Emotional Intelligence’s Role in Leadership

Human chemistry can make an impact at work

Great leaders come in all forms. Reserved and analytical ones. Outgoing ones. Process-focused ones. The list goes on. The variety of industries and situations in business, calls for different styles. No matter what leadership style you identify with, I believe the best leaders all have a high degree of emotional intelligence.

What is emotional intelligence and why does it matter?

Emotional intelligence, often referred to as EI, is the ability to observe your feelings and those of others in order to use that information to guide your thinking and behavior. You may hear some leaders refer to EI as a “touchy-feely” soft skill, but I disagree.

In fact, evidence suggests the opposite. High EI is a strong predictor of success. It bolsters the hard skills, helping us think more creatively about how best to leverage our technical chops.

According to Laura Wilcox,  director of management programs at Harvard Extension School,  “Emotional intelligence—the ability to, say, understand your effect on others and manage yourself accordingly—accounts for nearly 90 percent of what moves people up the ladder when IQ and technical skills are roughly similar.”

Emotional intelligence has also been shown to increase corporate performance for a number of reasons. But perhaps the most important is the ability of managers and leaders to inspire discretionary effort—the extent to which employees and team members go above and beyond the call of duty.

How can you incorporate EI into your leadership style?
Daniel Goleman is seen as an EI guru. According to Goleman there are 5 EI competencies: Motivation, Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Social skills and Empathy. Let’s break down each one:

  • Motivation: Lead by example, inspire, and do not shy away from difficult situations. Be focused and driven.
  • Self-awareness: Be confident, honest, direct, and consistent.
  • Self-regulation: Be clear, decisive, straight forward, and intuitive.
  • Social skills: Focus on being a good communicator, approachable, and listen to others.
  • Empathy: Be compassionate and influential.


To develop your leadership skills, focus on interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. No one wants to work for a robot. While being an effective leader is about strategic thinking and knowledge, it also requires strong emotional intelligence.

People often ask: “Are leaders born or made?” Use this information on EI to learn and increase your level of EI. In order to be a successful leader, you must be willing to work on continually improving yourself. What steps are you interested in taking to increase your EI?

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