The importance of Emotional Intelligence

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“Given the pace of changes in the use of IT and artificial intelligence, the uniqueness of being ‘Human’ and the skills this requires are critical”, says CMI Southern Board Chair Lois Farquharson. “For this reasons Emotional Intelligence and self-awareness are core to organisational leadership and management.” Here is our latest feature in our series on Emotional Intelligence.

CMI Southern Board Member Laura Usher writes

We are in an age where in order to maintain its competitive advantage organisations are realising the value of their employees and to adaptable to an ever-changing business environment and it is down to their leaders to keep talent engaged, developed and managed. Whilst leadership and management training can be readily sought, an intangible and tacit skill is of equal, if not greater importance to technical and intellectual knowledge…emotional intelligence EQ, also EI).

Asserted by Salovey & Mayer (2004) EQ: “The capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions, to enhance thinking. It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.”

The term self-awareness is used to describe a leader’s ability to know their strengths and weaknesses involving an interaction between thoughts and feelings, Self-awareness grows over time and with exploration. It can be developed by persons themselves and by coaching. Tjan (2015) argued that “You can’t be a good leader without self-awareness”.

With its scientific foundations, EQ is the ability to assess, manage and react to the overall mood of an individual and or a team. It is a culmination of common sense, self-awareness, intuition in reading others, and how others are reacting to them using empathy, life experiences and other psychological nuances.

EQ cannot be learnt as it is instinctive and a natural response to a situation or experience, realistically, how can you learn to feel? You can’t, but with coaching you can learn to recognise, process and action them using social norms as a basis. A leader possessing self-awareness has the capacity and emotional intelligence to perceive, reason and process emotions to enhance theirs and others emotional and intellectual well-being and growth.

Salovey & Mayer – Four Types of EQ Model

Salovey & Mayer - Four Types of EQ Model

Source: The full emotional intelligence model by Mayer and Salovey can be found in a chapter in a book by Salovey P. and Sluyter D.J. Eds, “Emotional development and emotional intelligence”, Basic Books, New York, 1997 

Understand your team

How well do you REALLY know your employees? What motivates each person? How does he/she prefer to learn? How do they behave when under pressure? How do they communicate when under pressure? What is their appetite for change and how have they responded previously?

There are some useful profiling tools out there which can accurately provide the above answers and more, but the answers can also be elicited through conversation, well-constructed open questions and 360 reviews.

Understanding your team members, their locus of control (whether they are in control of their life, or life controls them), their goals, how they prefer to learn, their behaviour and communication under pressure enables you as their leader to define the best approach and incentives whilst categorising your employees by their change readiness and potential impact on them.


If you feel that a meeting or review with one of your team members did not go as well as you were expecting, or that they didn’t respond in the way you were expecting then it is time to reflect on YOUR approach and dialogue. Perhaps you were trying to motivate them with something they are not motivated by, maybe their values are not aligned with what the objective is.

If you are training members of your team, and some of them are slower at learning than others, then understand what is their learning style? Is your leadership style putting pressure on your team, are some responding well, with others who are not? There may be some members of your team that are happier working in tight constraints and to tasks where an almost micro-management approach suits their personality, but there will be others that will need the freedom to adopt their style and self-manage and will perform better given the opportunity to do so.

Emotional intelligence is crucial when managing change, as by nature change is a catalyst for emotion and will trigger certain behaviours and actions. Having an emotional understanding of your team members will enable you to determine the likely impact and influence the individual will have on the change, and their potential to be an agent of change or a blocker and the manner in which you engage them.

The diagram below summarises the personal influences on change and measures which can be taken to minimise resistance, but highlighting the need for leaders to really know their team members.

Emotional Change Readiness Model

If you would like to comment on this article or discuss this further I would like to hear from you. You If If you would like to comment on this article or discuss this further I would like to hear from you. You can contact me at: or via Twitter on @CMISouthern.

Laura Usher MBA, MCMI is CMI Southern Board Member.

Additional Resources

‘The emotionally intelligent manager: How to develop and use the four key emotional skills of leadership’ – Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Peter Salovey and David Caruso

CMI members are also able to use the resources of the online Management Direct library. Find out about being a member.