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The 6 Reasons Emotional Intelligence Is Essential To Leadership

Posted on: April 23 2015

Hands holding a tape measuring the words emotional intelligence

EI (Emotional intelligence) has competed for credibility against the traditional intelligence rating of IQ, in management circles at least, for the last 20 years. Since the release of Dan Goldman’s paradigm-shifting book, Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, questions have been asked about the rationale behind leadership training and how managers actually get people to want to follow their lead.

Being intelligent, in the classic sense, is still important. Ability to solve problems, recognise patterns, plan and execute ideas, and even creativity are all seated squarely in the seat of IQ. It’s the sometimes referred to soft skills that bring out a leader’s real capabilities. And it’s these soft skills that are dealt with under the banner of EI (sometimes referred to as EQ).

The six reasons we have described below summarise the key components of EI in a typical business context. Identifying and understanding these reasons will also help you to recognise the areas of your own leadership capabilities. In no particular order, they are:

1. Better communication

An aspect of EI is social skill. Because communication requires a sender and a receiver, the better you are able to send the message, the better chance your team have of interpreting it in the way you intended. According to a Harvard Business Review article on the subject, the hallmarks of this aspect of EI include persuasiveness and expertise at building and leading teams. These hallmarks can only be achieved when communication is clear.

2. Reading situations

Empathy and self-awareness go hand in hand when it comes to reading situations in the workplace. Whether you are negotiating a pay rise, or a complicated union agreement, the better you are able to read the situation, the more likely your will achieve the outcome you desired. Without empathy, decisions can be harshly received by the other party. Without self-awareness, you might not even be aware that you lack empathy!

3. Understanding human problems

Problems at work are almost always human problems. For example, the ITC department informs you that the ‘system will be down for two hours for maintenance’. The delivery of this message and every reaction to this information are formulated between the ears of the receiver. Emotional awareness can reduce the extremes of your reactions and therefore provide a better role model for your team. If you fly off the handle at the ITC staff member, the problem will undoubtedly get worse.

4. Identifying opportunities

This reason may seem odd at first. Opportunities aren’t always soft-skill related. Consider a new employee starting at your organisation. She might demonstrate great skills outside her immediate area of employment and therefore might offer unknown advantages to the team and the organisation. Without the skills to build a relationship and understand the skills and knowledge of the person, this opportunity could be completely overlooked. Workplace diversity, in all its facets, can offer opportunities to the worker and the organisation. Identifying skills and knowledge is a function of an emotionally intelligent leader

5. Dealing with stressful situations

Self-regulation is another key aspect of EI. Not only can it provide self-confidence when dealing with complicated problems, but it can also engender a self-deprecating sense of humour that can break the tension of a stressful situation. Having the ability to control or redirect your disruptive impulses or moods and suspend judgment to allow for a more thoughtful appreciation of a situation is a critical characteristic of a strong leader.

6. Passion

To maintain motivation when others around you are waning takes a passion for the goal. Whether it’s achieving a sales or production target or reducing safety hazards to near zero, a passion that goes beyond money and status is an admirable trait of the emotionally intelligent leader. Remember that optimism and commitment can be the difference between taking a crucial step forward or waiting for the competition beat you to it.

It is fortunate that emotional intelligence can be learned. The process is not easy. It takes time and, most of all, commitment. But the benefits that come from having a well-developed emotional intelligence, both for the individual and for the organization, make it worth the effort.
Daniel Goldman, 2004

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