligence Needed in Leadership?

Years ago, Daniel Goleman, in an interview with Harvard Business Review, underscored the pivotal role of emotional intelligence in leadership as follows:

The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions.

Within recent years, EQ has been regarded as one of the most critical competencies in leadership. Various research has demonstrated a profound correlation between EQ and the success of both individual managers and the organizations they lead. Specifically:

  • An article in Harvard Business Review revealed that EQ had been proven to account for up to 90% of the factors associated with enhanced work performance among professionals with comparable technical expertise.
  • A survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 71% of employers prioritize EQ over IQ. The reason is that those with elevated emotional intelligence generally exhibit greater resilience under pressure, which makes them excel in conflict resolution, and demonstrate empathy towards their colleagues.
  • Research conducted by TalentSmart unequivocally stated that emotional intelligence is the single most influential factor in overall performance.

Role of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

The ability to forge emotional connections with employees is a cornerstone of genuine leadership. This stems, in part, from the realization that employees’ perceptions of their superiors pose a profound influence on their levels of engagement and productivity.

Julie Gebauer and Don Lowman, in their publication “Closing the Engagement Gap,” highlight a sobering fact: only one-fifth of the workforce reports feeling truly engaged with their job or organization. This issue becomes particularly acute during times of crisis and economic volatility – when the pivotal role of employees in fortifying and sustaining organizations becomes glaringly apparent.

Loyal and engaged employees invariably translate into heightened productivity, thereby positively impacting the bottom line of businesses.

power of emotional intelligence

Importance of emotional intelligence in leadership

According to research conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), empathetic leadership, a quality closely intertwined with emotional intelligence, exerts a significant positive impact on both work performance and organizational morale. Managers adept at demonstrating empathy towards others consistently earn commendations from their superiors for their effectiveness.

Today, the escalating rates of employee turnover have been posing a substantial challenge for businesses. To cultivate empathy and foster engagement within the workplace, emotionally intelligent leaders should strive to embody the following four qualities:

  • Learn to assess things from the perspective of others.
  • Refrain from passing judgment hastily.
  • Foster open communication aimed at comprehending the emotions of those around you.
  • Demonstrate genuine awareness of others’ feelings.

I remember a time in my life that included daily stress, dissatisfaction, and lack of engagement from the types of assignments I’m normally passionate about. During that period of my career, my productivity was low. Instead of applying innovation and creativity to my tasks, I was focused on completing my work as quickly as possible — putting in my 8 hours and limiting my interactions with my manager — just to get a paycheck.

Shelley Thompkins, leadership development consultant

leading with emotional intelligence

5 Competencies for Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

According to Daniel Goleman, there are 5 pivotal components that constitute the essence of leadership capacity driven by emotional intelligence as follows:

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

competencies of emotional intelligence in leadership

  1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness involves recognizing one’s emotions and understanding how they influence their reactions and interactions with others. Within a leadership context, it entails a clear awareness of strengths and weaknesses, fostering a demeanor characterized by humility and continual growth.

Tips to enhance self-awareness:

  • Journaling: Dedicate a few minutes daily to introspective writing, fostering heightened self-awareness.
  • Reflection: Upon the rise of strong feelings, one should deliberately slow down to comprehend their origins and implications, so as to come up with more deliberate responses.
  1. Self-regulation

Leaders adept at self-regulation seldom succumb to impulsive behaviors such as verbal aggression, rash decision-making, stereotyping, or compromising core values. This facet of emotional intelligence underscores flexibility and a steadfast commitment to personal accountability.

Tips for mastering self-regulation:

  • Clarify core values: Reflect on non-negotiable principles and moral codes, aiding ethical decision-making during challenging circumstances.
  • Embrace accountability: Shift from blaming others to acknowledging personal mistakes, fostering respect and integrity as a leader.
  • Practice composure: Develop strategies to manage stress and maintain composure, such as deep-breathing exercises and constructive expression of emotions.
  1. Motivation

Motivated leaders typically exhibit a relentless drive towards goal attainment – they set high standards for both personal and team performance.

Strategies to bolster motivation:

  • Purposeful reflection: Revisit the underlying motivations for one’s current role, by utilizing techniques like the Five Whys to uncover intrinsic drivers.
  • Goal alignment: Align personal motivations with leadership aspirations, proactively honing requisite skills and resources.
  • Positive thinking: Cultivate an optimistic outlook, actively seeking silver linings in challenges and failures, thereby sustaining enthusiasm and resilience.
  1. Empathy

Empathy is indispensable in leadership – it contributes to facilitating effective team management, individual development, constructive feedback, and inclusive decision-making.

Techniques for enhancing empathy:

  • Perspective-taking: Deliberately consider situations from others’ viewpoints, fostering deeper understanding and connection.
  • Body language awareness: Interpret non-verbal cues to discern underlying emotions, and to enable more empathetic responses & feedback.
  • Reciprocal support: Acknowledge and respond to others’ emotions, fostering a culture of mutual understanding and support within the team.
  1. Social skills

Leaders proficient in emotional intelligence typically excel in communication, adeptly navigating change and conflict through diplomacy and encouragement.

Strategies for enhancing social skills:

  • Conflict resolution: Familiarize oneself with conflict resolution methodologies, which are crucial for managing interpersonal disputes effectively.
  • Communication mastery: Prioritize continual improvement in communication skills, recognizing its pivotal role in effective leadership.
  • Appreciation: Foster engagement and motivation within the team by acknowledging and praising individual and collective achievements.

Incorporating the above-mentioned competencies into leadership practices helps foster not only personal growth but also organizational success through enhanced employee engagement, productivity, and cohesion.

emotional intelligence competencies

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Emotional intelligence (EQ) serves as a linchpin for success in managerial roles. Below are a few actionable steps that you may consider to help enhance your leadership capability on a daily basis:

  • Cultivate personal connections with employees

Demonstrate a genuine interest in your employees by offering support and acknowledging their contributions. Establishing personal connections forms the bedrock of trust between leaders and their team members.

  • Understand work motivation

While competitive compensation and benefits are crucial, they represent only a fraction of what truly drives employee retention and engagement. Often, a simple conversation to discern individual motivations should generate invaluable insights. Armed with this understanding, leaders may then devise strategies to bolster retention rates, thereby enhancing overall job satisfaction within the organization.

  • Foster empathetic understanding

An empathetic leader generally demonstrates an acute awareness of their employees’ social identities, experiences, and outlooks on life. Such understanding reflects a genuine willingness to empathize with others without passing judgment. In today’s dynamic market landscape, emotionally intelligent leaders must recognize and appreciate the diverse life experiences of their team members to unlock their full potential and drive collective success.

Read more: Executive Presence – A Complete Guide to Mastery

emotional intelligence in leadership

Principles of emotional intelligence in leadership

Emotional Intelligence for Leaders Training

Given the rapidly evolving business landscape these days, organizations are in dire demand for leaders who are emotionally intelligent – capable of navigating complex dynamics, building trust, and inspiring teams to embrace change.

ITD World’s EQ for Innovative Leadership course, led by the renowned Dr. Leonard Yong, is designed to delve deep into the powerful world of emotional intelligence (EQ) – a critical skill set for modern leaders. Through Dr. Yong’s insightful guidance and interactive exercises, you will have the chance to embark on a journey of self-discovery, developing a profound understanding of your own emotions, motivations, and leadership style. Simultaneously, you will also gain insights into the emotions and needs of your team members, fostering a more collaborative and productive work environment.

What will you gain from this course?

  • Deepen self-awareness: Gain a comprehensive understanding of your own emotions, strengths, and weaknesses, enabling you to lead with greater authenticity and impact.
  • Master emotional regulation: Learn to manage your feelings effectively, remain calm under pressure, and make sound decisions even in challenging situations.
  • Sharpen interpersonal skills: Develop the ability to build strong relationships, foster trust, and motivate your team members to achieve their full potential.
  • Drive innovation: Equip yourself with the tools and strategies to create an environment where creativity and collaboration flourish, leading to breakthrough ideas and solutions.

Dr. Leonard Yong, your guide to unlocking your leadership potential:

As a renowned leadership expert and EQ practitioner, Dr. Yong brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the course. His engaging and interactive teaching style will inspire you, challenge you, and equip you with the practical skills you need to excel as an innovative leader.

Emotional Excellence at the Workplace Program – facilitated by Prof Dr. Leonard Yong at Menara Public Bank

Emotional Excellence at the Workplace by Prof Dr. Leonard Yong

Join us for this transformative program and unlock your full potential as an innovative leader. Equip yourself with the emotional intelligence needed to inspire, motivate, and drive your team towards achieving remarkable results.

Register today and take the first step towards becoming the leader you were always meant to be!

Final Thoughts

Emotional intelligence in leadership is about creating a space where vulnerability becomes courage, differences spark innovation, and everyone feels valued and heard. By embracing the power of EI, not only will you become a more empathetic and effective leader, but you will also be able to foster a culture of connection, collaboration, and resilience that empowers the team to thrive in any environment.

Other resources you might be interested in:

ITD Vietnam is part of ITD World – a top ranked provider of Talent & Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Training & Consulting services.

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