What is emotional intelligence and why is it important in leadership

To be a successful leader in today’s world, emotional intelligence is key. It’s often said that the difference between IQ and EQ is that IQ gets you hired but your EQ, or emotional intelligence, gets you promoted. It can help leaders take their performance from good or average to outstanding.

According to Harvard Business School, emotional intelligence ‘amounts for nearly 90 per cent of what sets high performers apart from peers with similar technical skills and knowledge’.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognise, understand, motivate and manage your own emotions, as well as those of others around you, which is vital in a post-pandemic, virtual working environment.

EI is made up of five key pillars: self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, social skills, and self-motivation. These pillars and the names they go by can vary but the core principles remain the same.

Learn more about the key pillars below:



Self-awareness sits at the core and influences our ability to develop the other behaviours. An effective leader should be able to recognise and understand not only their behaviours and how they feel, but also how their emotions and behaviour can impact others.

This acute skill enables leaders to better manage their own emotions and in turn has a more positive impact on those around them. Leaders that have an optimistic attitude in the workplace, for example, can help boost morale within a team.

Learn more about the importance of self-awareness in leadership here.



Self-regulation enables leaders to manage and control their own emotions. This skill often comes into play during stressful situations, meetings and conflict resolutions. It can also help with a leader’s patience, enabling them to effectively keep track of an employee’s progress and help them develop at their own pace.


Social awareness

Social awareness is the ability to empathise with others and understand their emotions. This skill is incredibly important for leaders and can be hard to develop if you don’t have it naturally. However, learning to understand other people’s emotions will help to create an enhanced work environment and overall, enable you to work better with your employees. An understanding leader is more likely to be likeable and garner more respect from employees.


Social skills

Social skills, while self-explanatory, are a set of skills that do not always come naturally to everyone. Social skills are a key skillset to have from the ability to effectively communicate, co-operate, influence, coach and mentor others.



Self-motivation is not only about motivating yourself, but also how to motivate others. Self-motivation is considered a critical skill for effective leaders, having the ability to constantly work towards personal, professional and even the goals of the business.


Skills in emotional intelligence should be regularly developed and enhanced. Those able to develop in all five areas of EI will grow into effective, empathetic and successful leaders.


If you feel that developing emotional intelligence would benefit yourself or leaders with your organisation enquire today or click here to view our leadership development programmes.


The programme had helped us improve our leadership skills and also align mine and my business partners approach, by giving us time outside of the business to learn and reflect.

Helen Curtis - Managing Director at Coterie

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