What comes to mind when you think of successful leaders? Most people automatically think of commitment, passion, good decision-making skills, focus, creativity and self-awareness. However, we often overlook one vital characteristic that ensures effective leadership – emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ), is an individual’s ability to understand and manage their emotions and those of people around them. A leader with high EQ will connect with team members on a deeper level, navigate challenges effectively and inspire collaboration.

These leaders demonstrate better communication and interpersonal skills. They create strong workplace relationships and boost team morale, which increases team satisfaction and company performance in the long run.

In this article, we take a comprehensive look at the role of emotional intelligence in effective leadership. Read on to learn how it contributes to building strong interpersonal relationships within an organization.


What is effective leadership?

Effective leadership is all about a leader’s ability to understand and manage a company’s culture. They work around the clock to create a work culture that encourages their employees to contribute meaningfully to reaching the goals of the employer. Typically, effective leaders will help improve the vision of the company, create strategic organizational plans and track performance.

To establish yourself as an effective leader, you need to have the right professional skills and personal attributes. It is also vital you influence people to support the company’s vision and goals. These attributes include strategic planning, communication, decision-making and strong interpersonal relationship skills.

If you are looking to hone these skills and become an effective leader, consider attending a reputable institution to earn a degree, such as an Organizational Leadership Degree at Marymount University. Marymount’s online Doctor of Education program includes practical courses such as crisis management, which equips you with the tools to create innovative solutions to propel transformation. This is a flexible program with fully online coursework and excellent support from experienced faculty.



What is emotional intelligence in leadership?

As emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your emotions and those of people around you, it is a primary characteristic for leaders because their role includes managing work and employee dynamics. Emotionally intelligent leaders instinctively know how to manage expectations, inspire others and resolve conflicts.

Emotional intelligence in leadership means being able to manage personal biases as well. These leaders will find a way to prevent their emotions and ego from lowering productivity. Doing this is critical to ensuring the organization remains profitable while achieving its goals.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are self-aware, clearly express their feelings and regulate their emotions. These leaders can gauge the expectations, wants and needs of employees and co-workers.

Emotional intelligence is vital whether you desire to be a leader or want to improve your leadership skills. It helps you improve your workplace relationships and establishes you as an effective leader. By applying emotional intelligence, you will show empathy to team members, communicate effectively during conflict and stay calm even in stressful circumstances.



The Four Primary Components of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Leading with a high emotional intelligence quotient comes down to four main components. These include the following:


Being self-aware means having a better understanding of your weaknesses and strengths. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can regulate their emotions when dealing with challenging or complex situations. This allows these leaders to take the necessary steps to find a viable solution.

As a leader, being self-aware lets you guide team members to accomplish tasks within a specified period. It does more than help you in making the right decisions at every turn. You also help to ensure individual and organizational growth.

Lastly, leaders need to take feedback positively. Without self-awareness, it might not be possible to acknowledge negative feedback in the workplace. Thanks to self-awareness, these leaders remain conscious of their behavior when receiving poor reviews.


Emotionally intelligent leaders rely on self-management to manage their emotions and impulses in any situation. By doing so, they can effectively avoid impulsive reactions and manage stress in high-pressure situations. Instead of reacting rashly, these leaders respond thoughtfully.

Self-management lets emotionally intelligent leaders make well-calculated decisions in calm and challenging circumstances. Being calm and decisive — regardless of the situation — ensures the company goals and targets are met all year long.

Finally, self-management helps leaders remain composed in any situation. They establish themselves as confident leaders, which fosters a sense of stability among employees. This helps everyone in the workplace to retain their mental peace and stay calm when tackling difficult situations.


Every business organization needs to thrive in its social environment. It is vital to create strategies, implement plans and develop employee goals that encourage satisfaction both within and outside the company.

Through social awareness, emotionally intelligent leaders can deal with customers. These leaders can also effectively handle people who are vital to the organization, including shareholders and the board of directors. This helps ensure the business will always thrive since all the people integral to the organization are well taken care of.

Leaders who are socially aware tend to practice empathy. They constantly try to understand the feelings and perceptions of people around them. This allows these leaders to collaborate and communicate more effectively with their peers.

According to a study by the global leadership development firm DDI, empathy is the number one leadership skill. Leaders with empathy performed more than 40% higher in decision-making, engaging others and coaching. This leads to managers with empathy being viewed as better performers.

Relationship Management

Through relationship management, leaders can nurture workplace relationships to guarantee positive outcomes. It is this ability that helps you mentor, coach and influence others within the organization. You will also find it easier to resolve conflict effectively.

Leaders also use relationship management to ensure clear communication with customers and clients. Doing this prevents any misunderstandings with customers, which improves customer service and builds loyalty. It also makes it easier to meet company goals and attain success while encouraging customer feedback.

Finally, proper relationship management influences how encouraging and welcoming the work environment is for new employees. The onboarding process will be more streamlined and effective. Leaders can reduce employee turnover, which helps ensure the company stays ahead of the competition.



How Emotional Intelligence in Leadership Benefits an Organization

Understanding the four primary components of emotional intelligence will help you become an effective leader. However, honing these skills will also benefit your organization. Here are the main benefits of emotional intelligence in leadership for your company:

Better Teamwork

Leaders with high emotional intelligence can communicate more effectively within their teams. These leaders are also more open to feedback from their colleagues. It is easier to build a strong team when everyone feels appreciated for their work and ideas.

People with higher emotional intelligence can also quickly recognize the hard work of others. These leaders have a better understanding of the roles every employee needs to play. They have an easier time figuring out ways to help individual employees improve in their specific roles.

Enhanced Employee Engagement

One of the critical benefits of emotional intelligence in leadership is enhancing employee engagement. Engaged employees are more motivated, committed and productive. Leaders with high emotional intelligence understand employee emotional needs and can create a work environment that guarantees engagement.

Leaders with high EQ are more attuned to the concerns and needs of their teams. They actively listen to employees and provide valuable support to help them. This personalized approach helps create a work environment where everyone feels appreciated and valued, which increases engagement and productivity.

Improved Leadership Effectiveness

Emotionally intelligent leaders inspire, motivate and lead their teams in the right direction. As they better understand their emotions, it’s easier for them to maintain composure at all times. This helps employees feel that their company and future are in good hands — regardless of the current situation.

Being self-aware is vital for leaders because it enables them to make informed decisions. They set good examples for other employees who regularly try to imitate them. This helps increase customer satisfaction while boosting productivity.

Enhanced Communication

Emotionally intelligent leaders pay close attention to non-verbal cues, including facial expressions and body language. They can read the tone of voice during interactions to help them understand the unspoken emotions of their stakeholders and team members. This allows these leaders to respond appropriately to concerns and provide the necessary support.

Apart from reading non-verbal cues, emotionally intelligent leaders use active listening to enhance communication. They actively listen to team members without interrupting or prematurely formulating responses. Doing this makes employees feel valued and heard, which encourages open dialogue while boosting morale.

Finally, leaders with higher emotional intelligence can adjust their communication style to match the needs of the people around them, including employees, customers and stakeholders. For instance, they use an empathetic tone when addressing concerns and a direct approach when delivering feedback. This adaptability ensures their messages resonate with the audience.

Conflict Resolution

Empathetic leaders tend to genuinely acknowledge the perceptions and emotions of conflicting parties. Instead of treating emotions as an obstacle, they view them as a vital factor to consider during conflict resolution. This helps these leaders offer solutions that are more long-lasting and creative.

Emotionally intelligent leaders also act as mediators whenever there is a problem in the workplace. They guide the parties involved in the conflict toward a resolution without bias or judgment. The process usually leads to more durable solutions, which prevent the recurrence of the same conflict.

Conflict resolution helps build trust within an organization. When emotionally intelligent leaders effectively handle conflicts with fairness, employees feel more confident in the leadership’s ability to handle other problems. Having this trust makes it easier to build an organization based on collaboration and teamwork.

Balanced Decision-Making

An emotionally intelligent leader will consider both the emotional and logical aspects of decisions. They assess how each choice they make will impact stakeholders and employees — practically and emotionally. This balanced approach ensures every decision is rational and considerate of its broader consequences.

Leaders with higher emotional intelligence are less likely to make impulsive decisions. These leaders take their time to reflect on their biases and emotions before making any company decisions. This helps ensure they make better decisions that are not emotionally driven, particularly in high-stress situations.

Finally, emotional intelligence helps leaders consider the long-term impacts of their decisions. They understand that their decisions can affect employee morale, organizational culture and stakeholder relationships in the long run. This foresight ensures the organization remains stable and successful for the foreseeable future.



How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence as a Leader

A lack of emotional intelligence in leadership can lead to significant organizational damage. The results can range from an increasingly toxic work environment to high employee turnover. The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned. Here’s how you can improve your emotional intelligence as a leader:

Develop Self-Awareness by Practicing Mindfulness

Learning how to properly manage yourself is essential when leading others. You need to use self-regulation and self-awareness to manage your emotions and perceptions. Understand that the examples you set will influence the people around you.

When developing your self-regulation and self-awareness skills, the first step is being mindful of your emotional and mental changes. Doing this will make it easier to notice how outside influences affect you.

Being mindful affords you the space to carefully analyze everything that is happening around you. It ensures you can work better with others. This allows you to effectively respond to different kinds of social interactions, including panic attacks.

Mindfulness can also help increase empathy, which facilitates clear and open communication. You are able to develop stronger bonds with employees, which increases productivity. It is easier to work with others when you understand yourself better.

Learn to Accept Feedback Positively

Emotionally intelligent leaders are those who can hear feedback from others without becoming defensive. However, most leaders tend to become defensive instead of admitting there are areas where they can improve. Doing this shows their lack of self-awareness and failure to value the feedback of those around them.

Being too defensive will destroy the trust you have built with employees and stakeholders. For starters, it blocks communication and impairs your reputation while leaving employees feeling ignored and frustrated. Unfortunately, it is often much easier to become defensive whenever a team member questions your decisions or leadership style.

If you are dedicated to becoming a more emotionally intelligent leader, you need to admit when you fall short or make a mistake. It is the first step toward becoming a good leader who is open with yourself and your team. Follow this guideline to become less defensive when receiving feedback:

  • Pause whenever you receive any feedback
  • Thank whoever is giving you the feedback
  • Ask follow-up questions to help clarify the issue
  • Make necessary changes

Use 1-on-1s to Mentor Employees and Develop Empathy

To become an emotionally intelligent leader, you need to learn about employees on a more personal level. You must understand their challenges, goals and motives. This will help you mirror their feelings and empathize with them.

Having 1-on-1s is the simplest and most natural way to mentor your employees. Sitting with employees for even 30 minutes lets you learn vital information about them. Consider having a chat during lunch breaks or happy hours at a local bar.

You can learn a variety of things during a 1-on-1, including what motivates them, what they dislike, their goals and dreams and the issues or challenges within the workplace. This makes it easier to empathize with them and makes you a better mentor.

Understand that employees who receive mentoring tend to achieve higher positions and career satisfaction. You get to pass on knowledge and experience to help support the growth of your employees. This allows employees to become more productive, which makes the company more profitable.

If you are looking to work on mentoring, start with learning how to engage with employees on a personal level. Secondly, get to know them better with rapport-driven questions to develop more empathy. Lastly, invest in setting up times for better 1-on-1s with helpful reminders, structure and suggested questions.


Emotional Intelligence is Paramount to Effective Leadership

Emotional intelligence is a quality that every leader needs to possess, so leaders should put in the work to develop higher emotional intelligence. It is just as vital as all the other communication and technical skills.

Leaders who are emotionally regulated, self-aware and socially skilled are better equipped to create strong relationships with employees. They make more sound decisions and manage conflict effectively to ensure a sustainable work environment. By working tirelessly to develop your emotional intelligence, you can become a more successful and effective leader.


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