Daniel Goleman (renowned psychologist and author of many books related to EI) defines Emotional Intelligence as “the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as those of others, in order to navigate life’s complexities effectively.” He categorises the five critical areas of EI as Self Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills. Emotional Intelligence is not just about being in touch with feelings; it’s about using that awareness to drive positive outcomes for individuals and organizations alike.
As leaders, it is imperative that we have self-awareness. When we are aware and recognise our own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and triggers, we have the capacity to manage our emotions. Although self-awareness is respected in the modern working world, for generations, emotional suppression was respected and admired. I often work with managers that still struggle to recognise and understand their emotions and can get hijacked which undermines their leadership intentions and actions. The time and effort put into growing their self-awareness has enabled them to own and manage their emotions and lead successfully.
Closely linked to emotional self-awareness is self-regulation. Impactful leaders are able to become aware of their emotions and then regulate how they respond instead of reacting thoughtlessly. The ability to manage their impulses, emotions, and reactions, even in the face of adversity, builds an environment that is reliable, safe and stable. It exudes a strength and confidence to the team who are navigating the adversity with you.
A key element that supports achieving sustainable leadership is motivation. Self-motivation that is intrinsically driven is long-standing and supports self-leadership in times of adversity and challenge. Self-motivated leaders are driven by a sense of purpose and passion. This belief in the greater purpose often serves to inspire their teams through their enthusiasm and commitment, rallying teams to achieve shared goals and surpass expectations.
Leaders with high levels of empathy can understand the perspectives, needs, and concerns of their team members, clients, and stakeholders. Empathy also allows leaders to be more understanding and take fewer actions personally. Empathetic leaders are about solving the problem and not about being right or wrong, all because they have empathy for what the other person is experiencing. This ability to connect on an emotional level fosters trust, strengthens relationships, and enhances collaboration.
Effective social skills are underpinned by excellent communication. Leaders must be able to express themselves clearly and be able to actively listen to others. This skill prevents misunderstandings and ensures that all voices are heard and valued. By building strong social skills, leaders can tap into the collective intelligence, drive innovation, collaborate and problem-solve.
The ability to manage relationships and conflicts with finesse falls within the space of emotional intelligence. Conflict management is a real part of leadership. Leaders who can navigate the turbulent waters of interpersonal dynamics, can turn conflicts into growth, learning and collaboration. Emotionally intelligent leaders are realistic about conflict and recognise its value. They also build resilience in their teams so that conflicts can drive healthy change in a way that is less destructive and long-lasting.
As a coach, I have witnessed the power of Emotional Intelligence in transforming teams and leaders alike. It empowers us to build resilient teams, lead innovation, and build a workplace culture that attracts and retains top talent. I encourage leaders who are committed to strengthening your emotional intelligence to explore coaching as a powerful development tool. Through coaching sessions, you can deepen your understanding of Emotional Intelligence and acquire practical strategies for applying it in your day-to-day leadership roles.