Rising rates of loneliness, depression and mental health concerns represent an opportunity for companies and leaders to embrace emotional intelligence in order to reengage people at work and life.

According to Google’s famous Project Aristotle initiative, a high-performing team needs three things: 1) a strong awareness of the importance of social connections or “social sensitivity”, 2) an environment where each person speaks equally, and 3) psychological safety where everyone feels safe to show and employ themselves without fear of negative consequences. To harness these three elements of a successful team, it takes an emotionally intelligent leader.

There is an abundance of research on the impact emotions have on an individuals’ performance in the workplace. It shows that people often perform their worst when they experience unproductive feelings, such as feeling frustrated, concerned, stressed, inadequate, and fearful.

Research also shows that people perform their best when they feel involved in purposeful work that develops who they are… and when they feel valued, cared for, consulted, respected, informed and understood.

So, how can developing your leadership help ensure your people feel and perform their best?

Leadership is fundamentally about facilitating performance, getting others to do their best, and to do their work effectively and efficiently. One of the most robust, consistent findings in the area of social sciences is that there is a direct link between the way people feel and the way people perform. As such, leaders need to be skilled at identifying, understanding and influencing emotion within themselves and others in order to inspire performance.

Emotionally intelligent leadership is about leaders intelligently using emotions to facilitate high performance in themselves and others.

Emotional Intelligence involves a set of skills that help us perceive, understand, express, reason with and manage emotions, both within ourselves and others. There is a model that comprises six emotionally intelligent workplace competencies. These competencies represent skills and behaviours based on underlying abilities and experiences that are measurable, observable and critical to successful job performance. The six Genos EI Competencies are:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Awareness of Others
  3. Authenticity
  4. Emotional Reasoning
  5. Self-Management
  6. Inspiring Performance

Self-awareness is about being aware of the behaviours you demonstrate, your strengths and limitations, and the impact you have on others. Self-awareness is important in leadership because:

  • a leader’s behaviour can positively or negatively impact the performance and engagement of colleagues,
  • leaders’ interpretation of events at work is both made by, and limited by, their intelligence, personality, values and beliefs.

Awareness of others is about noticing and acknowledging others, ensuring others feel valued, and adjusting your leadership style to best fit with others. Awareness of others is important in leadership because:

  • leadership is fundamentally about facilitating performance, and the way others feel is directly linked to the way they perform,
  • to get the best out of people, leaders need to adjust their leadership style to best fit with the people and situation they are leading.

Authenticity is about openly and effectively expressing yourself, honouring commitments and encouraging this behaviour in others. Authenticity is important in leadership because:

  • it helps leaders create understanding, openness and feelings of trust in others,
  • leaders need their people to be open with them. If, as a leader, you do not role-model this behaviour, your direct reports will be guarded with you.

Emotional reasoning is the skill of using emotional information (from yourself and others) and combining it with other facts and information when decision-making. Emotional reasoning is important in leadership because:

  • feelings and emotions contain important information, for example, if a colleague is demonstrating frustration or stress, these feelings provide insight that they are going to be less open and supportive of new ideas and information,
  • people are influenced by emotion; if you fail to consider how people are likely to feel and react to decisions made, you may not achieve the appropriate buy-in or support for your decisions.

Self-management is about managing your own mood and emotions, time and behaviour, and continuously improving yourself. This emotionally intelligent leadership competency is particularly important. Self-management is important in leadership because:

  • a leader’s mood can be very infectious and can, therefore, be a powerful force in the workplace; one that can be both productive and unproductive,
  • to achieve, maintain and enhance success, leaders need to pay conscious attention to the way they manage time, how they behave and to continuously improve how they lead others.

Inspiring performance is about facilitating high performance in others through problem solving, promoting, recognizing and supporting others’ work. An individual’s performance can be managed with key performance indicators. Inspiring performance is important in leadership because:

  • leadership is fundamentally about facilitating the performance of others,
  • managing performance with rules and key performance indicators usually produces an “expected” result rather than an “unexpected” high-performance result.

Emotional Intelligence is about making intelligent responses to negative feelings, and using specific skills to generate positive emotions in self and others through being present, empathetic, genuine, resilient and empowering in your behavior as often as possible”

Dr. Ben Palmer

Emotions do belong in the workplace but we need to help our teams understand them.

If you choose to show up in a way that makes people feel you’re trustworthy and reliable, people will respond by engaging, opening and connecting with you.

When you work to develop an emotionally intelligent culture, you can better support collaborative, engaged and happier teams. You can apply EI skills to become more conscious of your own and others’ feelings. This, in turn, helps to minimise the unproductive influence emotions can have in the workplace to maximise productive results. In the modern workplace, it can also cause us to think and behave in ways that are counterproductive to our performance and relationships. Consider how differently you think, behave and interact with others at work when you feel stressed, overly stressed or worried, in comparison to when you feel relaxed and happy. How do you engage with colleagues that you experience more positive emotions vs. those negative ones? (See Table 1.)

Effects of Negative Emotions:Effects of Positive Emotions
1. Narrow our thinking
2. Limit our interpretation of events
3. Reduce linear conscious processing
4. Cause reactionary behaviour
5. Shy away from opportunities
6. More easily triggered
7. Reduces performance
1. More rational creative problem solving
2. More open to new ideas
3. More willing to try difficult things
4. Causes engagement behaviour
5. Takes more risks
6. Causes us to think more deeply
7. Increased dopamine levels – important for interest and learning.
Table 1. Effects of Negative and Positive Emotions

As the world advances, more and more survival needs are being consistently met causing the workforce to turn their attention to the next tier of needs, most immediately being belonging. Emotionally intelligent leaders are capable of extending belonging to their teams. Be the one of them.

“We need people in our workplace who can connect with others, who display empathy and understanding, (and) who understand emotions. More than ever, emotional intelligence is not just a ‘nice to have’ but a core capability for the future.”

Pip Russell

Emotional intelligence is set to become a “must-have” skill in the next one to five years
Emotional Intelligence Research (Capgemini Research Institute 2019) shows that 75% of executives, and 58% of non-supervisory employees believe EI will become a “must-have” skill for all employees.

Demand for emotional intelligence skills will rise six times on average in the next three to five years
A large majority of the organizations surveyed (83%) believe that a highly emotionally intelligent workforce will be a requisite for success in the years to come. Demand for emotional intelligence skills will be high across all sectors, the highest being financial services (insurance and retail banking).

Employees with a higher degree of emotional intelligence have driven greater organizational benefits
Research found that organizations have benefited by having employees who display high EI. On average, 60% of organizations have witnessed improvements in areas of productivity, employee satisfaction, market share and lower attrition to the extent of 20% or more over their previously existing levels