2.2 Why emotional intelligence for leaders (vs. anything else)?

2.2 Why emotional intelligence?

For yourself

Emotional intelligence is the ability to control and manage our emotions, to positively influence our own emotional state and the one of the people around us.

Most of your emotional life is unconscious.[1] You feel something and depending on what it is you take a more optimistic or pessimistic view on things, and you then base your behaviour on that point of view. For example if you are feeling down because of stress, you will be more on edge and will not want to engage and joke around with others.

This is how we often deal with emotions: we just let them happen and influence our life – and more often then not, we let them run their course and let time take care of them. If you are like me, when you have a bad day you just label it as a “bad day” and count on the fact that you’ll be doing better tomorrow.

That’s a passive approach, that’s what I mean by letting emotions influence our life – and as a leader, this approach is problematic.

If you don’t have the tools to manage and influence your emotions, and let them be in charge of your behaviour as a leader, you can count on the fact that your team will notice. They will not want to engage or interact with you and possibly just won’t like being around you – the opposite of a positive and supportive work environment!

If it’s ever happened to you that because of an event or after a bad interaction you had with someone (e.g. a conflict) you

·     felt like your energy was being drained,

·     kept going back to that event and reinforcing your own negative thoughts about it,

·     couldn’t think straight or focus elsewhere because of how much you were going around in circles about it…

…that’s exactly what I’m talking about. When you are in such a bad emotional place, it will reflect on people around you. And when you are in that state, you know damn well that using logic or trying to be rational about it won’t be of any help.

That’s where emotional intelligence comes in handy. Being emotionally intelligent means taking an active role: having the tools and skills to influence your emotional state and make your “bad day” into a much better one for you and for people around you. Emotional intelligence means not letting your emotions be in control of your choices and behaviours, but, knowing how to cause a positive change in your emotional state, redirecting your attention and energy to where it matters

And at a more advanced level, it means being able to do this for others, uplifting them, helping them react, enabling them to focus on what matters instead of having their emotions damp them down.

For your team

Emotional intelligence improves a leader’s ability to inspire, motivate and drive performance. It builds resilience, respect and trust, which in turn lowers the risk of stress and burnouts.[2]

If you are a leader, you need to work with both tasks and people, and working with people always brings emotions into the mix. Whether you acknowledge them or ignore them it’s your choice, but they are there whatever you do.

And if someone in your team is taken over by some personal issue, maybe just by a conflict with someone, and doesn’t have the skills to deal with it, you will see how much of an impact it can have not only on the person, but also on the team’s overall spirit and performance.

Breaking it down, there are three reasons for which you should care about developing emotional intelligence as a leader:

·     First: any environment with low emotional intelligence is probably not a healthy one. As you are responsible for setting up a safe and enabling work environment, it’s your job to make sure you do.

·     Second, you should care personally about your team’s well-being. If you absolutely don’t care about how your team members are doing, maybe there’s a bigger issue to discuss.

·     And third, someone in a bad emotional place won’t manage to get anything done - not only that: they could take their emotional weight out on the rest of the team, which is likely to sink their productivity as well. In other words, emotional intelligence, is not just a “plus” for leadership, there is also a measurable strategic aspect to it.


Goleman, Daniel. 1995. Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Zak, Paul J. ‘The Neuroscience of Trust’. Harvard Business Review, 1 January 2017. https://hbr.org/2017/01/the-neuroscience-of-trust.




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[1] Goleman, D. (1995)

[2] Zak, P. (2017)

2.2 Why emotional intelligence for leaders.pdf