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Effective Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

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Successful leaders are usually believed to be effective because of their skills, IQ, hard work, ability to take risks and clear thinking.

Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee credit emotional intelligence as a key great leader's characteristic in their book 'Primal Leadership'. Emotional intelligence (EI) used to be dismissed as a 'soft' skill, however, now is considered a major factor when it comes to employee and business success.

EI is defined as individual's ability to understand, manage, recognise and influence their emotions and those of others.

This ability affects how a person reacts to their environment and stimulus. Five attributes of EI are:

  • Self-Awareness - the ability to understand their strengths and weaknesses, abilities, limitations, and how their actions may affect others.
  • Empathy - the ability to demonstrate compassion and to connect with others on an emotional level.
  • Self-Regulation - the ability to express emotions while remaining in control and restraint.
  • Motivation - in the workplace is the ability to complete the tasks or activities without needing support from others. Employees who are self-motivated are flexible, resilient and optimistic.
  • People Skills - the ability to listen, to communicate and to relate to others on a personal or professional level. Good people skills also include problem-solving, the ability to work with and lead others, resolve conflicts, collaborate and create a positive work environment.

Why do you need leaders with high Emotional Intelligence?

Individuals with high EQ work better with others, help foster an accepting and welcoming company culture and manage clients more efficiently. They also perform better. Most of the competencies that are associated with high-performing employees are connected with emotional intelligence. Sales employees with high emotional intelligence perform better than low- or average EI employees by 50%.

How to evaluate emotional intelligence?

If you only take into consideration hard skills when reaching your hiring decision, you might be missing very important criteria - is this person a good cultural fit for the team?

Tests assessing and measuring emotional intelligence should be a key component of the recruitment and hiring process.

An applicant's responses will provide insight into many aspects of his/her characteristics, personality and ability to manage emotions.

Below are some examples of interview questions that may be useful for assessing EQ:

  1. Tell me about a time when you needed to use creativity to help a customer with an issue.
    - Tests empathy, people skills and motivation.
  2. Tell me about a time that one of your weaknesses had a negative impact on your work team's performance.
    - Tests self-awareness.
  3. Tell me about a situation when you failed to deliver on a certain result. What did you do to correct the situation?
    - Tests for self-regulation and motivation.
  4. Tell me about a situation in which you became frustrated in a professional setting, and you were able to redirect these feelings in a positive manner.
    - Tests for self-regulation
  5. Was there a time when your work was criticised or when you had a disagreement with someone? How did you handle it?
    - Tests for people skills and self-regulation.
  6. Describe an incident when you did or said something that affected your team or client in a positive or negative way. How did you realise that?
    - Tests for self-awareness, empathy and self-regulation and people skills.
  7. Is there a common misconception about you at work? What is it?
    - Tests for self-awareness and motivation.
  8. Share a situation that happened at work that showcases your ability to consider other people's feelings in your decision making.
    - Tests for empathy.


When you understand the true value of an emotionally intelligent employee, you'll realise the connection between the types of people you hire and your organisation's success that follows.

Think of your interview process. You need to ask about candidate's hard skills and experience, but add additional ones testing EQ, especially where one would need a higher emotional intelligence to succeed. Pay attention to their answers and consider these when deciding whom to hire.