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Why Leaders Need to be Emotionally Intelligent

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Emotional Intelligence is an often overlooked trait when recruiting potential managers. There is hardly any use in employing a leader who is competent in their work but is unable to relate to their subordinates on both an emotional and personal level.

In many instances, corporations can underestimate just how important it is for a leader to be able to connect emotionally to their underlings, research has shown that workers who are emotionally invested in their leader are more motivated to work harder towards the common goal.

People who are highly emotional intelligent are able to not only recognise and understand their own emotions but also how they affect others around them. It is a particularly useful skillset in corporate settings which allows you to better connect with both your customers and employees.

A leader with high emotional intelligence is more likely to succeed as opposed to one who is less emotionally intelligent. This is because emotionally intelligent leaders are more likely to stay calm during a crisis, they are more likely to govern with authority and compassion in the midst of uncertainty.

An Example of an Emotionally Intelligent Leader: Jacinda Ardern

The Covid-19 pandemic is arguably the greatest litmus test of political leadership in human history due to its unprecedented nature. Every leader will react in their own way and it is only through such adversity will we see their true fabric as their nation’s figureheads. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, led her nation through their battle with the virus with empathy, recognizing the difficulties her citizens would face while being under lockdown.

She acknowledged how alarming the lockdown protocol was and looked to justify the measures with practical examples such as “thinking of the people in your life over this period of time as your bubble” and “acting as though you already have Covid-19 toward those outside of your bubble."

She even conducted Facebook Live sessions in the comfort of her own home while dressed in a snuggly sweatshirt giving a more informal and personable impression. Such minute details matter. Emotionally intelligent people take these seemingly insignificant details and turn them into something that conveys a deeper message.

Emotional Intelligence is all about connecting with your audience, appealing to their subconscious and showing them that you understand their perspective. Simply understanding their perspective is not enough, you need to demonstrate to them that you do. By doing so, you win them over, you make them feel heard and as a leader that is the bare minimum you should strive for. Take a page out of Prime Minister Ardern’s playbook.

5 components of emotional intelligence

  • Self-Awareness

  • Self-regulation

  • Motivation

  • Empathy

  • Social Skills


Leaders need to be able to understand their own emotions and thoughts before expecting to emphasize with others. If a leader can’t even identify their own emotions, how can they lead their subordinates? Leaders need to be self-aware as when their workers come to them with a problem, they are more likely to come up with a solution if they are calm and composed. People who have a good sense of self-awareness are less likely to feel overwhelmed as they usually have a better grip on their emotions.

Think of self-awareness as always being in-tuned with your emotions, understanding how you feel and why you feel it. It is a straight-forward process that once learned does not require much conscious thinking.

Self-awareness also refers to understanding your strengths and weaknesses. As a leader, acknowledging your weaknesses will allow you to recruit people who help to make up your deficiencies. Of course, this would not be possible if you are not honest with yourself, deficiencies are not meant to be hidden but rather fulfilled.


Once you develop an understanding of your emotions, the next step is to control them. As a leader, naturally you will have many different tasks which will cause you stress, but every good leader performs well under stress. They maintain their cool, they understand that there is a job to be done and puts their emotions on hold.

This is not to say that a good leader does not experience negative emotions, but that they are able to control their emotions as they know that it would not be beneficial to the situation. The mark of an emotionally intelligent individual is one who has a good lid on their emotions and does not display emotions without thinking about how it could affect the people around them.


People who have high emotional intelligence usually have high intrinsic motivation which means that they can motivate themselves without external support. These people have high expectations for themselves and typically have daily goals that can only be achieved through hard work.

Leaders who possess this trait will be able to "lead by example", they will be the model example for their workers to look up to. They will also be able to better motivate their workers as they are better suited to understand what motivates them on a personal level.


Much like the aforementioned leadership style of Jacinda Ardern, an empathic leadership style would endear you to your subordinates. You will make them feel like not only do you understand their situation but genuinely care for their well-being. In order to do so, you have to put yourself in their shoes, acknowledge that they may see things differently from where they are standing as compared to your position.

Empathy is especially useful when dealing with conflict, as there is no better way to deflate tension than by telling people that you understand where they are coming from. Humans have different perspectives and being able to understand different ones is a hallmark of every great leader.

Social Skills

Being able to interact with your workers in an efficient manner is a crucial element of not only emotional intelligence but leadership. Good leaders are excellent communicators in terms of getting their message across to their team but also listening to their general feedback. It is important for a leader to make their team feel like they can be honest with their boss when it comes to hearing their concerns. In most organizations, this is not the case, leaders usually say that they want to listen but do not cultivate a conducive environment to do so.

Highly emotionally intelligent leaders create an environment where their team can have a direct line of honest communication without any negative repercussions. Leaders with good EQ skills are also adept at recognizing problems at their workers may face and are open to hearing constructive feedback.

The 5 components of Emotional Intelligence are the characteristics of every successful leader in today's evolving landscape. Gone were the days where organizations were governed by a top-down approach. People need empathetic, self-aware, motivated and communicative leaders. Will you be one today?

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