How Emotional Intelligence Can Shape the Future of Work

by Oct 21, 2019

Business Innovation Brief Best Article

Some experts believe that artificial intelligence may at one point replace humans in the workplace.

Why? Simple!

Machines are more effective than humans, they aren’t distracted, they obey instructions, they don’t have egos, feelings, opinions, or emotions and are always focused compared to humans. As a matter of fact, according to robotics, there exists a huge tendency that artificial intelligence will surpass humans in various mental tasks.

Lucky for you, employers aren’t thinking of replacing you with robots, at least, for the time being.

Nowadays many employers don’t get thrilled by the certificates you have, and they don’t care if you attended the best college in the world. One thing most employers consider in candidates as an essential skill in today’s dynamic workplace, is emotional intelligence. Employers are looking for soft skills like integrity, empathy, and the ability to work well with others. Individuals who have these traits also make great leaders!

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership Traits

The topic of emotional intelligence (EQ) has become one of the most important discussion points when it comes to leadership. Emotional intelligence is a trait that can be measured and developed. Everyone is constantly talking about it, but what exactly is this emotional intelligence? How does it affect the idea of leadership as we all know it? And most importantly, how do you know if you have the traits of an emotionally intelligent leader?

Emotional intelligence or EQ (emotional quotient), is the ability to know, handle, and fully understand your emotions, including that of other individuals around you.

Leaders with a high EQ are aware of how their emotions, positive or negative, affect other individuals. Below are few traits of emotionally intelligent leaders. These are not all the traits of an emotionally intelligent leader but represent the basic must have. Focusing on developing these is a sure way to expand your own emotional intelligence.

High Self-Awareness

High self-awareness is regarded as a starting point for emotional intelligence. It describes how well you understand your weaknesses and strength and how you relate with others. Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to sense how other people react to their leadership; they do this by paying attention to nonverbal signs. How others react serves as a mirror to emotionally intelligent leaders. The traits others have that trigger an emotional response are also mirrors to a highly self-aware leader.

“An emotionally intelligent leader replaces judgmental tendency with self-accountability for feelings and emotions.”

These individuals monitor feedback from others so as to assess their best attributes as a leader, as well as their blind spots.

Empathy Towards Employees

According to American psychologist Daniel Goleman, who assisted in popularizing the emotional intelligence idea, empathy is an important quality of emotional intelligence. An emotionally intelligent leader uses empathy to understand positions, situations, and the feelings of other people. This particular quality increases as you develop more self-awareness.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are keen on monitoring employees’ concerns, and well-being. The benefit of empathy is that when employees feel that you care about their feelings and professional challenges, they tend to respect you more and put more effort into what they do.


An emotionally intelligent leader is able to redirect unpleasant emotions and impulses and not make conclusions without proper investigation. When a team messes up a delivery, an emotionally intelligent leader doesn’t get mad and point fingers. Such a leader will step back and properly evaluate the cause of the result, explain to his/her team the consequences to the company, and searches for solutions with them.

This leadership quality also fosters more calculated risk taking, and an environment focused on growing and learning. On the other hand, a leader who isn’t emotionally intelligent will vent their frustration on the team without properly evaluating what happened.


When difficult times arise, emotionally intelligent leaders don’t cower behind closed doors. They are always out in the trenches with people, making plans, addressing concerns and questions, and easing fears.

Employees depend on such individuals for information, distinct expectations, and solutions when certain issues arise. This is the reason why visible and accessible leaders will monitor their team’s needs, and personally give answers to questions that build trust and a good working environment.


Self-confidence, in the context of EQ, means knowing your own emotions, weaknesses, and strength. It’s about knowing the values that propel you as a person. Emotionally intelligent leaders are always realistic when assessing themselves, and always accept helpful criticism. They are fully aware of the situations that makes them react unruly and will make necessary plans to adapt to a challenging scenario.

Organizations headed by emotionally intelligent leaders’ often report significant increase in productivity and growth; self-confidence spreads across the organization.

Traits of Low EQ

Holding a leadership position is not as easy as it seems. Leaders are often held responsible for the fate of several people and this could take a huge toll on them.

Leaders who exhibit low emotional intelligence tend to fall apart and lose their cool when stressful situations arise because they don’t know how to properly handle their emotions.

Such a person doesn’t hesitate before hurling verbal attacks on other people. They get angry easily at the slightest provocation. This can lead to a stressful environment where workers are always conscious of their every action, as they try to prevent an outburst.

“Organizations whose leadership lacks emotional intelligence, feel like they are walking on egg-shells all the time. This causes good people to burn out and leave.”

An environment lacking good emotionally intelligent leadership will suffer in productivity and team cohesion because it deprives employees of the focus needed to be productive.

A leader who isn’t emotionally intelligent finds it hard to resolve situations and deal with conflict effectively due to lack of knowledge about other people’s emotions. Such a leader will find it hard to acknowledge conflict, let alone make moves to resolve them.

Emotional intelligence is not only significant to your well-being, it is also important to your pursuit of success in the workplace.

The Highest Expression of EQ at Work

The value of helping people to develop emotional intelligence to an organization is well established today. Being able to create an environment where people feel safe, supported, valued, and understood is only the entry point of EQ at work.

Ultimately as a leader becomes more self-aware, more empathetic, has more self-control, embraces transparency and exudes self-confidence, such a leader realizes that their role isn’t to inspire, or lead for that matter.

The ultimate expression of emotionally intelligent leadership is to free people to self-lead. What we really want is self-realization. The role of EQ at work can enable an environment where people are free to be themselves. People are co-managing the business. People act and perform as co-owners.

EQ isn’t just about being in full control of emotions, it is about freedom. The more an organization invests in expanding EQ among people, the more freedom those people will desire, and it must be given to them.

Many organizations are investing in EQ under a command and control paradigm with bosses, and rules and expectations established from the top-down. You can’t fully experience an emotionally intelligent organization with those kinds of top-down controls.

“The ultimate expression of freedom and EQ is where people begin to not only experience equivalency, but the structure of the organization changes towards a shared authority model.” 

This isn’t just a novel idea whose time has come; it turns out companies operating this way today are outperforming the S&P 500 by a factor of 7X. It’s good for people, it’s good for profits. It’s time!

Is your organization ready?

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