Emotional Intelligence: a key leadership ingredient

Learn what emotional intelligence is in the workplace and our guide to increasing your emotional intelligence as a Leader.

There are times when you look at someone and ask, “how are they so in control of everything?” 

Whether it is a colleague who deals with tricky work situations without rubbing anybody the wrong way or a friend who makes strangers feel comfortable within minutes of meeting them, these people will have some of the ingredients of emotional intelligence and a knack of monitoring their own emotions and those of others.

There are times when people use emotional intelligence to navigate everyday situations and relationships to improve the ‘good vibe’ within others. For instance, a colleague who has been reprimanded by the boss might want to share his feelings with you. You listen empathetically, then objectively explain the possible reasons for the boss’s anger, and advise your colleague on how to avoid this in the future. 

The term emotional intelligence was popularized in 1995 by psychologist and behavioural science journalist Dr Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence.

Dr Goleman describes emotional intelligence as “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”. 

According to Goleman, emotional intelligence is the largest single predictor of success in the workplace. In his book, Goleman presents five categories of emotional intelligence.

Self-awareness: A person has a healthy sense of emotional intelligence and self-awareness if they understand their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how their actions affect others. A person with emotional self-awareness is usually receptive to, and able to learn from, constructive criticism more than one who doesn’t have emotional self-awareness.

Self-regulation: A person with high emotional intelligence has the ability to exercise restraint and control when expressing their emotions.

Motivation: People with high emotional intelligence are self-motivated, resilient and driven by an inner ambition rather than being influenced by outside forces, such as money or prestige.

Empathy: An empathetic person has compassion and is able to connect with other people on an emotional level, helping them respond genuinely to other people’s concerns.

Social skills: People who are emotionally intelligent are able to build trust with other people, and are able to quickly gain respect from the people they meet.

Employers will consider employees’ and job candidates’ emotional intelligence when making HR-related decisions. For example, hiring managers will often ask specific questions to determine emotional intelligence during the hiring process to decide which candidates will best fit with the company culture.

They also will consider emotional intelligence when determining leadership potential. A person in a leadership position with high emotional intelligence could be particularly skilled at motivating their teams and maintaining their overall job satisfaction.

Job candidates’ listening skills and strong communication abilities have become highly sought after across industries, particularly for those seeking leadership positions. For example, behavioural skills for potential information technology executives, such as CIOs, have become important assets in recent years. Those in technology-centric leadership positions are often asked to present to boards and communicate complex ideas with other departments.

Being able to adapt to rapidly changing work environments, to work well in teams and to self-manage are characteristics companies are looking for in an emotionally intelligent employee.

Interested to learn more? Download a copy of our free 10 Step guide to increase your Emotional Intelligence as a Leader.