Kirsty Craig Associates - Understanding the importance of emotional intelligence in business leaders

Understanding the importance of emotional intelligence in business leaders

In recent years the topic of emotional intelligence, or EQ, has featured strongly in discussions about leadership — showing up everywhere from Forbes to the Harvard Business Review. But many businesses and recruiters are yet to grasp the importance of emotional intelligence in their leaders.

The term ‘emotional intelligence’ has only been on the scene since a 1990 psychology research paper, and was later defined by one of its authors, John D. Mayer, 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.”

So why is emotional intelligence so important for today’s business leaders? In order to effectively recruit the right kind of candidates, and meet the emotional needs of your employees, business leaders not only need to possess the right professional skills but also skills that contribute to their ability to work well with others and to lead their team to success.

Team cohesion

We’ve all probably experienced working with somebody who has zero awareness of the impact their moods have on the team. A key part of emotional intelligence, in Mayer’s definition above, is the ability to accurately perceive one’s own emotions and the signals they send. 

An emotionally intelligent manager will have the self-awareness to recognise their own emotional state and manage it in such a way that it doesn’t inappropriately impact their team.

Conflict resolution

Coupled with that is the ability to accurately perceive the emotions of others. A high-EQ leader can recognise the mood of a room or the emotional condition of an employee and employ the proper tools to communicate or to bring conflicting parties to a place of resolution.

Using emotional intelligence in this way means conflicts can be resolved more effectively, with less collateral damage and a greater degree of ongoing trust.


Human emotions are strongly correlated with performance and productivity. This is particularly true of those emotions related to encouragement and validation. An emotionally intelligent leader will have the ability to anticipate their team’s need for encouragement, understand how their individual reporting staff receive validation and give it appropriately.

By mastering emotional intelligence, it will not only help advance your own career and business but also encourage a more engaged and committed workforce. 

If you think you need to improve or refine your EQ skills in some of the areas listed above, our Clarity 7 Coaching course in November is a great starting point for all leaders and managers.

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