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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Published: March 26, 2024

Published: March 26, 2024

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership header

Leadership in today’s workplace is a complex challenge. Besides being responsible for the financial health of a company, leaders must also deal with issues like workforce diversity, mental health, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity threats, and economic uncertainty. To succeed, leaders must be adaptable, strategic, and emotionally intelligent. 

But what does it mean to be emotionally intelligent? Below, we examine this critical leadership skill and uncover ways you can improve your emotional intelligence (EI) quotient.

an emotionally intelligent male corporate leader

What is Emotional Intelligence in Leadership?

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to understand and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. Leaders with high emotional intelligence are adept at recognizing their feelings, understanding how their emotions can impact their behavior and the people around them, and adjusting their actions to achieve positive outcomes. They possess skills that enable them to connect with employees, fostering an environment where individuals feel valued and heard. 

Emotional intelligence is not just about self-awareness but also includes the ability to navigate social complexities and maintain positive relationships, making it a sought-after interpersonal skill in the workplace. Leaders with high EI exhibit stronger team management, decision-making, and communication skills. They are also able to foster work environments where empathy and social skills drive collaboration, enhance team performance, and contribute to overall organizational success. 

There are five elements of emotional intelligence, as defined by Daniel Goleman: self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy, and social skills.


It is the foundation of emotional intelligence. It involves understanding your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values, and how they impact your thoughts and behaviors. Self-aware individuals can recognize their emotional states, which can range from stress and frustration to satisfaction and joy, and understand how their emotions affect their decisions and actions.


It refers to the ability to manage your emotions and impulses. Self-regulated people can stay in control of their feelings and behave consistently despite emotional shifts, are adaptable to change, manage conflict effectively, and exercise restraint when needed. 

Internal Motivation

It is a deep desire to achieve personal fulfillment instead of external rewards like money or status. It’s characterized by a commitment to goals, a positive attitude toward learning and challenges, and persistence in the face of obstacles.


It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Empathetic individuals perceive the emotional needs of others, understand their perspective, and react compassionately. This is crucial in roles that require teamwork and customer interaction.

Social Skills

These skills are needed to navigate social situations and build positive relationships through effective communication and conflict resolution. Leaders with good social skills understand social dynamics, get along well with a wide range of people, and inspire their teams to work together toward common goals.

Why do Leaders Need Emotional Intelligence?

Emotions play a significant role in all facets of leadership, including decision-making, communication, change management, and organizational culture. As a leader, being able to navigate your emotions and those of others will enable you to successfully shape not just interactions with your team members, but also the character of your entire team or organization.

Consider the decision-making process. Leaders adept at managing their emotions can harness their feelings to fuel creativity and innovation, resulting in decisions that are reflective and informed instead of reactive. Their emotional insight also extends to communication. Emotionally intelligent leaders know that expressing positive emotions like enthusiasm and confidence can inspire and motivate teams, while negative emotions can sow discord and misunderstanding.

Likewise, leaders with a strong sense of empathy can build strong bonds with their team members. This connection fosters trust between the leader and the team, making it easier to navigate conflict, collaborate effectively, and sustain a supportive environment. As a result, employees feel empowered, valued, and inspired to contribute their best to their work.

three emotionally intelligent corporate leaders joining hands together over an office desk

How Can You Increase Your EI?

A leader can improve their emotional intelligence through several strategies.

Self-reflection and mindfulness practices allow leaders to increase their self-awareness and better understand their emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. These practices illuminate how a person’s emotional state influences their decision-making and interactions with others. Mindfulness, on the other hand, cultivates present-moment awareness and objectivity, which improves a leader’s ability to regulate their emotions, responding rather than reacting to stressful situations. Together, these practices enhance a leader’s capacity for empathy and social skills by fostering a better understanding of others’ emotions and perspectives. 

Feedback and assessments are invaluable tools for leaders aiming to enhance their emotional intelligence. They provide a mirror that reflects the leader’s current EI c apabilities, highlighting strengths and identifying areas for growth. Through structured assessments, leaders can pinpoint specific emotional competencies that need development, such as empathy, self-regulation, or social skills. Feedback, especially from peers and subordinates, offers real-world insights into how a leader’s emotional behaviors affect those around them. Moreover, feedback and assessments facilitate setting realistic goals for improvement and tracking progress over time. 

Gaining additional training via workshops or by working with a trusted mentor can also play a pivotal role in enhancing a leader’s emotional intelligence. Mentorship, particularly from mentors with high EI, offers leaders a model of emotionally intelligent behavior, enabling them to learn through observation and direct feedback. This relationship fosters self-awareness and empathy by encouraging leaders to reflect on their own emotional responses and understand the perspectives of others. Similarly, workshops and training sessions offer structured environments where leaders can engage in activities designed to improve specific EI competencies, such as self-regulation, social skills, and empathy. These settings often incorporate real-life scenarios and role-playing exercises, allowing leaders to practice and refine their emotional responses in a safe space.

For leaders who want to pursue a more structured educational experience, MBA programs are designed to not only impart technical and managerial knowledge but also to enhance soft skills, including emotional intelligence. Through leadership workshops, team-based projects, and interpersonal communication exercises, MBA students are encouraged to develop self-awareness and self-management skills. These programs offer opportunities to understand and manage personal emotions as well as recognize and influence the emotions of others. 

UoPeople’s Master of Business Administration program emphasizes developing emotional intelligence in its graduates. Students can also additionally or alternatively select a certificate program in one of several disciplines, including finance, marketing, strategy, entrepreneurship, and accounting, where academic lessons and hands-on experiences combine to prepare them for a fulfilling career in the business world.  One of the most inexpensive online MBA programs available, UoPeople’s MBA program can be completed in less than a year and has been designed for working adults with asynchronous courses that can be completed at a time convenient for you.

Our students are drawn from all over the world, eager to advance their careers. As a part of our community, you will engage with peers from diverse backgrounds in a collaborative learning environment. Our MBA students practice empathy and improve their social skills, which readies them to be leaders capable of navigating the complexities of organizational dynamics. By developing the emotional intelligence of future leaders, UoPeople’s MBA program makes you more adept at handling the human aspects of management and leadership.

As we have explored in this article, emotional intelligence is a cornerstone for effective leadership that impacts every interaction and decision-making process. Leaders equipped with high EI are not just better at managing themselves and their emotions; they excel at motivating their teams, navigating conflicts, and steering through changes with grace and resilience. 

Moreover, improving emotional intelligence is not a one-time effort but a continuous journey of personal and professional development. As leaders work on enhancing their self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills, they not only better their leadership capabilities but also contribute to a more emotionally intelligent workplace. Ultimately, the investment in emotional intelligence is an investment in the future of leadership—a future where leaders are not just commanders but compassionate, empathetic guides who inspire their teams to achieve greatness.