Why business leaders need emotional intelligence

07 April 2021

When you think of strong business leaders, attributes like industry savviness and strategic thinking usually spring to mind. But more and more, emotional intelligence has been identified as a key asset in a business leader's toolkit.

Combining self-awareness with empathy for others, emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in managing stress, fostering collaboration, delivering feedback and, ultimately, creating a happier, more productive environment for everyone. 

As a means of developing your skill set, we'll take a closer look at why emotional intelligence is so important for leaders, as well as some ways you can increase emotional intelligence across your own duties.


What is emotional intelligence in business?

Emotional intelligence (which we'll call EI from here on) lets us recognise, understand and handle our emotions as well as the emotions of those around us. When we refer to people with high degrees of EI, we mean they're in tune with their feelings, what their emotions mean, and how their emotions might affect other people.

Basically, EI is vital in successful business leaders. Compared to more domineering, old school methods of leadership, a manager who stays in control of everyone's emotions (as well as their own) and calmly assesses the situation is more likely to succeed.


ceo holding team meeting


The work of American psychologist Daniel Goleman has helped popularise EI, particularly his concept of breaking it down into the following five elements:

  • Self-awareness: Are you aware of how you feel along with the ways your actions can affect those around you?

    Leaders with self-awareness have a clear idea of strengths and weaknesses. And while they may be in a position of authority, they still carry out their duties with humility.

  • Self-regulation: Instead of abusing the privileges of their position, leaders with self-regulation stay in control of their emotions and remain committed to personal accountability.

  • Motivation: Working consistently towards their goals, motivating their team and setting high standards for their own work – all hallmarks of self-motivated leaders.

    And what's more, they deliver the goods without getting too hung up on any unsatisfactory outcomes.

  • Empathy: The best leaders are those who put themselves in others' shoes and better understand differing perspectives.

Empathetic leaders support the career and personal growth of team members, offer constructive criticism and provide regular feedback. Basically, the things that motivate employees to go that extra mile.

  • Social skills: Strong communication, effective planning and implementation of major changes, and responding appropriately to both good and bad are all part and parcel of great leaders.


Why is emotional intelligence important for business leaders? 

At this point, we're sure you’re starting to see why EI is important for business leaders. But what else do the above traits mean for business environments?

Leaders with EI create workplaces where employees feel safe, can suggest ideas, and feel empowered to take calculated risks. And the collaboration that thrives in these kinds of spaces becomes woven into the fabric of a company's culture, rather than just an objective to be achieved.


team meeting


Emotionally intelligent leaders can also use emotions that let organisations progress forward with their goals. Think of the number of changes that leaders have to manage across their organisation; a leader who can gauge the emotional responses to changes is in a better position to implement them.

Pride and power tend to go hand in hand, too. But leaders with EI check their ego at the door.

Instead, such leaders avoid taking things personally and move on with their plans without worrying about chinks in their armour. Simply put, they're too self-aware to let workplace squabbles stand in the way of productivity.


How to measure emotional intelligence

Measuring intangibles like social skills and self-awareness might seem difficult, but there are valid metrics you can use to measure EI. We'll take a closer look at two of the most recommended below:

Measure 1: The Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Assessment

This assessment consists of 144 short items which are designed to assess 10 distinct facets of EI, including traits like empathy, creative thinking and recognising emotions in others.

The assessment takes around 20 minutes and provides a personality-based measure of emotional intelligence. When developing the test, researchers stated that the measure is optimal for:

  • Employees and leaders looking to develop critical people skills
  • Qualified professionals looking to select leaders and employees with emotional intelligence
  • Those who seek convenient and simple testing


laughing businesswoman


Measure 2: The Work Group Emotional Intelligence Profile

The second measure consists of two scales, each with its own additional subscales:

Ability to Deal with Own Emotions

  • Ability to recognise own emotions
  • Ability to discuss own emotions
  • Ability to manage own emotions

Ability to Deal with Others' Emotions

  • Ability to recognise others' emotions
  • Ability to manage others' emotions

These scales offer a self-report assessment based on 30 items to help measure emotional intelligence in team members.


How to increase your emotional intelligence

So, what can we do to build EI in the workplace? It requires time, effort and patience, but the tips and practices below can help you to become more emotionally intelligent in your interactions with others.


Becoming more self-aware:

  • For one week, take note of your feelings. Write down each emotion, the event that triggered it and how it made you feel
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses by reviewing past performance reviews and gathering feedback from colleagues you trust
  • Reflect on these observations and come up with strategies for turning your negative reactions into more positive responses


Building internal motivation:


  • Aside from the paycheque, what do you love most about your job? What are the things that interest you most?
  • Set yourself goals that are related to these areas of interest and reward yourself every time you achieve them
  • If you feel yourself becoming self-critical or negative during the day, practice more positive thinking instead


Becoming more empathetic:


  • Put yourself in the other person's shoes when disagreeing with them. Are they correct based on their values and perspective?
  • State your understanding of differing points of view
  • Ask yourself whether you'd prefer to be right over negotiating a mutual resolution
  • Try to meet the emotional needs of others before asking them to satisfy yours


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ceo holding team meeting


Improving your social skills:


  • Try actively listening to others during conversations, asking more questions to better understand their views and opinions
  • Get to know the ways your team responds to certain information, tailoring your approach to interacting with each colleague's preferences


Practice self-regulation:


  • Instead of flying off the handle when faced with emotional situations, take a few hours (or even a day) before responding
  • Integrate stress-relieving activities like meditation and exercise into your life
  • Avoid trying to control the things which are out of your control


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The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.


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