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Why Emotional Intelligence in Leadership is so Important

Posted by Jenna Baskin on 20/04/2023
Jenna Baskin
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Emotional Intelligence is Key to Effective Leadership

'Emotional intelligence' is a term that's thrown around a fair bit these days in regards to the workplace - but what actually is emotional intelligence, and why is it important in the workplace, particularly in leadership roles?
Let's take a look.

Table of Contents

  1. What is emotional intelligence?
  2. How does emotional intelligence affect leadership?
  3. How to improve your emotional intelligence in leadership
  4. Improving leadership skills in the Workplace
  5. Good leadership and finding your leadership style

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and be aware of one's own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence allows for the regulation of one’s emotions and empathy for the people around them.

There are five key components of EI:

1. Self-awareness

The understanding of one's emotions, consequences of their emotions, and how their emotions may change over time. A person with high EI can pinpoint their emotions and put how they're feeling into words.

2. Self-regulation

Once a person is able to identify their own emotions, they can learn to manage them. Self-regulation may involve identifying a challenging emotion and resisting the urge to react impulsively.

3. Motivation

A person with high EQ (emotional quotient) is highly motivated, with the ability to keep going when things get tough. Driven towards a goal, a motivated person won't be easily discouraged by a challenge or obstacle.

4. Empathy

Empathy is understanding how another person is feeling. A person with high EI can put themselves in another's shoes and understand a situation from their perspective.

5. Social skills

People with high emotional intelligence have the ability to interact well with other people and build strong relationships. Strong social skills make it simple for the person to communicate and practise social awareness.

How does emotional intelligence affect leadership?

Truth be told, emotional intelligence is important in every facet of the workplace. The ability to regulate and understand one's emotions is a skill that is useful regardless of one's position, as well as being able to communicate and understand the way others are feeling.

Emotional intelligence skills are especially vital in leadership roles. Emotionally intelligent leaders have the ability to relate to their team members, offer empathy and understanding, and create strong relationships with their employees.

Leaders that have low emotional intelligence typically have a less motivated team, reduced productivity, reduced job satisfaction for their employees, and there is often a higher staff turnover rate.

Emotional intelligence in leadership is beneficial for a myriad of reasons:


Communication is key in any leadership role. Successful leaders are the ones that can effectively communicate their expectations to their direct reports, provide feedback, and communicate changes that need to be made.

Workplace culture

A leader has great influence over the culture of the workplace. Successful leaders will encourage a positive work culture, which fosters job satisfaction. Employees that agree with the culture of their workplace are more likely to be satisfied with their job. This can also have a positive effect on staff retention.


A team member that has job satisfaction will be more productive. An effective leader will improve productivity in a workplace by motivating employees. In addition, having high EI means leaders can better respond to stress and challenges - a vital skill in any workplace that can improve productivity. Motivation is what keeps successful leaders going, even when things get tough.

Conflict resolution

A great leader can identify and manage conflicts within their team before they become huge issues. Empathetic leaders are more likely to be able to relate to their team members, get to the bottom of the issue, and find a resolution that all parties are happy with.

Improved career prospects

It's true - people with high emotional intelligence are more likely to land new jobs, promotions and pay rises. The personality traits that come along with high emotional intelligence make people with high EQ good candidates for leadership roles - with increased opportunities for career growth.

How to improve your emotional intelligence in leadership

The good news is, you can improve your emotional intelligence with practice. If you want to increase your chances of moving into a leadership position or feel you can improve your emotional intelligence skills, here are some pointers:


Take it back to one of the five key components of emotional intelligence, as defined by psychologist Daniel Goleman. Self-awareness.
To improve your emotional quotient you have to look inwards. Self-assessment and self-awareness is important for all good leaders. Examine how you are feeling, how you react to challenging situations, and how your reactions and emotions can affect others. Those with low emotional intelligence lack self-awareness. Practise mindfulness to become a more self-aware leader.

Learn to accept feedback

Leaders that become defensive when faced with feedback don't have the emotional intelligence required to take on constructive feedback and make improvements. Being unable to accept feedback can hinder growth and success not only for the leader, but also the whole team and company. If a leader is unable to accept feedback gracefully, it can lead to tarnishing of their reputation, distrust from their team members, and blocking of communication between the team.

Work on your social skills

Being a good communicator and having good social skills don't come naturally to everyone. To achieve high levels of emotional intelligence and strong social skills, focus on making an effort when communicating with others throughout all facets of your life, not just the workplace.

  • Ensure you understand before you offer a response
  • Focus on the person, rather than your phone or other distractions
  • Read the emotional information the person is offering through their facial expressions and body language
  • Keep your word - this harbours trust and strong relationships
  • Learn how to say 'sorry' and own your mistakes

Accept that we're always learning

A leader's ability to admit that they're learning can go a long way to fostering trust and support among their employees. You don't have to have all the answers right away - your direct reports will appreciate your honesty and acceptance that we're all human. Emotional intelligence in leadership can be always evolving.

Even good leadership teams have room to grow and improve their emotional intelligence. Having high standards for yourself is a good thing, but ensure you don't get too hard on yourself if you're experiencing a learning moment.

Improving leadership skills in the Workplace

Emotional intelligence in leadership is vital. Emotional intelligence training should be a part of every leadership development plan in the workplace. MCI Institute's leadership courses online are designed by real-life leaders with experience in management to help you hone your emotional intelligence and leadership skills, and also those of your team.
Including leadership training in the workplace offers employees an opportunity to improve their technical skills and leadership skills, and progress their career.

Good leadership and finding your leadership style

Leadership effectiveness is defined by many different things, but successful leaders always have high emotional intelligence.
Improve your emotional intelligence, and offer the opportunity for your employees to increase their leadership skills, with MCI Institute's online leadership courses.

Topics: leadership, leadership and management course, leadership course, leadership diploma, management course

By Jenna Baskin

Jenna Baskin is the CEO of MCI and has over 11 years’ experience in the training and education space. She was responsible for the creation of the MCI's online consumer division, the MCI Institute, and the transition of the organisation into the digital learning landscape. This includes platform partnerships across North America, unique content development, and the introduction of virtual reality learning methodologies.