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How Important Is Emotional Intelligence As A Leadership Trait?

November 20, 2019

Team Management

As a manager, you’re often expected to play a number of roles in order to keep your team ticking over. This ranges from the taskmaster, to the analyst, to the sounding board. So, with this being said, how important is something like emotional intelligence when it comes to leadership roles? The ability to listen earnestly and advise your employees in a genuine and meaningful way, is a trait that has long been associated with being a manager, but rarely implemented. In a modern workplace, where communication is more open and the blurring between work and home life becomes more apparent through flexible working, is there more of a need than ever for managers to be more emotionally intelligent?

There are four categories when it comes to emotional intelligence: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. All four of these subsections have benefits when applied to the workplace, so let’s dissect this further.


Self-Management isn’t something that we necessarily always consider as a manager. We’re normally wrapped up in the goings on of the team, or the upcoming deadlines, to take a minute to think about our actions and how they’re portrayed. The key things about self-awareness are control and adaptability.

To truly self-manage in the workplace, you need to keep your impulsiveness in check and follow through on commitments, even if this means a shift in scenario. Having a level of control and level-headedness is ideal for any manager. As the leader, you can’t jump from impulse to impulse and refuse to change course if something isn’t working. Being able to identify when you are perhaps slipping into these actions, will help you self-correct your behaviour and enable you to manage more efficiently.


Despite some crossover, self-awareness does differ from self-management in a couple of ways. Self-awareness surrounds your emotions rather than your actions, focusing on how the way you feel informs your behaviours. Similarly, it’s the section of emotional intelligence that encompasses your strengths, weaknesses and enables your self-confidence.

When you consider this in a workplace environment, it becomes a critical part of being a manager. By being aware of how you emotionally react in different scenarios and where your weaknesses lie, you’re better informed on how to proceed going forward. This level of self-awareness allows you to evaluate your own abilities so that you’re in the best possible place to delegate tasks confidently and assuredly.

Social Awareness

This is a key part of being a good manager; having empathy and recognising social cues. It also relates to being aware of the different power dynamics within your team and the organisation as a whole. It’s all about being able to see the social aspects at play that could potentially have a bearing on your team’s productivity and working lives.

As a manager, this is paramount when ensuring that the entire team can pull together to achieve the goals of the departments. If there are power plays happening and rifts between co-workers, as a leader, it’s within your remit to try and straighten them out. On a more individual level, being an empathetic leader is a must for any modern manager, if one of your employees is having a tough time or is struggling, the ability to be understanding and empathise will go a long way in terms of employee retention and satisfaction.

Relationship Management

This is a pretty self-explanatory one - you’ve got to ensure that you’re a good communicator who can inspire your team and sort any conflicts out in a reasonable manner. This is the bread and butter of any manager, and nine times out of ten, what you end up spending the majority of your time doing.

Relationship management is probably the most time exhaustive section of the four - it takes time and effort to build the type of relationships with your team that allows you to be socially aware further down the line. It’s the foundation that allows your team to see how you prefer to work and what kind of a leader you are. It’s the relationship between the manager and the team that allows the department to be a cohesive, productive and successful department.

So, how important is emotional intelligence as a leadership trait? Look at the different ways that the four subsections contribute to the daily decisions you make at work - take away any of them and that’s a crucial pillar that negatively affects the workings of the team. Emotional intelligence is something that is incredibly important as simply a human trait, so if you add an element of power into that it becomes even more important as you’re now responsible for the emotional wellbeing of others. Having emotional intelligence as a leadership trait should be a given - perhaps go back through the four categories and rate your own management style against them to see if there’s anywhere you can improve - your office environment and team will thank you.

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