Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Daniel Goleman was the first to popularize the idea of emotional intelligence and demonstrate evidence of its impact within organizations. He passionately argued for recognizing the relationship between someone’s emotional state and the actions driven by it, and how those actions in turn impact others and the organization (essentially the people they work with), whether positively or negatively.

Emotional intelligence consists of four fundamental skills 


Emotional intelligence is the ability to read and understand your own emotions as well as recognize their impact on work performance and relationships. It also includes the ability to realistically evaluate your strengths and limitations.


It is the ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses under control, consistently display integrity and manage yourself and your responsibilities. It also includes the skill to adjust to changing situations and a readiness to seize opportunities.

Social awareness

 It is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, understand their perspective, and take an active interest in their concerns. It is also the ability to read the currents of organizational life, build decision networks, and navigate politics.

Social skill

It is the ability to inspire, influence and develop others, for example the ability to de-escalate conflicts and facilitate resolutions. It includes skills of listening and sending clear, convincing, and well-tuned messages, as well as cultivating and maintaining a web of relationships.

Emotional Intelligence in leaders

These are all essential qualities for leaders, even though not everyone seems to realize it. Many organizations still use a fundamentally wrong metaphor to describe how work works. We keep thinking of our organizations as machines, where defined inputs are transformed into defined outputs, through defined processes and well designed connections of cogs. Is this the real nature of our organizations? How can such a machine adapt to ever changing circumstances and market needs? 

Recommended reading: A Complete Guide to Agile Leadership

We will have better chances at building agile and flexible organizations, which are more equipped to succeed in the world today, if we start describing them as living organisms. Organizations are networks of people, and human beings are not interchangeable and programmable machines. It is impossible to force things on people, but good things can be achieved by leveraging people’s natural talents and their intrinsic willingness to do a good job.

Effective leadership is more of a social activity than an engineering task. 

How do you increase your Emotional Intelligence?

 Here are some simple tools I recommend if I am asked for a suggestion by the leaders I coach:

  • Journaling, self-reflection and peer feedback can be very useful to spot our red flags and understand their impact on work performance and relationships, as well as learn how to keep disruptive emotions under control. 
  • 360-degree feedback is, feedback from many peers, leaders, and colleagues, rather than a single manager in a top-down approach, and it can be very helpful. It helps you learn how to sense other people’s emotions and understand their perspective.

Recommended for you: Learn the skills to help you develop your emotional intelligence online course on Agile Leadership Foundations 

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