What is emotional intelligence, and why is it essential for managers?

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What is emotional intelligence, and why is it essential for managers?

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. In the workplace, emotional intelligence is a crucial skill for managers to have, as it can greatly impact team dynamics, communication, and overall performance. It facilitates better leadership, contributes to a healthier work environment, and can lead to increased employee satisfaction. In this article, we’ll explore what emotional intelligence is and why it’s essential for managers to possess, along with real-world examples and strategies to improve it.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

EQ skills

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Emotional intelligence is often described as having four main components: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. These components work together to help individuals navigate their emotions and the emotions of others in a healthy and productive manner. By mastering these components, managers can lead with compassion and understanding, setting the tone for a respectful and collaborative workplace culture.


Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. It involves being in tune with your own emotions and recognizing how they influence your thoughts and behaviors. Self-awareness allows managers to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and triggers, which can help them handle difficult situations more effectively. Moreover, a manager who is self-aware is better positioned to model the emotional intelligence they wish to see in their team.


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Furthermore, self-aware managers are more adept at receiving and processing feedback. They understand that constructive criticism is not a personal attack but an opportunity for growth. This perspective enables them to improve continuously and fosters a learning environment within their teams.



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Self-management is the ability to control and regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It requires self-discipline, resilience, and the ability to adapt to changing situations. Managers with strong self-management skills can remain calm and focused under pressure and can effectively manage their time and priorities. They set a positive example for their team and can navigate the ups and downs of the business world with grace.


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Additionally, self-management involves being proactive rather than reactive. Managers who excel in self-management anticipate potential issues and plan accordingly. They also demonstrate accountability for their actions, which in turn inspires their team members to take ownership of their work.

Social awareness

Social awareness is the ability to understand and empathize with the emotions of others. This includes being aware of nonverbal cues and picking up on the emotional state of others. Managers with strong social awareness can build strong relationships with their team members, which can lead to better communication and collaboration. They are attuned to the subtle dynamics within a group and can respond to unspoken concerns or tensions.

Social awareness

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In addition, socially aware managers are inclusive leaders. They strive to ensure that every team member feels valued and heard, which is essential in diverse and multicultural workplaces. By respecting and valuing different perspectives, they create an environment where innovation thrives.

Relationship management

Relationship management is the ability to use one’s emotional intelligence to build and maintain healthy relationships. This involves effective communication, conflict resolution, and the ability to inspire and influence others. Managers with strong relationship management skills can create a positive work environment and motivate their team to achieve their goals. They are the bridge that connects the team’s individual talents and harnesses them towards a common objective.

Relationship management

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Moreover, adept relationship managers are skillful negotiators who understand the importance of give-and-take in professional interactions. They use their emotional intelligence to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics, ensuring that all voices are heard and respected. This approach not only resolves conflicts but often prevents them from arising in the first place.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Essential for Managers?

Effective leadership

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Effective leadership requires more than just technical skills and knowledge. It also requires strong emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence enables managers to connect with their team on a human level, which is fundamental to fostering trust and loyalty. Here’s why emotional intelligence is a non-negotiable trait for successful managers.

Better communication

Effective communication is a critical aspect of successful management. Managers with high emotional intelligence can effectively communicate with their team members, understand their perspectives, and address any conflicts that may arise. This leads to better team dynamics, improved collaboration, and higher productivity. They can also tailor their communication style to suit different personalities and situations, which is key to ensuring that messages are conveyed and received as intended.

Clear communication

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Additionally, emotionally intelligent managers are excellent listeners. They recognize that communication is a two-way street and that listening is just as important as speaking. This openness promotes a culture where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas and feedback.

Improved decision-making

Managers with strong emotional intelligence are better equipped to make sound decisions. They can keep their emotions in check, remain objective, and consider the emotions and perspectives of others when making decisions. This leads to better problem-solving and decision-making within the team. It also ensures that decisions are fair and balanced, taking into account the well-being of employees alongside the needs of the organization.


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In the face of uncertainty or crisis, these managers maintain a clear head, allowing them to analyze situations effectively and make informed choices. Their capacity to stay composed is contagious, instilling confidence in their team and stakeholders.

Increased empathy and understanding

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. For managers, empathy is essential in building strong relationships with team members, understanding their needs and motivations, and providing the necessary support and guidance. This can lead to increased trust and loyalty within the team. It also encourages a more supportive and understanding workplace, where employees feel valued and recognized.


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Empathetic managers are also better at navigating the complexities of workplace diversity. They appreciate the unique backgrounds and experiences of their team members and leverage this diversity to enrich the team’s collective capabilities.

Better conflict resolution

Conflict resolution

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In any workplace, conflicts are bound to arise. However, managers with high emotional intelligence can effectively manage and resolve conflicts. They can remain calm under pressure, listen to all parties involved, and find a solution that satisfies everyone. This leads to a more harmonious work environment and better team morale. Their approach to conflict resolution is often characterized by seeking common ground and fostering a spirit of cooperation rather than competition.


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Moreover, such managers are also adept at de-escalating tense situations. They can identify the root causes of conflicts and address them in a way that prevents escalation and builds understanding among conflicting parties.

Enhanced leadership skills

Leadership and emotional intelligence go hand in hand. Managers who possess strong emotional intelligence are better equipped to inspire and motivate their team, handle stress and pressure, and adapt to changing situations. This leads to better overall leadership and a more successful team. They understand that leadership is not about command and control but about guiding and empowering their team to reach their full potential.

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These leaders also recognize the importance of vulnerability in leadership. By showing their human side and admitting their own mistakes, they cultivate an environment where learning from failure is encouraged, and continuous improvement is the norm.

How Can Managers Develop Their Emotional Intelligence?

Fortunately, emotional intelligence is not a fixed trait and can be developed and improved over time. Here are a few ways managers can enhance their emotional intelligence skills.

Seek feedback


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As a manager, it’s essential to seek feedback from your team members and colleagues. This can help you gain valuable insights into your strengths and weaknesses and identify areas for improvement. Regular feedback sessions not only help in personal development but also signal to your team that you value their opinions and are committed to growth.

360-degree feedback

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Embracing 360-degree feedback, where input is gathered from all levels within the organization, can provide a comprehensive view of a manager’s performance and areas that require attention. This holistic approach to feedback ensures that managers have a clear understanding of how their actions impact others.

Practice self-reflection

Self-reflection is a powerful tool for developing self-awareness. Take time to reflect on your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, and how they impact your interactions with others. This can help you become more self-aware and better manage your emotions. Setting aside time for regular self-reflection encourages a deeper understanding of personal values, goals, and the effect one’s leadership style has on the team.


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Journaling is an effective method of self-reflection that allows managers to track their emotional responses and patterns over time. By reviewing these entries, managers can identify trends and triggers that may require attention.

Attend emotional intelligence training

Emotional intelligence training

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Many organizations offer emotional intelligence training for managers. These training programs provide managers with the necessary tools and techniques to enhance their emotional intelligence skills and become more effective leaders. Through interactive workshops and role-playing exercises, managers can practice emotional intelligence skills in a safe and supportive environment.


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Participating in peer coaching or mentoring programs can also be beneficial. These programs pair managers with more experienced leaders who can offer guidance, support, and a different perspective on managing emotions in the workplace.

Read books and articles on emotional intelligence

There are many books and articles available that discuss emotional intelligence and provide tips and strategies for developing it. Take advantage of these resources to learn more about emotional intelligence and how to apply it in the workplace. By staying informed about the latest research and best practices, managers can continually refine their approach to emotional intelligence.


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Subscribing to reputable journals, attending industry conferences, and joining professional groups dedicated to leadership development can also keep managers abreast of new insights and trends in emotional intelligence.

Real-World Examples of Emotional Intelligence in Action


Google is known for its innovative and successful company culture, and a significant part of this is due to their focus on emotional intelligence. They offer emotional intelligence training for managers and encourage their employees to practice self-awareness, empathy, and effective communication. Google’s emphasis on creating a psychologically safe workplace allows for open dialogue and the sharing of ideas, which fosters creativity and collaboration.

Google's culture

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Additionally, Google has implemented various programs that prioritize employee well-being, understanding that a happy workforce is a productive one. These initiatives demonstrate the company’s commitment to leveraging emotional intelligence for the betterment of its employees and the organization as a whole.


LinkedIn has an “empathy lab” where employees can practice and develop their emotional intelligence skills. This includes workshops on active listening, conflict resolution, and building trust and rapport with colleagues. The lab serves as a dedicated space for employees to explore and improve their emotional competencies in a focused and structured manner.

LinkedIn's empathy lab

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The company also regularly holds “InDays” where employees are encouraged to invest time in themselves, their team, and the community. These days foster a sense of belonging and purpose, which are key components of a strong, emotionally intelligent culture.

In Conclusion

Emotional intelligence is a critical skill for managers to possess, and it can greatly impact team dynamics and overall performance. By being self-aware, managing emotions effectively, and developing strong relationships, managers can create a positive work environment and lead their team to success. With the right training and practice, any manager can enhance their emotional intelligence skills and become a more effective leader. Embracing emotional intelligence is not just beneficial for individual managers but can transform the entire organization, leading to greater employee engagement, retention, and business success.