Leading Teams: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Updated on December 14, 2017
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Ashley Martin is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and works as the Audio Visual Producer for the EBCI.

“Why aren’t you getting this? It’s easy.”

"Your idea will never work.”

"If you listened to me then everything would have been fine!” (Wilkins, 2014).

Have you ever heard these statements in your workplace or your personal life? If you have, then that is a good indicator of low emotional intelligence (EQ). In any aspect of a business, it is essential to remember emotional intelligence and its importance. The importance of it, as it relates to leaders and their ability to lead successful teams, contributes to the success and development of any business (Cherniss, 1999). Leaders who possess EQ can manage their emotions and the emotions of others through David Goleman's five key elements of emotional intelligence; self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills (Manktelow et al., n.d.).

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation

According to the BusinessDictionary, emotional intelligence is "the ability to identify, assess and influence one's feelings and those of others." Often, people aren't aware of the effect that their words and actions have on the emotions and work of others. Through self-awareness and self-regulation, individuals are more aware of their emotions, can identify their strengths and weaknesses, and can react calmly during a crisis.


Leaders who possess EQ are highly motivated and consistently work towards their goals as it relates to their personal and professional life. They also set extremely high standards for themselves and the quality of their work.


Empathy is a critical element in building and managing successful teams and employees. A leader that can express empathy can acknowledge someone else's emotion and can connect with them. Being able to understand and share the feelings of another person helps a leader to give constructive feedback, listen appropriately, develop teammates, and challenge those who need it (Manktelow et al, n.d.).

Social Skills

Leaders with social skills can communicate and react to others in a way that will be beneficial to them and the people around them. This creates trust between the leaders and employees. If an employee is upset and not performing their best, a leader with EQ will be able to notice immediately. Being able to recognize if an employee is angry or frustrated, allows the leader to navigate them to a more positive state and help them gain a better perspective on a situation. This prowess, in turn, builds trust between the leader and employee which can result in reduced turnover and higher engagement.

Emotional Intelligence is something that can be learned - but it needs to be practiced! Here are some tips for someone with low EQ:

  • Pause: Instead of immediately reacting to a situation, take a moment to question what emotion you are feeling and why.
  • Empathy: Try and understand what others are feeling.
  • Compassion: Practice being compassionate.
  • Ownership: Take ownership of your emotions, don't place blame on others for how you are feeling (Manktelow et al, n.d.).

Here are some examples of what low and high EQ look like:

Example Of Low EQ

Example Of High EQ

Now that you've seen what low and high EQ look like, try and see if you notice any of these behaviors in the people around you. You may be able to help them develop their EQ skills.

Practice Makes Perfect!

“Why aren’t you getting this? It’s easy.” – Individuals with low EQ tend to hold other people to unrealistic expectations. This statement could come off as calling someone stupid. A better response would be, “I can tell I’m not doing an excellent job of explaining. I want you to succeed so what can I do to help you understand?”

“Your idea will never work.” – Individuals with low EQ often believe they are just honest and direct, but statements like this come off as rude to everyone else. A better response would be, “Your idea sounds great! Can you please walk me through the details so I can get a better understanding?”

“If you would have listened to me then everything would have been fine.” – Individuals with low EQ place blame on others for their problems; they never accept responsibility. A better response would be, “Although the outcome isn’t what we wanted, I want to thank you for considering my suggestions regarding the situation. Let’s use this as a learning opportunity for next time.”

Emotional intelligence can have a significant impact on your personal and professional life, so it is important to understand that it is a vital attribute that needs to be developed to grow and succeed. Understanding and practicing Goleman’s five key elements will give leaders the ability to manage themselves, their teams, and the business as a whole.


Business Dictionary. (n.d.). Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/emotional-intelligence.html

Cherniss, Cary. (1999). The Business Case for Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved from http://www.eiconsortium.org/reports/business_case_for_ei.html

Manktelow, J., Cook, L., Bishop, L., Moss, I., Jackson, K., Edwards, S., Pearcey, E. (n.d.) Emotional Intelligence in Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_45.htm

Wilkins, M. (2014). Signs That You Lack Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/12/signs-that-you-lack-emotional-intelligence

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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    © 2017 Ashley D Martin


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