10 August 2021

Emotional intelligence (EQ) – the superpower of great leaders

Happy workers

Our emotional intelligence is a skill that we can nurture, grow and develop.

We have been through a lot of change recently. By ‘we’ I mean ALL of us! As a human society, we’ve all been trying to find our feet again as we navigate the global pandemic. Adapting to change has been challenging. What was your experience of the pandemic?  Was it a time of anxiousness and high stress? Did it impact your physical and mental health? What about your family and friends? How has your working life and career been impacted? As individuals we all have different experiences and viewpoints, however, one thing that we have in common is our emotions. No matter how logical and rational we like to think of ourselves, as human beings, we are emotional creatures, and the world of emotions plays a major role in the choices we make in both our personal and professional lives. You are not a robot neither is your team.

At different times in our lives, we can find ourselves in a leadership position. If you are a parent you are a leader to your child, if you have a spouse, partner or friend you will at times be a leader to them and in your career or business if you are responsible for a team you are a leader. One of the greatest skills any leader can develop is emotional intelligence, especially now with so much change and upheaval caused by the pandemic, emotional intelligent leadership is the need of the hour, it is in fact the superpower of great leaders.

Today’s business environment requires a very different type of leader from the old top-down bullish type of previous years. The mind-numbing pace of technological changes, the rapid development of the global marketplace, and changes in attitudes towards work-life balance to name just a few calls for a radically different leadership approach. Employee engagement levels have plummeted during the pandemic, the challenges and benefits of working from home have been experienced by both employees and employers alike and hybrid working models have received a mixed reaction, it is now more vital than ever for businesses to look at ways to engage, retain and improve morale within the workplace and much of that begins with emotionally intelligent leadership.

Emotional Intelligence gained worldwide interest following psychologist Daniel Goleman’s best-selling book, ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ’. For a large part of the 20th century, emphasis was always traditionally put on an individual’s IQ which is the measure of an individual’s intellectual, analytical, logical, and rational abilities. The underlying assumption of recruitment drives and elite academic institutions was that the smarter a person, the more successful he or she is likely to be.  However, someone who could send an IQ test into orbit yet can rub everyone up the wrong way. No one wants to be around them for too long or really want to work with them and somehow their professional and personal lives are not the grand success they are supposed to be despite their high IQ.

Have you ever experienced working in a toxic team or for a leader who upset or disengaged people? Emotions are contagious and they can travel at lightning speed! Emotions and moods can impact the effective functioning of teams for better or for worse and often the emotional tone of a team is determined by the leader’s emotion and leadership style.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence has been defined as ‘a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way’. It is a skill that research is proving is more valuable for long term success than our IQ which is generally believed to be fixed and unchangeable. Our emotional intelligence on the other hand is a skill that we can nurture, grow and develop.

Based on Daniel Goleman’s model below are the five key soft skills that can help each of us improve our emotional intelligence and some tips on how you can begin to develop that skill.


1. Self-awareness

As a leader you know how you feel. You know how your emotions impact others and you are aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. You are willing to receive feedback and improve on your weaknesses.

How to improve your self-awareness

  • Write down how you feel. Keeping a journal of negative as well as positive emotions that you experience at work can be a powerful way of bringing awareness to your thinking patterns.
  • Ask people you trust first. Receiving feedback about our areas for improvement can be difficult but an essential part of improving our self-awareness, begin by asking people you trust to tell you more about your behaviour and areas of improvement.


2. Self-regulation

As a leader you can control and adjust your emotions to act in a professional and measured way according to the circumstances.

How to improve your self-regulation

  • Develop small habits of delayed gratification. Practice impulse control by pausing and holding off an instant desire that you have. When you feel hungry, could you wait 10 minutes or longer before you eat? When we consistently practice small habits of patience it can make a huge difference over how much control we exercise over our emotions when interacting with others.


3. Empathy

As a leader, you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You make people feel understood and valued.

How to improve your empathy

  • Become a great listener by looking out for non-verbal cues, acknowledge feelings not just words. When listening to others, do not just listen to the word they say but observe their body language, facial expressions, tone and other clues that give an insight into what their mood is and how they are feeling.


4. Motivation

As a leader, you understand what motivates you and what motivates the people around you. You understand the why behind people’s motivation.

How to improve motivation

  • Develop a coaching approach with your team. Coaching involves regular 1 to 1 conversations with team members in a safe environment where they are encouraged to speak about their goals, aspirations and fears. You should also take the time to understand what truly motivates you and why.


5. Social skills

As a leader you know how to emotionally connect with others and build relationships through your communication and interpersonal skills.

How to improve your social skills

  • Actively study the skill of communication and practice it daily. Most of us take our daily communication for granted but if we regularly studied the art and science of communication there is so much we could improve on and implement daily. Read great books, watch online video tutorials and become a lifelong student of one of the most important skills that you can develop in life.


Become an emotionally intelligent leader by developing the above soft skills through practice. As the world moves towards recovering from the pandemic, every day more and more businesses recognise that there is nothing “soft” about soft skills they are in fact one of the key elements between a team’s success or failure. An emotionally intelligent leader can connect with the team and drive results and a leader without emotional intelligence can have a devasting impact on team morale and performance.

Emotional Intelligence is a skill for both our professional and personal lives, to live a life with healthy relationships is part of living a happy life and it begins with us, as Daniel Goleman says: ‘Ultimately, the most meaningful act of responsibility that leaders can do is to control their own state of mind’.

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Hiten Bhatt

Hiten Bhatt

Hiten Bhatt is a guest writer for MHR, a Coach, and an Author on the subjects of Wellbeing, Leadership, and Personal Development.

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