What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while others claim it is an inborn characteristic.

The ability to express and control emotions is essential, but so is the ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others. Imagine a world in which you could not understand when a friend was feeling sad or when a co-worker was angry. Psychologists refer to this ability as emotional intelligence, and some experts even suggest that it can be more important than IQ in your overall success in life.

What does the research tell us about EI?

There are 4 different levels of Emotional Intelligence:

1. Perceiving emotions: The first step in understanding emotions is to perceive them accurately. In many cases, this might involve understanding nonverbal signals such as body language and facial expressions.

2. Reasoning with emotions: The next step involves using emotions to promote thinking and cognitive activity. Emotions help prioritize what we pay attention and react to; we respond emotionally to things that garner our attention.

3. Understanding emotions: The emotions that we perceive can carry a wide variety of meanings. If someone is expressing angry emotions, the observer must interpret the cause of the person’s anger and what it could mean. For example, if your boss is acting angry, it might mean that they are dissatisfied with your work, or it could be because they got a speeding ticket on their way to work that morning or that they’ve been fighting with their partner.

4. Managing emotions: The ability to manage emotions effectively is a crucial part of emotional intelligence and the highest level. Regulating emotions and responding appropriately as well as responding to the emotions of others are all important aspects of emotional management.

Why is emotional intelligence important to leaders?

Someone needs to hold it together when the workplace erupts, or when negative emotions simmer just below the surface, creating a toxic working environment. A leader with high Emotional Intelligence can also help to foster a workplace culture that does not become toxic in the first place.

What are the top 5 characteristics of emotional intelligence in leaders?

According to Daniel Goleman, the psychologist who popularised the term ’emotional intelligence’, EQ consists of:

1. Self-awareness: As a self-aware leader you know how you feel. You recognise how your emotions affect those around you. Your self-awareness is not just restricted to emotions, either. You acknowledge your ego and are aware of both your strengths and weaknesses. You aim to ensure your ego and personal traits work for the benefit of the workforce and organisation.

2. Self-regulation: As a self-regulated leader you picture yourself as your own boss – firm, but fair. You stay in control of your emotions. You do not lash out, and you do not compromise your workplace ethics. You hold yourself accountable to your actions.

3. Motivation: Motivation partly stems from understanding WHAT you want to do and WHY you want to do it. Getting to grips with the ‘why’ part often requires a degree of self-reflection, which is where high Emotional Intelligence comes in. Leaders with high Emotional Intelligence also understand what makes their employees and work colleagues tick, and will be able to incentivise and motivate them to find their own reasons for working to the best of their ability.

4. Empathy: As a leader with empathy, you are able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This ability will help you develop people on your team, challenge stereotypes and unfair assumptions, deliver critical feedback wisely and be a good listener when your team need someone responsive in charge to help them navigate difficult situations. An empathetic leader builds a positive work atmosphere upheld by team loyalty and mutual respect.

5. Social skills: Leaders with good social skills are able to deliver bad news and celebrate good news in a way that makes people feel boundless actionable opportunities for improvement exist. Leaders with high communication skills are also talented at resolving conflicts and managing change in a diplomatic fashion that is in keeping with the sensitive nature of the situation.

Key Questions to Reflect on as Leader:

  • How do we develop emotional literacy?
  • How do we foster emotionally aware workplaces?
  • How do we self-regulate our emotions?
  • How do we lead in emotionally intelligent ways?
  • How do we develop compassionate and empathetic teams?

Articles

Catherine Moore

Positive Psychology

Emotional Intelligence Skills and How to Develop Them

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Chris Underwood

Changeboard

The vital role of emotional intelligence

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Christopher Rim

Forbes

Brené Brown and Marc Brackett on Emotional Intelligence During A Pandemic

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Elaine Houston

Positive Psychology

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

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Helen Brown

Positive Psychology

What is Emotional Intelligence? +23 Ways to Improve It

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Palena Neale

Forbes

Emotional Intelligence: Why We Need It Now, More Than Ever

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Books

Andy Cope and Amy Bradley

The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence: How to Flourish in a Crazy World

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Daniel Goleman

Emotional Intelligence: 25th Anniversary Edition

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Daniel Goleman

The Emotionally Intelligent Leader

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Daniel Goleman

Working with Emotional Intelligence

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Diane Weston

Emotional Intelligence: Why Emotions Are Great Tools But Bad Bosses

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Kerrie Fleming

The Leader’s Guide to Emotional Agility (Emotional Intelligence): How to Use Soft Skills to Get Hard Results

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Listen

Brene Brown

Unlocking Us

Permission to Feel

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Daniel Goleman

Super Soul

Emotional Intelligence 101

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Emilie Aries

Bossed Up

What Emotional Intelligence Mean and Why Leaders Need it Now More Than Ever

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Watch

Brene Brown

The Tim Ferriss Show

How to Navigate the Emotions You’re Unwilling to Feel

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Brene Brown

Evan Michael

How to TURN Your EMOTIONS Into Your SUPERPOWERS!

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Daniel Goleman

Big Think

Introduces Emotional Intelligence

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Daniel Goleman

TED 2007

Why Aren’t We More Compassionate?

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Gemma Garcia Godall

TEDxIESEBarcelona

How Emotional Intelligence Makes Leaders More Impactful

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Ramona Hacker

TEDxTUM

Six steps to improve your emotional intelligence

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What People Say

If you are looking to work with someone who has an infectious passion for making positive change happen, you will love working with Hannah. She has a wealth of experience at a senior leadership level and is hugely committed to the diversity agenda. I have benefitted personally from Hannah’s wisdom and guidance on these issues on a number of occasions.

Andy Buck

Founding DirectorLeadership Matters

When it comes to authentic and courageous leadership, Hannah is unbeatable. Her value-driven approach allows her to be precise and focused whilst taking an empathic approach. One of the leadership traits I admire the most in Hannah is her commitment to asking the difficult questions that others avoid, and this has been evident in her work encouraging Diverse Leaders. She is fearless and highly skilled at driving change, even in complex situations. Hannah is a catalyst and can cause a mindset shift in one conversation. Her leadership creates leaders.

Jaz Ampaw-Farr

Author & Speaker

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