Default Image

Emotional Intelligence: Would you make a good leader?

Back to Blogs

The Crucial Role of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership for Organisational Success

Effective leadership and the creation of a positive work climate are crucial, accounting for nearly a third of organisational success, including positive financial outcomes. Given it has such a significant impact, why is the role of emotional intelligence in leadership not discussed more often?

Joanna Oakley has contributed to this discussion by examining the importance of emotional intelligence in attracting top talent and fostering a thriving workplace culture. As a Change and Transformation Consultant specialising in emotional intelligence and organisational management, Joanna brings over 20 years of experience in the recruitment industry, where she has driven continuous improvement and innovation in internal staffing operations. Now, Joanna runs her own consultancy, Argylestone Consulting, assisting businesses worldwide.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EI)?

At its core, EI is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. This competency enables individuals, especially leaders, to recognise their own emotional states and those of others. This awareness is critical in guiding thinking and behaviour, fostering extensive communication, and managing relationships more effectively.


Adapting Leadership Styles

In the dynamic and multifaceted environments of modern workplaces, the capability of leaders to adapt their leadership styles in response to the evolving needs of their teams and organisational challenges is more crucial than ever. High levels of emotional intelligence equip leaders with this adaptability, allowing them to move away from rigid, one-size-fits-all management approaches toward more flexible and responsive strategies. Among these, shared leadership stands out as particularly effective in harnessing the diverse skill sets and perspectives that characterise today's organisational teams.

"When honed to its finest form, emotional intelligence grants the ability to empathise and fully understand another's perspective, even when it differs from one's own. In today's workplace, emotional intelligence has countless benefits for leaders and stakeholders in every role: it allows leaders to motivate and encourage high-quality work by comprehending others' driving forces. It also encourages a diverse range of individuals to participate in decision-making, preventing groupthink and its pitfalls”. – Joanna Oakley

The Concept of Shared Leadership

Shared leadership is a dynamic and collaborative leadership model where control and decision-making responsibilities are distributed among group members rather than centralised in a single leader. This approach acknowledges that leadership is a fluid interaction between members of a group, where different individuals may step forward to lead at appropriate times based on their expertise, skills, or situational context. This model is predicated on the foundation of high emotional intelligence within the group, requiring members to be highly aware of their own emotions and those of others, facilitating open communication, mutual respect, and collective responsibility.

EI as the Enabler

Emotional intelligence is the linchpin that holds the shared leadership model together. Leaders who cultivate emotional intelligence foster an environment where team members feel valued and understood, which is essential for shared leadership to thrive. They are skilled at recognising when to assert leadership and when to delegate it to others who may have more direct expertise or skills relevant to a particular challenge or project phase. As Joanna explains,

"Encountering obstacles and difficulties is a part of life, but those who are self-aware and have emotional flexibility can overcome setbacks and become more resilient and empathetic leaders”.

This sensitivity to the needs and strengths of others not only enhances individual team members' sense of agency and involvement but also contributes to a more adaptable and agile organisational culture. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can seamlessly transition between leading and following, which is crucial in a shared leadership arrangement. 

Enhancing Communication and Conflict Resolution

At the heart of EI is the ability to communicate effectively. Leaders with high EI are adept at conveying their thoughts and ideas clearly and listening to feedback with an open mind, also known as critical reflexivity. This skill is essential not only for day-to-day operations but also for handling conflicts and crises. Effective communication helps to ensure that conflicts are resolved constructively, without causing long-term damage to team dynamics.

“In my experience leaders with strong emotional intelligence can recognise and seize opportunities that may go unnoticed by others. They are able to handle conflicts with fairness and impartiality. Furthermore, emotional intelligence can boost overall morale and help others reach their professional potential”. – Joanna Oakley

Team Building and Organisational Performance

One of the most significant advantages of EI in leadership is the enhancement of team building. An emotionally intelligent leader can recognise the strengths and weaknesses of team members and manage them accordingly. This capability enables leaders to assemble teams that can work cohesively and are complementary in skills and personality. The result is often a more collaborative environment where innovation and efficiency thrive.

Furthermore, leaders with high EI can foster a workplace culture that values empathy and mutual respect. Such a culture not only attracts top talent but also encourages existing employees to perform to their best abilities. This is especially important in times of organisational change or stress.

A Key to Attracting Top Talent

In today's job market, professionals are increasingly looking for workplaces that offer more than just a pay check. They seek environments where they feel valued and understood. A leader’s emotional intelligence is crucial in creating such an environment. Leaders who can engage with employees on an emotional level, recognise their efforts, and provide meaningful feedback are more likely to retain top talent.

“As the demand for emotional intelligence in the workplace grows, managers should keep these key points in mind: Rational intelligence relies on logical and objective analysis of data and statistics. Emotional intelligence encompasses understanding not only one's own emotions but also those of others. Strong emotional intelligence promotes collaborative leadership and mutually beneficial outcomes. It is also tied to confidence, adaptability, and determination. Assessing emotional intelligence through testing can aid in hiring decisions and developing effective leaders. Both rational and emotional intelligence are essential for well-rounded leaders”. – Joanna Oakley

The role of emotional intelligence in leadership cannot be overstated. As organisations face increasingly complex challenges and workforce dynamics, the need for leaders who can effectively manage, and direct emotional labour will continue to grow. Investing in emotional intelligence development can lead to better leadership, a more harmonious workplace, and ultimately, significant organisational success. Understanding and enhancing emotional intelligence should be a priority for anyone aiming to improve their leadership skills and drive their organisation forward.