What is Emotional Intelligence

Leading Effectively in a World Full of Emotions: What is Emotional Intelligence?

Written by Dan Grisoni

No matter how much we try to deny it, emotions play a big part in our lives. Especially when it comes to emotional intelligence in leadership, our emotions affect the decisions we make and can also impact other people’s opinions of us.

You may not have thought about it before, but emotional intelligence in the workplace is a crucial factor when it comes to being an effective leader. The ability to understand and empathize with others is something that can make or break your leadership skills.

The good news is that emotional intelligence in leadership is something that can be learned; with the right training and coaching skills, anyone can significantly improve their EI levels for better leadership outcomes.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence for leaders (or EQ) can be defined as the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships, and to manage your own and others’ emotions.

Emotional intelligence means being smart about how you respond to your feelings, and the feelings of others.

When you experience an emotion in the workplace it’s important to be able to name it so that you can take action on how best to manage yourself or others. Leaders who lack EQ skills are unable to lead their teams effectively as they’re unable to identify expectations from their employees.

Why is emotional intelligence important in leadership?

Emotional Intelligence is pivotal in high-performance leadership. It strengthens personal and professional relationships, guarantees healthy work environments, and nurtures emotionally sound company cultures that are important for business success.

Effective leadership is about more than just being able to problem-solve or make decisions. It also requires the ability to understand and respond appropriately in a myriad of social situations, including with team members who are experiencing intense emotions like frustration, anger, excitement, or joy.

Leaders set the tone for their team, department, or organization. When leaders lack emotional intelligence, it can negatively impact the workplace causing higher turnover and lower employee engagement.

What are the effects of emotional intelligence on successful leadership?

Let’s use an example to illustrate how emotional intelligence in the workplace can be effective.

One of my clients, (we’ll call him Peter) had stellar year-over-year performance. But he was consistently overlooked and not getting promoted. Although a formal plan was designed to increase Peter’s scope of work and visibility, Peter was angry.

He had been previously promised promotions that never came to fruition. He felt let down and had resentment towards his manager. This feeling of betrayal caused Peter to lose respect and trust in his manager.

Interestingly, the disappointment was not showing up as sadness or disinterest, but instead, it was manifesting as anger and overconfidence. This consumed so much of Peter’s energy that it caused him to experience higher levels of stress, lose sleep, and took a toll on his own confidence. He began thinking and feeling that he was not worthy of more.

Through an EQ-i 2.0 assessment and coaching sessions, Peter became aware of his emotions and implemented a few practical solutions that brought about positive change. He significantly reduced his stress levels, increased his confidence, and was able to transform his demeanor at work. At the end of the day, Peter received the long-awaited promotion because he gained more emotional intelligence in the workplace and this positively affected his leadership skills.

group of leaders talking about emotional intelligence

How can you improve your emotional intelligence?

Having emotions in the workplace is normal, but it requires insight to know how best to use these feelings. When you experience an emotion, the key is to be able to identify and name it before choosing a suitable reaction.

Improving your emotional intelligence starts with becoming aware. Emotional Intelligence can be measured through an assessment, such as the EQ-i 2.0 (you can view a sample report here). Once you have done an assessment and debriefed it with your coach or mentor, you can then work on a plan to increase your EQ. The great news is that emotional intelligence skills and competencies can in fact be developed.

What are the 5 essential tools for an emotionally intelligent leader?

Emotional intelligence consists of 5 main parts (components):


Self-perception is the ability to accurately evaluate your own emotions and recognize their impact on others. Being self-aware, you know how you feel, and you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. This means that as a leader, you can identify the right strategy to use with your team.


Self-expression is the ability to express your emotions in an appropriate manner, which helps you and others understand how you’re feeling.


Self-management when it comes to emotional intelligence means handling your emotions in a healthy way while making effective decisions that demonstrate good problem-solving. Leaders who have strong self-management skills will not act impulsively with anger, make hasty decisions, or take actions that compromise their values. They have a clear understanding of current reality and this enables leaders to also identify the team’s expectations and how to meet them.


Leaders who display great social skills have a tendency to be good communicators. They’re just as open to hearing bad news as they are in receiving good. Leaders who have good social skills are also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically. They don’t expect their employees to do all the work, they set the example themselves.

Stress management:

Managing stress is a key component in emotional intelligence, it’s a crucial aspect of leadership. Stress-free leaders are able to effectively communicate with those they are leading while still keeping moods and outlooks positive, which helps maintain relationships, communication, transparency, and trust.

leading with emotional intelligence

What are the effects of emotional intelligence on effective leadership?

Many people don’t spend time developing their emotional intelligence, yet developing and having a high level of emotional intelligence accelerates career growth and promotions.

People with high Emotional Intelligence:

  • Choose their battles wisely
  • Resolve conflict effectively
  • Remain calm under pressure
  • Are empathetic
  • Lead by example
  • Are resilient
  • Are happier overall
  • Earn more, about 29K more than those with lower EQ


Oftentimes people think that emotional intelligence is the equivalent of soft skills but in reality, they are the “human skills” needed to lead effectively.

A leader who lacks emotional intelligence cannot effectively lead teams, they are unable to identify the team’s expectations, their needs, and their wants.

Having higher levels of EQ increases a leader’s overall well-being and happiness. They are less stressed, more resilient, and make better decisions on how they react or respond to people and/or situations.

In the end, it is imperative that leaders have emotional intelligence because it will help them to form better teams, be more effective in their career path and manage the emotions of others.

It’s equally important for companies to recognize this trend and start investing time in developing leadership skills in terms of emotional intelligence so that leaders can grow into excellent managers; not just get by with average ones!

If you’re interested in learning more about EQ, or having an EQ-i 2.0 Assessment, let’s talk. You can schedule a call with me here to discuss bringing EQ tools to your team, your organization, or as a way to achieve career goals for yourself.


About Dan Grisoni

Dan Grisoni is a sought-after high performance coach and trainer. For over 20 years Dan has been helping managers and leaders become influential and inspiring so that they can live, matter, and thrive, 365.

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