The Importance of Emotional Intelligence among Leaders

April 22, 2014

When talking about a ‘perfect leader’, we easily think of someone who seems to be always in control. This person never allows his temper to overcome him no matter how difficult the situation is. You may also imagine a perfect leader in a person who is trusted by his staff because she is someone who knows how to listen to her subordinates and has the ability to make informed decisions. If you try to analyze such traits of a good leader, you will realize that it takes a high level of emotional intelligence to become a perfect leader.

This article will help you understand how important emotional intelligence is for leaders. As a leader, you will also learn here how you can improve your emotional intelligence to eventually become a perfect leader.

Defining Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence or EI is a person’s ability to recognize and control not only your own emotions, but also of other people. A person who has a high degree of EI can identify with what he or she is feeling, what certain emotions mean, as well as how such emotions may impact other people.

To become an effective leader, you definitely need to have a sense of emotional intelligence. As you can imagine, a leader who never stops shouting at his staff or who cannot stay in control of things is not likely to be a successful leader.

Psychologists, in general, agree that the five important elements of emotional intelligence are: self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.


If you have self-awareness, you know your own emotions, and you are also cognizant of how your actions and feelings may affect those surrounding you. Leaders who are self-aware know so well what their strong and weak points are, which explains why they speak and act with humility.

How to develop self-awareness:

1. Have a journal. Keeping a journal can help you become more aware of yourself. In your journal you can write down your thoughts, your emotions and your experiences every single day. By taking note of such things, you become more acquainted with who you really are as a person.

2. Take it slow. Whenever you feel some strong emotions, like anger, take things slow so you could look into the reasons or causes of your anger. Keep in mind that regardless of the situation you are in, you have a choice in terms of what your reaction will be.


Leaders who are capable of regulating themselves are not likely to attack others verbally. They can also avoid making emotional or rushed decisions, and they never let their values be compromised. In short, self regulation is synonymous to being in control.

How to learn how to self-regulate:

1. Identify your values. We all have our own values that we won’t ever allow to be compromised. But do you know what values you have? Many of us are too busy trying to succeed in their personal and professional lives that they no longer know what their code of ethics is. By knowing what matters most to you, there should be no reason to have doubts and think twice everytime there is an ethical or moral decision that you have to make.

2. Be accountable. Great leaders don’t put the blame on others when something goes wrong. What they do is bravely admit their mistakes and deal with the consequences of such mistakes.

3. Stay calm. Your behavior or how you conduct yourself in a difficult situation can tell the kind of leader that you are. If you tend to relieve your frustration by yelling at your staff, you are a terrible leader. You should learn the art of staying calm by doing some deep-breathing routines or exercises.


A highly motivated leader has every reason to work hard. These leaders have clear goals, and they work consistently to achieve them.

How to remain motivated:

1. Reevaluate your reason for having your job. The longer you stay in a career, the more likely it is that you will forget why you loved your job in the first place. Thus, it is important that you try to remember what made you fall in love with your job. This will remind you of the things you wanted to become and to achieve right from the start.

2. Examine your motivation level. You have to know if you love being a leader. Having a leadership role requires that you be driven consistently, otherwise, everything will fall apart. If you feel you are losing motivation, then it’s time that you find resources that will help you get back on track.

3. Always look for something good. Challenges are difficulties are all part of taking on a leadership role. But then again, if you love what you are doing, you will easily find the good things around you. If you fail, then think about the lessons you have learned from such experience.


A leader who has empathy knows how to put himself in someone’s shoe. This allows them to know what other people may be going through. This is what they use to determine the kind of help they need to offer their subordinates. By being empathetic, you can earn your team’s loyalty and respect.

How to develop empathy:

1. Imagine yourself being someone else. It is very easy to focus only on your opinion and points of view. But it will make you an even more effective leader if you know how other people see things.

2. Do not ignore body language. Your gestures can also show how you think and feel about certain things and situations. There is no point in sounding like you care if your body language says otherwise. As a leader, you will always be observed, so you need to be aware of how your movements will make other people feel.

3. Acknowledge other people’s feelings. If you demand your staff to work late to finish a project, make sure that you also consider how they feel about your request. Welcome their reactions and show that you understand why they are not comfortable doing what you are asking them to do.


With great social skills, a leader turns into a good communicator. Great leaders are always ready to hear good and bad news, and they know how to get their team excited about something. Also, if you develop good social skills, you shouldn’t have difficulties resolving conflicts and managing change.

How to enhance social skills:

1. Be an expert at conflict resolution. It is essential for leaders to know how to properly resolve conflicts, whether it is among the employees or even involving clients.

2. Enhance your communication skills. How well you communicate pretty much affects how your people will respond to you and whatever you say.

3. Appreciate other people. If you don’t want your people to consider changing jobs, then you should make them feel good about themselves and their abilities.

About the author:

CCCCecile Peterkin is a certified career and retirement coach, and a registered member of the Career Professionals of Canada and the International Coach Federation. She is also the Founder and Senior Career Strategist at Cosmic Coaching Center, provider of career and life management services for middle managers and mid-career professionals across Canada, United States and Europe.

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