Emotional Intelligence in Leadership: Why EI Is Crucial for Success

Imagine a workplace where employees feel valued, heard, and trusted.

Do you think this workplace would have higher employee satisfaction and higher production rates?

If you answered ‘yes’, you are correct. And some studies prove the correlation between higher employee satisfaction and higher productivity.

One of the biggest factors in achieving a workplace where employees feel supported and valued is emotionally intelligent leaders.

To support employee satisfaction in the workplace, leaders must display a high level of emotional intelligence.

We’ve put together this guide to emotional intelligence so you can learn more about how to improve your EI and how EI can positively affect the workplace.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • What is Emotional Intelligence?
  • Why is Emotional Intelligence Important for Leaders?
  • Traits of an Emotionally Intelligent Leader
  • Benefits of Strong Emotional Intelligence for Leaders
  • How EI Links With Strong Effectiveness of a Business, Workplace Performance and Team Collaboration
  • Example Scenarios – How to Apply EI in Decision-making and Conflict Resolution
  • Ways to Assess and Measure Your Own EI as a Leader
  • Practical Strategies to Develop and Improve EI as a Leader

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to recognise, manage, and understand your own emotions. It also includes the ability to understand how your emotions affect the emotions of others around you.

Why Emotional Intelligence Is Crucial for Leaders

Question: Who has more of an impact on a worker’s mental health: Their doctor, spouse, or their manager?

You may assume it is an individual’s doctor or their spouse, but this survey of over 3,000 workers in 10 countries found that managers have the biggest impact on mental health compared to doctors and therapists!

Clearly, emotionally intelligent leaders are crucial to the well-being and satisfaction of their employees and the success of a company.

An emotionally intelligent leader can:

  • Use empathy to connect with their employees
  • Manage their own emotions
  • Reduce employee burnout
  • Build trust between colleagues
  • Use conflict as a platform for growth
  • Make sound decisions that benefit the company
  • Promote a healthy workplace environment
  • Manage interpersonal relationships

Traits of an Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Here are four key pillars that an emotionally intelligent leader will display:

  • Self-Awareness — A self-aware leader is deeply in touch with their own emotions and understands how their emotions affect the workplace and employees. Self-aware leaders can recognise and control their own emotions are aware of their strengths and willing to improve their weaknesses
  • Self-Regulation — Self-regulation is the ability to control your behaviours, thoughts, and emotions, even in difficult business situations.
  • Social Awareness — Social awareness refers to the ability to understand and recognise the needs and emotions of others. It also involves empathising with others and trying to view situations from the other person’s perspective.
  • Relationship Management — The ability to foster strong relationships in the workplace, manage conflict and maintain peace, communicate effectively, and be a trusted coach and guide for team members.

n leadership, EI influences how leaders interact with their teams, make decisions, handle conflicts, and inspire others.

The Benefits of Strong Emotional Intelligence for Leaders

The benefits of a leader with a high EI range from employee satisfaction to higher company profits.

An emotionally intelligent leader will know how to manage their own emotions and will also possess the skills to:

  • Effectively diffuse tension and resolve conflicts among team members
  • Find win-win solutions when conflict arises
  • Motivate and inspire their teams
  • Foster teamwork
  • Communicate clearly and adjust their communication style if necessary by reading emotions
  • Actively listen to make employees feel heard and understood
  • Create a harmonious, balanced work environment where employees feel safe, valued, and at ease
  • Promote strong interpersonal relationships and a positive work culture
  • Make profitable, sound decisions that benefit the company
  • Promote personal growth among employees
  • Boost job satisfaction, improve retention, promote employee engagement, and foster employee satisfaction by building an environment focused on trust and empathy
  • Promote company growth through improved productivity and performance among team members

How EI Links with Strong Effectiveness of a Business, Workplace Performance and Team Collaboration

Employees who have an emotionally intelligent leader who is invested in their well-being are more likely to be happier and more satisfied with their job. This job satisfaction can translate to improved production and higher profits.

Emotionally intelligent leaders also have the skills to maintain a calm workplace with minimal conflict. This creates a safe, welcoming environment where employees can feel valued and find it easier to develop strong relationships with their colleagues.

Employees who are supported by an emotionally intelligent leader are almost always more engaged and committed to the job. For instance, an employee who simply feels like an invisible part of the company will probably clock in, do the bare minimum, and clock out.

Alternatively, an employee who is validated and valued is more likely to apply innovation to their duties, be motivated to move up in the company and give their job their all.

How to Apply EI in Decision-Making and Conflict Resolution

Example Scenario — EI and Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Imagine a disagreement between team member Alex, and team member John, who are working on a shared project.

Alex is frustrated that John failed to meet a mid-project deadline. This delay may force them to move back the completion date for the entire project. John feels that there was a lack of communication regarding mid-project deadlines and would like more guidance in completing tasks.

Their emotionally intelligent manager recognises the tension and frustration immediately. First, the manager validates the emotions of both Alex and John. He remains calm while allowing each member to respectfully express their perspectives and ask constructive questions.

Next, their manager uses his EI skill set to find a plan that makes both members feel confident moving forward. He helps Alex and John find a solution that highlights the importance of meeting deadlines while ensuring each member has the tools and support needed to meet those deadlines.

For this emotionally intelligent manager, a scenario like this isn’t necessarily negative. Rather, he sees it both as an opportunity to improve his emotional intelligence and as a chance for the company to build an even better team environment and collaboration.

Example Scenario — How High EI Affects Decision-Making in the Workplace

Jan is a manager at a manufacturing company. With new software about to be implemented company-wide, some employees are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the change.

Jan receives a rather harsh email from an employee, Barb, about not wanting to get trained on the new software. Other employees are expressing similar frustrations. Upper management asks Jan if she thinks the company should hold off on implementing the new software.

Rather than immediately typing out a response in a heightened emotional state, Jan decides to let Barb’s email sit for a couple of hours. She then re-reads the email and tries to see the situation from Barb’s perspective. Jan can empathise with how stressed Barb must be feeling about the new changes and technology to learn.

Jan uses her emotional intelligence to write a calm, concise email back to Barb. Jan sets up an in-person meeting with Barb, knowing this will be the most effective way to discuss a solution.

At the meeting, Jan shows empathy for Barb and validates her emotions. She makes it clear to Barb that she will be supportive throughout the process and ensure a smooth transition to the new technology.

Jan then schedules a team meeting with all employees and opens the floor to questions, making it clear she wants to know about any concerns or hesitations anyone is having.

Jan used her high EI to facilitate solid decision-making, taking both employee feelings and the success of the company into account. Jan knows that implementing this software as soon as possible will significantly cut down on production times and increase company profits.

Jan is confident she can guide her employees through the transition to the new software smoothly and with minimal stress. Once the employees learn the new software, it will make certain aspects of their job easier and less stressful to complete.

She sees the new software as a win-win and lets upper management know that she will be sticking to the original plan and implementing the new software immediately.

Ways to Assess and Measure Your Own EI as a Leader

Ask yourself these questions to help identify your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to emotional intelligence:

  • Do I understand which scenarios I am most confident in handling? And which scenarios do I struggle with most?
  • Do I have good relationships with my employees?
  • Do my employees feel comfortable bringing problems to me to discuss them?
  • Do my employees feel heard, valued, and safe in the workplace?
  • Am I a master of my own emotions? Do I understand how to manage my emotions, channel them, and positively use them to affect those around me?
  • Am I confident in my conflict resolution skills?
  • Do I seek insights from others in the workplace?
  • Am I an active listener?
  • Do I make decisions at the height of emotional moments?
  • Am I able to put myself in others’ shoes and imagine what they are going through?
  • Am I participating in any ongoing emotional intelligence training?

Leaders who possess high EI can build strong relationships, inspire trust and loyalty, and drive performance and innovation within their teams and organizations.

Practical Strategies to Develop and Improve EI as a Leader

Improving your emotional intelligence as a leader requires consistent effort. It involves ongoing strategies and continuing education.

Here are 6 practical steps that can help you improve your emotional intelligence:

1. Build Empathy

Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. Building empathy is the foundation of an emotionally intelligent leader.

To work on building empathy, work on putting yourself in your employee’s shoes when they bring a concern or issue to you. Try to imagine how they are feeling and what they are going through. Seeing issues from someone else’s perspective can help you make decisions that validate employees’ feelings and ensure they feel understood.

If you would like to focus on developing empathy, we can connect you to an emotional intelligence training workshop. Learn more about it here: Applying Empathy in the Workplace.

2. Work on Emotional Regulation

Controlling your emotions in any situation and learning how to stay calm and rational are key to becoming an emotionally intelligent leader.

To improve your emotional regulation, work on learning stress management techniques, practice mindfulness exercises, make sure to make time for hobbies outside of work, and get to know your emotional strengths and weaknesses.

3. Take Part in Continuous Education

Improving your EI as a leader takes ongoing effort. Participating in emotional intelligence training as a leader can teach you practical strategies and tools to increase your EI.

Essemy has a range of emotional intelligence training workshops devoted to understanding and improving your emotional intelligence and fostering positive outcomes.

We recommend these EI workshops to get started:

4. Become an Active Listener

Have you ever talked with someone and noticed they just aren’t listening? Rather, you can tell they’re just waiting for you to be quiet so they can continue with their opinion.

An Active listener put their thoughts and opinions to the side and devote their entire attention to the speaker.

A good leader will master active listening skills so employees feel truly heard when they bring up a concern or ask for guidance. This fosters an environment where employees feel comfortable coming to you with issues because they know they will be understood and their feelings will be validated.

5. Build Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a crucial aspect of an emotionally intelligent leader. Being self-aware means you have a deep understanding of your own emotions and know how to manage them.

To become more self-aware, work on identifying any behaviour patterns. You can do this by journaling or taking a few minutes to reflect every day on the different emotions you are feeling.

6. Make an Effort to Connect with Employees on a Personal Level

When you connect with employees and show an interest in them, it builds trust and respect.

Companies that are ‘employee-focused’ see higher profits, higher job satisfaction rates, better retention rates, and better mental health among employees. And happy, healthy employees take a greater interest in performing their jobs well and achieving their full potential.

Let Essemy Develop your Leader’s Emotional Intelligence Skills

Emotional intelligence is a crucial aspect of a successful company with happy, satisfied employees.

By taking steps to develop your emotional intelligence, you move forward in your goals toward becoming a more successful leader.

Essemy delivers engaging workshops with experts on EI and offers a range of emotional intelligence training workshops. EI workshops can teach you practical tools and skills that you can use to resolve conflict, support employees, tackle difficult company issues, and promote a positive workplace.

Contact us with any questions or to learn more about our range of emotional intelligence training workshops.