Importance Of Emotional Intelligence In Leaders & Managers

April 27, 2023

importance of emotional intelligence in leaders and managers

Effective leadership is not just about making smart decisions and giving orders. Emotional intelligence (EI) also plays a crucial role in the success of leaders and managers.

When we talk about emotional intelligence, we refer to the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one's own emotions, while also recognizing and responding appropriately to the emotions of others.

This article explores why EI is one of the top leadership behaviors to look for, how to identify it, and how to develop it in an existing workforce.

The impact of high emotional intelligence on leadership behaviors

Before we look at how to identify and develop emotional intelligence, we first need to understand how high EI manifests in the workplace in terms of leadership behaviors.


As the ability to regulate one's own emotions and behavior, self-management is a key component of emotional intelligence.

It requires an individual to be aware of their emotional state and use strategies to manage their reactions effectively. This includes the ability to remain calm and composed under pressure, control impulsive behavior and adapt to changing circumstances.


Empathy is the ability to understand and respond to the emotions of others, and requires an individual to put themselves in another person's shoes, listen actively and respond with compassion and understanding.

Empathy can be used to build better relationships, resolve conflicts and support others in difficult situations.

Relationship management

Relationship management is all about building and maintaining positive relationships. It involves effective communication, active listening and the ability to collaborate and work well with others towards common goals.

Relationship management also includes the ability to manage conflict effectively and negotiate solutions that are beneficial for all parties involved.


We can describe self-awareness as the ability to recognize and understand one's own emotions, strengths, weaknesses and values.

Those that demonstrate a high level of self-awareness are aware of their own behavior and reactions and understand how they impact others. They're also able to reflect on their own experiences and emotions, and use them to inform decision-making and behavior.

Social awareness

Finally, social awareness is the ability to recognize and understand the emotions and needs of others in social situations. It requires an individual to be able to read and interpret social cues, understand different perspectives and adapt to different social contexts.

For leaders, social awareness can enable them to make more informed decisions and better understand the impact their decisions may have on their team, organization and stakeholders.

Why is emotional intelligence important for leaders and managers?


Having a high level of emotional intelligence in the leadership team beings multiple benefits to an organization:

Builds strong relationships: leaders and managers who are emotionally intelligent are able to build strong relationships with their team members, as they can understand their emotions and needs. This helps to create a positive and supportive work environment.

Promotes effective communication: effective communication is crucial for success in any organization. Leaders and managers who are emotionally intelligent are able to communicate clearly and empathetically, which helps to build trust and understanding among team members.

Improves conflict management: conflicts can arise in any workplace. Leaders and managers who are emotionally intelligent are able to manage conflicts effectively by listening to all sides, remaining calm, and finding solutions that benefit everyone involved.

Motivates teams: leaders and managers who are emotionally intelligent are able to motivate their teams by recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, setting realistic goals, and providing feedback and support.

Enhances decision-making: emotional intelligence helps leaders and managers to make better decisions by considering the emotions and needs of their team members, as well as the impact of their decisions on the organization as a whole.

Supports organizational change: change can be difficult for some people. Leaders and managers who are emotionally intelligent are able to help their team members navigate change by listening to their concerns, providing support, and communicating the benefits of the change.

Improves customer service: emotionally intelligent leaders and managers are able to provide

better customer service by understanding the emotions and needs of their customers, and responding appropriately.

Increases retention rates: employees are more likely to stay with an organization when they feel supported and valued. Leaders and managers who are emotionally intelligent are able to create a positive work environment that promotes employee retention.

Common emotional intelligence challenges in leadership and management

Leaders who possess high emotional intelligence are better equipped to inspire and motivate their teams, build relationships and achieve success. However, not all leaders possess the same level of emotional intelligence, and some may struggle with common challenges.

One such challenge is the ability to handle difficult conversations. Leaders need to provide feedback, address performance issues, and resolve conflicts. However, these conversations can be emotionally charged and some leaders struggle to navigate them.

It takes emotional intelligence to approach these conversations with empathy, to listen actively, and to communicate with clarity and respect.

Another challenge is the ability to manage stress and maintain composure. Leaders are often under a great deal of pressure and they must be able to keep their emotions in check.

Leaders who lack emotional intelligence may struggle to cope with stress, leading to burnout, poor decision-making and a negative impact on their team.

Other emotional intelligence challenges leaders commonly face include:

  • Empathizing with team members and understanding their perspectives
  • Recognizing and managing personal biases
  • Adapting to change and managing uncertainty
  • Creating a positive and inclusive work environment
  • Building trust and credibility with team members and stakeholders

How do you hire managers and leaders with high EI?

Assessing emotional intelligence is a key part of appointing an effective leader, but it’s quite a difficult task. The qualities of someone with high EI do not show themselves on paper and are hard to measure in a short period of time.

That said, there are some tools and techniques employers can use during recruitment.

One technique is behavioral interviewing. This involves asking questions that require candidates to provide specific examples of how they’ve demonstrated emotional intelligence in the past.

For example, you might ask how they have handled conflict with a team member or how they’ve supported a colleague going through a difficult time.

Another method is to conduct a thorough reference check and ask questions that focus on the candidate's emotional intelligence - such as how they respond to feedback or how they build relationships with team members.

Finally, an emotional intelligence test can provide additional insights into a candidate's EI. These tests typically assess skills such as self-awareness, empathy and social skills.

While no test can provide a complete picture of a candidate's emotional intelligence, it can be helpful in identifying areas of strength and weakness.

Can existing employees develop EI to become better leaders?


While some people naturally possess high levels of emotional intelligence, it’s also possible to learn and develop EI over time.

Organizations can try the following strategies to equip existing employees with more effective leadership qualities.

1. Provide EI development resources

Employers can provide various resources to employees to help them develop emotional intelligence. For example, they can offer training programs, workshops or online courses.

Additionally, providing access to emotional intelligence books can help employees better understand EI and how to apply it in the workplace.

2. Create opportunities for social interaction

Social interaction is a crucial component of emotional intelligence, and things like team building activities and company events are a great opportunity for employees to interact with each other in a social setting.

This can help them develop their social skills and build stronger relationships with their colleagues, as well as increase collaboration and foster a more positive work environment.

3. Use coaching and mentoring

Another effective strategy is to provide mentors or coaches who can guide employees in developing their emotional intelligence skills and help them apply these skills in their work.

These coaches or mentors can provide regular feedback and help employees create a development plan to improve their emotional intelligence.

4. Encourage reflection and self-awareness

Employers can provide opportunities for self-reflection through techniques like 360 feedback, where employees receive feedback from their peers and managers.

This feedback can help an individual develop their self-awareness and better understand how their emotions and behavior impact others.

5. Incorporate EI into performance evaluations

Finally, including emotional intelligence as a KPI in performance evaluations can encourage employees to focus on these skills and provide them with feedback on how to improve.

This can help create a culture where emotional intelligence is valued and employees are recognized for continued development.

Key takeaways

A leader's emotional intelligence can have a significant impact on the success and well-being of a business, and should therefore be a priority for recruitment and talent management.

Remember that whilst inherent to some individuals, the skills that contribute to high EI can also be learned over time.

By prioritizing emotional intelligence, organizations can develop leaders who are better equipped to manage teams effectively, create a positive workplace culture and deliver better business outcomes.

Are you interested in learning more about emotional intelligence in the workplace? Our white paper provides practical insights on how to assess emotional intelligence at work, and how to use this information to build better teams.

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