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Emotional intelligence and leadership. Why is it necessary and how can I develop it?

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Intelligence is a trait that people strive to attain, and it is a characteristic that businesses value in their teams. 


In the 1990s, psychology professors John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey introduced another term for another kind of intelligence called emotional intelligence or EQ. Then almost a decade later, psychologist Daniel Goleman made the connection between high EQ with effective leadership.


American poet Maya Angelou gave her insight on emotional intelligence when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


How is our emotional intelligence? 


As  society and the modern workplace become more global and there is a need for increasingly enterprising leaders, the demand for emotional intelligence has also increased. 


It is for our benefit when we periodically self-assess our EQ, so that we can make ways to develop it. 


What are some of the ways we display EQ in leadership? 


  1. We lead by example, especially during tricky and challenging work situations. Thus, our co-workers become inspired and motivated through our example. 
  2. We know our own strengths, areas to improve in our skills, attitudes and knowledge, our own motivation. Thus, our confidence comes from our self-awareness. 
  3. We know how to communicate directly, with  frankness, and we respond appropriately to the situation. This shows our ability to regulate ourselves. 
  4. We know how to listen and to understand other people. Thus we are effective in resolving conflicts. 
  5. We show empathy and influence.

These qualities surpass our IQ and knowledge. Emotional intelligence is our ability to understand, regulate and communicate our own emotions  and our skill in perceiving other people’s emotions. 


Why is EQ crucial as a leadership skill? 


  • EQ is a people-focused skill that improves teams and their productivity. 

One cornerstone skill under EQ in leadership is empathetic leadership. Once considered a soft skill, empathetic leadership is now a part of success indicators. Success in the modern workplace means being able to work well with and manage different work teams and departments, often across several regions, countries and cultures! 


Surveys in companies consistently show that being perceived as empathetic positively influences both our workmates’ and boss’ perception of our high performance at work.


  • EQ helps managers turn disengaged workers to an engaged workforce. 

In 2023, widespread surveys of US employees show that almost one third of US employees are engaged, while the rest are a combination of not engaged and actively disengaged ones. Unfortunately, trillions of dollars are lost when employees are not engaged.


When a leaders’ EQ is developed, they are able to make thoughtful decisions that help the business and the people in it. High EQ leaders are able to detect signs of burnout in their team, and create ways to either prevent it or ease its effects. 


They are able to do this by their communication skills that show sincere concern for people’s interests, dreams, and possible problems. They are also able to connect company goals and purposes with employee’s personal goals, thus increasing engagement. 


Areas of improvement under Emotional Intelligence: 


  • Improve your listening skills. 
  • Practice on your skill in understanding other people’s perspectives. 
  • Grow in your self-awareness. You can keep a journal or work with a therapist or a mental health professional to help you grow in emotional intelligence. 
  • Practice responding calmly. 
  • Connect yourself with things that motivate you, strengthen your vision and with your values. 

As you reflect on your emotional intelligence right now, you will see your current skills, expertise and areas you can still develop in. Over time, you get to grow your leadership skills and become a more effective leader with high emotional intelligence! 


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Emotional intelligence and leadership. Why is it necessary and how can I develop it?
Brandon Resasco

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