The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

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Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman told this to the Harvard Business Review almost a decade ago while talking about the significance of emotional intelligence in leadership.

He said that effective leaders all have a high degree of emotional intelligence. Technical skills and IQ are also important but are also entry-level requirements for executive positions, unlike emotional intelligence.

He also wrote a book titled Emotional Intelligence in 1995 that went on to become a bestseller. This book popularised the concept of emotional intelligence (EI).

Coming straight to the point, why is EI so important in leadership? Because your team and your employees are humans. Emotions make us human. A high EI would ensure an increase in employee engagement, employee satisfaction, workplace happiness, and overall productivity. 

Until recently, we have focused on technical skills at the workplace, and non-technical skills have taken a backseat. With a better understanding of the human mind, we can gauge that while technical excellence might give you a headstart, emotional intelligence will help you make strides.

Let’s explore this further.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey coined the term ’emotional intelligence’ or EI, which refers to the ability to control, perceive, evaluate, express, and manage one’s emotions and the capacity to manage interpersonal relationships with empathy and prudence.

To understand this more, we’ll learn a little bit more about its four components. 

The Four Constituents of Emotional Intelligence


The ability to be aware of what you feel, your strengths, and your weaknesses. A study suggests that only 10-15% of individuals possess accurate self-awareness, despite 95% believing they do. To bring out the best in a team as a leader, you need to bring out the best in you — that is where self-awareness comes in.


The capacity to manage how you feel, especially during setbacks and stressful situations. Self-management prevents impulsive reactions that may adversely affect your team.

Social Awareness

Important for a leader, social awareness allows you to understand and respond to the emotions of the people around you. It allows for more effective communication and stems from empathy especially as far as neurodivergent people are concerned.

Relationship Management

Relationship management is majorly about mentoring, influencing, and conflict resolution within your team. A high EI helps with all of this and more.

10 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence Is Important in Leadership

Emotional Intelligence Can Help Improve Motivation

Emotionally intelligent leaders are better able to motivate their team members because they understand them better.

They can figure out what motivates each team member and modify their approach accordingly instead of having an approach that is the same for all.

This goes a long way in boosting productivity. 

EI Facilitates Thoughtful and Better Decision-Making

Leaders with emotional intelligence can assess the emotional implications of their judgments, allowing them to make better decisions.

They are also better able to anticipate their team members’ emotional reactions to specific issues and take that into consideration when making a decision.

It Can Help a Leader Be Unbiased, Fair, and Free of Sub-Conscious Prejudices

Emotionally intelligent leaders are self-aware and understand their emotions, strengths, and flaws. This allows them to become more successful leaders by recognizing their biases and working on personal growth areas.

By recognizing biases and prejudices, you can prevent discrimination or any kind of unfair treatment within your team. It can help in building an inclusive organization.

It Can Aid in Conflict Resolution and Prevention

As a leader, your team will turn to you in any conflict. How do you resolve it best by being judicious?

That’s where emotional intelligence helps you.

Conflict may not be bad, but ignoring unhealthy conflicts might not be optimal. If left unresolved, conflicts can lead to low productivity, fuelling gossip, among other things. 

This can waste about 8 hours of company time.

EI Helps in Better Communication and Connection

A leader who has emotional intelligence can develop an understanding of the different personalities, work styles, and needs of their team members, which helps them to tailor their approach and communication style to best suit each individual.

It can also help in having difficult conversations.

To be able to connect better and effectively communicate with your team as a leader, you need to inculcate the skill of empathy.

And that comes with social awareness.

A report by DDI, the global leadership development firm, ranks empathy as the top leadership skill. Leaders who practice empathy perform 40% higher in coaching, decision-making, and engaging others.

It Can Increase the Chances of Success

According to research by psychologist Tasha Eurich, not being self-aware, which is an important part of emotional intelligence, can cut a team’s success in half.

Leaders who are not self-aware might struggle to recognize the impact of their actions and decisions on their team members.

A lack of self-awareness can cause leaders to misread their team members’ emotions and fail to address their concerns effectively. This can lead to frustration, conflict, an increase in stress levels, and a decrease in team cohesion.

It Can Improve Delegation Efficiency

Through the use of emotional intelligence, a leader can understand the weakness and strengths of each team member better. This streamlines the process of assigning tasks, giving each member a chance to shine by doing what they do best.

It can also help build a growth mindset, where the leader can identify weaknesses better and encourage upskilling. 

It Is What Your Team Wants

The opinions of a team are important to a leader. A whopping 71% of employers who were part of a survey revealed that they value emotional quotient (EQ, a measure of EI) over intelligence quotient (IQ).

So if you want to win the trust and respect of your team, working on your EQ can help foster a more positive work environment.

It Can Boost Team Performance

Leaders with emotional intelligence may foster a good work atmosphere that encourages collaboration, creativity, and innovation. This results in improved team performance and, as a result, higher organizational success.

Emotional intelligence also helps increase employee engagement and employee satisfaction and decrease the turnover rate.

It Can Enhance Innovation and Creativity

A study conducted at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence found that emotionally intelligent managers or leaders create a climate that helps creativity and innovation for the entire team.

This happens by understanding and acknowledging how different factors inside and outside of work can affect your employees, helping them through different emotions.

They also help their team channel their feelings towards significant milestones and inspire enthusiasm.

How Can You Practice Emotional Intelligence in Leadership?

Aim to Actively Listen

The ability to actively listen is one of the most crucial characteristics of emotional intelligence. You can practice active listening with your team members to hone this skill.

This entails paying complete attention to what the other person is saying without interruption or distraction and asking clarifying questions to verify comprehension.

Active listening assists leaders in understanding their team members’ viewpoints and feelings, and it develops a culture of trust and open communication.

Dedicate Time Frequently for Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is an important component of developing emotional intelligence. You can engage in self-reflection by examining your emotions, behaviors, and thought patterns.

This can be done through meditation, journaling, or simply taking time to think about your own experiences and reactions.

Self-reflection helps you become more self-aware and develop strategies for managing your emotions in challenging situations.

Listen and Seek Feedback

Leaders can also improve their emotional intelligence by soliciting input from others. This can include soliciting honest criticism of one’s emotional intelligence skills from teammates, coworkers, or even friends and family.

This can be difficult, but it can also provide significant insights into potential growth areas and help leaders in creating deeper relationships with those around them.


Being emotionally intelligent has a lot of benefits in leadership. These include

  • improving motivation,
  • facilitating better decision-making,
  • promoting unbiased and fair treatment,
  • aiding conflict resolution and prevention,
  • enhancing communication and connection,
  • increasing the chances of success,
  • improving delegation efficiency,
  • winning the trust and respect of the team,
  • boosting team performance, and
  • acting as a catalyst for improved creativity and innovation.

Emotional intelligence allows you to respond instead of react. It takes you off auto-pilot. EQ is a measure of EI, just like IQ. The average EQ score is between 90-100, and the ideal score is 160. This show there is scope for improvement, and you already have the reasons to motivate you to do so. 

You can use several online self-assessments to find out your EQ score and know where you stand:

  • Emotional Intelligence Test (2019) by Psychology Today
  • Test your E.I: Free EQ quiz (2018) by the Institute for Health and Human Potential
  • How Emotionally Intelligent Are You? Boosting Your People Skills (2019) by Mind Tools

You can also look at specific EI tests that are designed for workplaces. There are a few activity worksheets that you can browse through, like this one or this one, and make your team a part of the entire activity.

According to research, emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance and explains 58% of success in multiple job types. All the more reasons for a leader to emphasize the importance of emotional intelligence!

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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