The value of emotional intelligence in leadership

The past two decades have brought about significant shifts in the role and expectations of leaders. It is no longer enough to be an authoritative figure who makes all the decisions and enforces discipline across a team. In today’s world the most efficient and successful companies are driven by empathetic leaders who use emotional intelligence to motivate their team. 

Emotional intelligence was introduced in the 1990s by psychologist, Daniel Goleman who defined it as, ‘The ability to recognise, understand and manage your emotions, as well as to recognise and influence the emotions of those around you.’  

Emotional intelligence is now widely recognised for its ability to create work cultures where open communication, mutual respect and empathy are valued, resulting in better employee satisfaction, engagement and overall productivity.


Goleman used his research to break emotional intelligence into five key abilities: 

  1. Self-awareness – leaders who are self-aware possess a deep understanding of their own emotions, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as knowing the impact their behaviour will have on others. Self-awareness allows them to regulate their emotions effectively, make better decisions and adapt their leadership style to suit the needs of their team. 
  2. Self-management – refers to an individual’s ability to manage and control their own emotions, and reactions. Leaders who practice this behaviour have the ability to remain composed and focused in high pressure situations, instilling stability and confidence within their team. 
  3. Social awareness – leaders with social awareness can read a room and recognise other people’s emotions. They strive to understand other people and have the ability to forge meaningful relationships, resolve conflict and create a positive and collaborative work culture. 
  4. Relationship management – having empathy is a vital skill for leaders. Empathetic leaders can tune into their team members’ feelings and concerns, creating better communication, trust and rapport.
  5. Motivation – a good leader will always strive to look beyond financial incentives. Leaders with high motivational levels are resilient, enthusiastic and know how to inspire their team to achieve shared goals. 

Emotional intelligence may not come naturally to everybody, but most people can improve their emotional intelligence by practicing self-awareness.  

Knowing the traits of someone with low emotional intelligence can be a helpful starting point for anyone looking to improve their own self-awareness. Leaders with low emotional intelligence often find themselves in arguments and possess a strong desire to be right. They tend to blame others when things go wrong and are prone to reactive and emotional outbursts. They can be quick to dismiss the feelings of others and struggle to respond appropriately to the emotional tone and atmosphere around them. 

Emotional intelligence can no longer be viewed as a non-essential soft skill in business. The ability to lead with empathy is a fundamental leadership skill that will separate a good leader from an exceptional one.

For a deeper dive in to the role of emotional intelligence in marketing leadership, you may like to listen to this episode of the Revitalise & Grow podcast: S7. Ep5: The role of emotional intelligence in marketing leadership.

Or get in touch to talk further – we have qualified coaches who can help leaders looking to improve their self-awareness and emotional intelligence.


Kate O'Sullivan

Joint Managing Director

As Joint Managing Director and Owner of ADPR, Kate ensures the smooth day-to-day running of ADPR, its impressive portfolio of clients and team of talented staff. Kate is passionate about helping businesses to grow and succeed through the power of communications.

Kate has worked alongside many different companies ranging from global organisations through to SMEs and start-ups. Kate’s experience has immersed her in a wide range of sectors including travel & tourism, health & fitness, marine, retail, professional services, defence and food & drink. She takes a strategic approach to marketing and PR, ensuring that activity is aligned to help clients reach their goals.

Kate is a firm believer in good leadership and people development and works closely with her team, supporting them to develop their own skill sets and professional interests. She is also a Personal Performance Coach, achieving accreditation from The Coaching Academy, the largest life coaching course provider in the world. In her role as Coach, Kate supports individuals or groups to set and achieve goals in many areas of life including business, health and wellbeing, career, relationships and work-life balance, centring around the belief that everyone has the power to achieve their goals through acknowledging and using their own resources, rather than being told what to do.

Under Kate’s ownership, ADPR has won multiple industry awards including Outstanding Small PR Consultancy, Best Consumer Relations Campaign, Best Arts, Culture or Sports Campaign and Best Apprenticeship Employer. She was also named in South West Business Insider’s prestigious 42 Under 42 feature showcasing the region’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs under 42 years of age.

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