Experts in the field of leadership and management have been trying for some time to distil down what makes an excellent leader. There was a time when people were promoted to leadership positions because of their technical abilities, knowledge or IQ (Intelligence Quotient). However, recently industries have started to shift away from ‘hard’ skills due to the recognition that one of the defining competencies of a good leader is their emotional intelligence (EI).


More and more research points to emotional intelligence as a core skill set for both leaders and employees. Here is just a small selection of some key findings:

Lopes et al. measured the emotional intelligence of staff at various organisations and noted that those with higher EI scores were more likely to be given salary increases, hold higher positions and received better peer and supervisor ratings of their work – showing that EI is linked to individual performance outcomes.

Schneider’s team noted that employees with higher levels of emotional intelligence were more resilient to workplace stressors than those with lower EI. Olson et al. added to this by linking high EI to lower rates of employee burnout. Both of these indicate that EI can support staff wellbeing practices and reduce time lost to stress related illness and presenteeism.

Strickland studied what helped individuals to successfully meet their goals in their professional and personal lives. One significant factor was emotional intelligence which Strickland argues supports goal attainment because higher EI leads to increased personal morale, motivation and ability to cooperate with others to achieve goals more easily.

Jordan et al. measured the emotional intelligence of workplace teams and found a significant relationship between performance outcomes and EI. Teams who were then identified as having a lower EI underwent an EI training programme. At retest their EI scores had gone up and their workplace performance had increased, showing that there is a tangible relationship between them

The exciting thing about all of this research is that it creates a strong business case for the importance of ‘soft skills’ as well as the encouragement that emotional intelligence can be taught in order to have a meaningful impact and create a return on investment for business leaders.


There are still debates about how to define something as broad as emotional intelligence. Early models focused on the ability to recognise, label and control emotions in order to successfully navigate social relationships.

Daniel Goleman went further to say that there are different capacities that make up emotional intelligence which can be categorised into four layers of a hierarchy.

  1. Self awareness
  2. Self management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management


This is about an individual recognising their own emotional patterns, labelling feelings and having a sense of their own capabilities. Self awareness is the essential foundation for emotional intelligence because it provides individuals with a vocabulary with which to navigate the world.


Self management is broadly about regulating emotional responses. This may take the form of keeping impulses under control and bouncing back from challenges as well as the more positive drive to achieve goals and work with integrity. A person with a good level of self management will often be seen as a natural leader and effective role model because they practice as they preach.


Once an individual has mastered the self, then they can move into social awareness. This is about recognising the emotional needs and states of other people – empathy, listening and consideration. Organisational awareness is also included here because having an awareness of an organization’s goals, processes and patterns of behaviour allows one to operate flexibly within it.


The final stage of the model is the one that people seek to fast forward to. Relationship Management involves team building, bonding, being influential and inspirational, managing conflicts, developing others skills and initiating change.

The great leaders that we look up to often gain their reputation because of the work they do at this stage – driving innovation, diffusing difficult conflicts or facilitating collaboration. However, it is easy to overlook the fact that they have put the work into the foundations of their leadership – the other three layers.


The first and most important tip is to start at the beginning! A common issue for leaders and managers is the desire to jump straight into relationship management (influencing or leading others) without doing the work of self awareness first. This leads to a host of workplace issues:

The key to developing emotional intelligence is to become more self aware by learning to build reflection and inner listening into your day.

Some key starting points include:


Everything we do here at The Self Leadership Initiative is underpinned by emotional intelligence. Whatever content we are covering (time management, public speaking, project management or even juggling) we relate it to people’s individual experiences, self reflection, emotional processing and how they will apply it to their professional and personal relationships.

If you want to develop a skill set in your team in an emotionally intelligent way then why not book a consultation.



Lopes, P., Grewal, D., Pepper, J., Gall, M. & Salovey, P. (2006). Evidence that emotional intelligence is related to job performance and affect and attitudes at work. Psicothema. 18 Suppl. 132-8.
Schneider, T. R., Lyons, J. B., & Khazon, S. (2013). Emotional intelligence and resilience. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(8), 909–914
Olson, K., Kemper, K.J. & Mahan, J.D. (2015). What Factors Promote Resilience and Protect Against Burnout in First-Year Pediatric and Medicine-Pediatric Residents? Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. 20(3):192-198.
Strickland, D. (2000). Emotional intelligence: The most potent factor in the success equation. The Journal of nursing administration. 30. 112-7.
Jordan, P. J., Ashkanasy, N., Hartel, C. E. J., & Hooper, G. S. (2002). Workgroup emotional intelligence: scale development and relationship to team process effectiveness and goal focus. Human Resource Management Review, 12(2), 195 – 214.
Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2002). Primal leadership: Realizing the power of emotional intelligence . Harvard Business School Press