The 4 Reasons Why Every Leader Needs High Emotional Intelligence

March 28, 2024 | New Workplace Leadership | 5 min read

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is one of the most important leadership competencies in 2024. And for good reason.

Leaders possessing high emotional intelligence tend to be adept at empathizing, building strong relationships, managing teams effectively, and dealing with workplace stress. They also excel in understanding and responding to their own and others’ emotions, which enhances decision-making, conflict resolution, and overall psycholgical well-being.

EI has many benefits. Here are two that might have an outsized impact on your organization:

  • Business outcomes. Research shows emotional intelligence is a strong predictor of performance, with employees who possess high emotional intelligence more likely to be high performers. High performers tend to drive productivity, efficiency, and innovation, leading to improved business outcomes.
  • Employee retention. A Gallup survey found that employees with emotionally intelligent managers are four times less likely to leave their jobs. Emotionally intelligent leaders are skilled at navigating change, managing conflict, and driving team performance, leading to better employee retention.

Being an emotionally intelligent leader in today’s workplace is fundamental to being an effective leader – it enhances individual performance and directly contributes to organizational success.

Learn more about improving emotional intelligence.

What Does an Emotionally Intelligent Leader Look Like?

Emotional intelligence is essential for fostering positive work cultures, increasing efficiency and productivity, promoting growth and innovation, motivating team members, making sound decisions, and developing strong bonds between leaders and their teams.

But it can be difficult to quantify emotional intelligence. Look at the graphic below to see common characteristics that make emotionally intelligent leaders easy to spot.

While emotionally intelligent leaders have many outstanding qualities, the following four are foundational to their success:

Effective Communication

What this looks like: Emotionally intelligent leaders tend to communicate openly, honestly, and respectfully. They tailor their communication style to the needs of their team members, ensure messages are understood, and encourage open dialogue and feedback.

Why this is essential: Emotional intelligence enables leaders to understand and empathize with their team members’ emotions, allowing them to communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships.

Conflict Resolution

What this looks like: Instead of avoiding or escalating conflicts, emotionally intelligent leaders address them calmly and constructively. They listen to all sides of an issue, identify underlying emotions and concerns, and work with the parties involved to find mutually beneficial solutions.

Why this is essential: Leaders with high EI can navigate conflicts more efficiently by understanding the emotions driving the conflict and finding mutually beneficial solutions.

Motivation and Inspiration

What this looks like: Emotionally intelligent leaders inspire and motivate their teams by setting clear goals, providing meaningful feedback, and recognizing and celebrating achievements. They create a positive work environment where team members feel valued, empowered, and motivated to perform at their best.

Why this is essential: Leaders with high EI can inspire and motivate teams by understanding their emotions and needs, which fosters a positive and supportive work environment.


What this looks like: In the face of change or challenges, emotionally intelligent leaders remain flexible and adaptable. They maintain a positive attitude, seek opportunities for growth and learning, and help their team navigate transitions with resilience and optimism.

Why this is essential: In today's dynamic business environment, adaptability is crucial. Leaders with high EI can adapt to change more easily by understanding and managing their own emotions and helping their teams navigate change.

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Help Your Leaders Develop Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence comes naturally to some people, but others need to work harder to cultivate it. Don’t worry – it is a skill that can be developed.

Here are some strategies for your leaders to begin focusing on their emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness: Encourage them to start by paying attention to their own emotions, thoughts, and reactions in various situations. They should reflect on why they feel a certain way and how their emotions influence their behavior.
  • Self-regulation: Techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, or taking a moment to pause and reflect before reacting impulsively can help your team to practice managing their emotions more effectively.
  • Empathy: Leaders must work to understand and empathize with the emotions and perspectives of their teams. Active listening, putting themselves in others’ shoes, and trying to see things from their team member’s point of view are great ways to develop empathy.
  • Social skills: Emotionally intelligent leaders must develop strong communication and interpersonal skills. Encourage your leaders to practice expressing themselves clearly and assertively, resolving conflicts constructively, and building positive relationships with others.
  • Emotional awareness: We must all learn to recognize and understand the emotions of those around us. Prompt your leaders to pay attention to nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
  • Continuous learning: Provide your leaders with opportunities to read books, attend workshops, and take courses on emotional intelligence to deepen their understanding and gain new insights into how emotions work and how to manage them effectively.
  • Give and receive feedback: Encourage your leaders to ask for feedback on how they handle emotions and interactions – using these insights to identify areas for improvement and adjust accordingly.
  • Practice empathy: Provide opportunities for your employees to engage in activities that help them connect with others on an emotional level, such as volunteering, mentoring, or participating in group discussions.
  • Set goals: Request that your team establishes specific, achievable goals for improving their emotional intelligence, and track their progress over time. Celebrate their successes and learn from any setbacks along the way.

Encouraging your team to incorporate these practices into their daily routine may gradually enhance their emotional intelligence and cultivate healthier relationships, both personally and professionally.

Empower Your Leaders Through Coaching

While the list above is a great starting point, one of the most impactful ways to empower future-fit leaders to become more emotionally intelligent is through a coaching program.

Coaching is an effective way for you to support your team as they work to achieve their goals, maximize their potential, and enhance their performance. It is a flexible and adaptable process that can be tailored to the specific needs and objectives of each team member and be a power catalyst for behavioral change.

Interested in how you might use coaching to build emotional intelligence in your leaders?