The Critical Leadership Skill for 2017: Emotional Intelligence

Written By: Gia Ganesh. Gia is a career and leadership development coach, speaker and author of the soon-to-be-released book “The Business of You.” She is a member of the prestigious Forbes Coaches Council, an invitation-only group. She works with high achievers and teams on career management, leadership development and emotional intelligence.

Thanks to technological advances, our leadership needs today have evolved. Our teams are more disparate and virtual. We collaborate with people in our local office, vendors, offshore teams across continents, freelancers, contractors and many others. A person who can lead these varied sets of people needs an array of critical skills that looks different than it did a few decades ago.

The need for leaders to be people-savvy is as important as, if not more important than, the need to be business-savvy. People-savvy boils down to understanding people and meeting them where they are. To do so, leaders need THE critical leadership skill: emotional intelligence (EI). I refer to it as “regulating emotions.”

The benefits of regulating emotions include collaborating effectively, being more empathetic, communicating to produce desired results, interpersonal skills, amicable conflict resolution and so on. Studies have proven that organizations whose leaders have higher EI are more profitable. This “Business Case for Emotional Intelligence” provides some examples of organizations that have benefited from emotionally intelligent leaders.

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EI is thus more valuable than technical competence!

EI involves the ability to be self-aware of our emotions and the emotions of people around us – and using that ability to take our relationships forward. The core of EI hinges on relationship management based on the knowledge we have about our emotions.

How, then, can we help our leaders develop this ability to regulate their emotions in the digital world?

“What gets measured, gets managed”  – Peter Drucker

1: Measure

EI is not particularly easy to measure, but there are a few industry assessments that you can leverage, including the Emotional and Social Competence Inventory by Daniel Goleman (widely regarded as the father of EI), Talentsmart’s Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and MHS’ EQ i2.0 and EQ360.

Like with any tests, these assessments give users a broad view of their EI capabilities. They are not conclusive by any means, but they provide a good starting point. The questions in these assessments prompt learners to become more self-aware of their own emotions and the emotions of the people they interact with.

2: Manage

Situations, people and thoughts can trigger emotions. These emotions may invoke actions. These actions can, in turn, invoke emotions in others. And this loop continues! When leaders have the awareness to perceive how their actions invoke desirable or non-desirable actions in others, they are well on their way to the managing phase of regulating emotions.

In both the physical world and digital world, business is still done between individuals, who experience emotions. Even though it may be hard to read emotions over an email or text, we do often have a hunch whether the other party’s emotion is on the positive or the negative spectrum.


Here are some extra steps that leaders can take to ensure that they effectively manage and regulate the emotions their relationships invoke:

  • Before clicking “send” on your email or phone, ask yourself, “how would I feel if I received this message?”
  • Sometimes, it may be worthwhile to call the person and ensure that the message you sent was received and perceived in the way you intended it. At that time, you can also clarify any questions they have.
  • A person’s body language can be a great indicator of their emotions. Use video options when possible to see the person as you talk with them. Video conferencing, facetime and video calls can help you become aware of the emotions the other person experiences in response to your words.
  • In-person meetings may not be possible in all situations, but whenever possible, meet people face-to-face. Again, this helps develop your relationship with them.

The goal of relationship management is to ensure a win-win situation for all parties involved. Leaders – and all employees – can use their knowledge of their emotions and of the emotions of others to arrive at this win-win situation. Garnering knowledge – in this case, awareness of emotions – is not enough, though. Using that knowledge to regulate actions and emotions and arrive at win-win scenarios is the goal!

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