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Emotional Intelligence: A Vital Trait of Leadership

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a fast-emerging concept within psychological research for its association with improved job performance and business outcomes. EI is the extent to which one is able to recognise, understand, evaluate and facilitate for another person's emotions and additionally the ability to regulate one’s own expression of emotion.

As a popular topic of research, EI is becoming recognised as a predictor of job performance, leadership, negotiation, emotional labour, conflict and stress within the workplace. Some literature even determines EI to be a better predictor of job performance than the Five Factor Model and cognitive ability.

EI has found to be directly related to one’s ability to manage job satisfaction of their team members. Leaders with high EI are also found to be better at helping their employees positively interact with customers and maintain a positive culture between team members. High EI allows leader to influence moods, motivations and output of their employees. When it comes to recruitment and selection, high EI is naturally sought after in employees, especially those entering a leadership position.

Emotional Intelligence is typically divided into a 2x2 framework (c) Talentsmart

Self-Awareness – Is one’s ability to recognise their own emotions, identify its triggers and its effects. This allows awareness of one’s ability and an accurate self-reflection.

Self-Management – This goes a step further than self-awareness and is the ability to self-regulate one’s identified emotions. This suggests that the individual is effective under stressful situations, less likely to become angry or depressed and have higher levels of self-discipline & adaptability.

Social Awareness – Those with social awareness are known to have empathy and the ability to interpret others’ emotions. This allows effective responses to others without biases or assumptions.

Relationship Management – This level of EI is comprised of vital social skills. Relationship management is the ability to develop & influence others, manage conflict, improve relationships and collaborate well in teams.

Scenarios of High Emotional Intelligence

As a leader, making decisions is an important day to day activity. These decisions are heavily reliant on data, suggesting the correct strategy or move to make. However, more often than not, data doesn’t provide a clear-cut option or the only solution, and this is where EI is imperative in a leader. This is the point where a leader needs to rely on his intuition to point the team in the right direction. High emotional intelligence equips the effective leader with the ability to select relevant information and neglect misleading, irrelevant information that is driven or informed by an emotional response. They are able to think clearly under pressure and make decisions that are in the best interest of the organisation, despite the surrounding emotional noise or distraction.

EI does not only influence decision making, but a number of areas within the organisation such as; employee retention, development, teamwork, commitment, innovation, productivity, efficiency, quality of service, revenues (Cherniss & Goleman, 2003). Building a high performing team built on the core foundation of emotional intelligence results in clarity of decision making, maturity in the formation of relationships, respect in communications and resolving conflicts, and a sensitivity and discipline in the team dynamic.

Identifying Emotional Intelligence

The assessment of emotional intelligence at ICP is considered an important and fundamental part of our employee-selection testing. Through our assessment process, emotional intelligence is measured and reported in context of how ‘well-fit’ a participant is for the role available. Without in-depth and researched measurements, EI isn’t always easy to identify, especially with a limited understanding of this construct. However, you will notice certain attributes within certain people that does go a long way in suggesting their level of EI. A few traits to look for are:

  • Performing well under pressure and staying noticeably calm

  • Accurate self-assessment

  • A strong empathetic understanding

  • Self-control

  • Social influence

  • Self-confidence

Improving Emotional Intelligence

ICP recognises emotional intelligence as a personal construct which can be improved upon through specialised coaching programs. Building on your own personal intelligence is achievable and can provide needed skills in your current employment and personal development. There are a number of successful interventions designed to promote certain qualities within EI. For the purpose of this blog, we've included a few tips from interventional approaches we use with clients which can go some way towards improving emotional intelligence personally or within teams.

  • Feedback: Observing your employees within the workplace and providing accurate and constructive feedback is a very strong promotion of self-awareness. By providing them with this information it enables them to take a step back and observe themselves objectively.

  • Meditation and mindfulness: These exercises are very effective at allowing one to become aware of their emotions. This deep insight increases self-awareness and self-regulation. More information on mindfulness can be found here.

  • Goal setting: By setting goals it promotes the individual to direct their behavior and helps them to identify their values. With clear goals and values, self-awareness and self-management becomes much easier.

  • Empathy training: This intervention is structured in a way where employees are exposed to images of people expressing overt and subtle emotions and the individual has to read the emotion. This gradually increases in difficulty and builds on their social awareness and ability to interpret subtle physical and facial emotional cues. Another form of empathy training is set interviews where an employee interviews another with an opposing perspective on a topic. These activities attempt to build individual's skills in identifying how others feel and use the response which grants them the best outcome.

  • Behaviour modelling: This method has employees discuss a certain task and its required skills. Within role-play they attempt to use these skills whilst receiving feedback from the group. After this they discuss the experience and identify their emotional response to the task and how they can improve on their behaviours and triggers to enable a more effective outcome.

It is of interest in many organisations to seek professional coaching within these areas to provide well designed and supportive intervention methods. Many organisations have found by increasing their employees' emotional intelligence and assessing EI for recruitment purposes, they positively build their business and develop a team of insightful, well-connected and engaged leaders to move their organisation forward.

If you would like to discuss the opportunity to develop, assess, recruit or coach for emotional intelligence, please don't hesitate to reach out to Incorporate Psychology today and we would be delighted to share further insights and information. Give us a call on 07 3852 2441 or email us at for an obligation-free enquiry.


Cherniss, C. and Goleman, D. (2003). The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace. Wiley.

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