The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

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Effective leaders have one characteristic in common: strong emotional intelligence (EQ). Intelligence quotient (IQ) and hard skills, such as technical expertise and analytical knowledge, also matter in leadership. However, when considered alone, they are insufficient; high levels of EQ are a distinctive characteristic of top performers. Such leaders are emotionally agile and respond effectively to workplace and market dynamics. This paper examines the concept of EQ, its components, real-world application, and strategies.

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Definition of Emotional Intelligence

Leaders with a high IQ but lower EQ do not always make the best decisions. Goleman (1998) defines emotional intelligence as “the sine qua non of leadership” (p. 93). It is a core competency of great leaders that can be honed through determination, practice, and feedback. EQ includes the capacity to self-motivate, be persistent, manage impulses and emotions, and regulate empathy and humor. These capabilities are critical attributes expected from leaders in today’s dynamic business environment.

Components of Emotional Intelligence

EQ is a multidimensional concept that encompasses self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, and empathy. Self-awareness is defined as the capacity to know and understand personal moods, feelings, and motivations and their influence on others (Goleman, 1998). Highly self-aware leaders exhibit self-confidence and realistically assess their emotional responses. Self-regulation is defined as the ability to manage individual emotions, especially in stressful contexts, whereas social skills entail the capacity to establish and manage social relationships and networks (Goleman, 1998). Socially skilled people are adept at facilitating interactions verbally and nonverbally. Empathy is defined as the capacity to be aware of other people’s emotions and treat them according to their emotional responses.

The Lack of Emotional Intelligence: Example

Leadership is a highly tested skill during crises for those running organizations or business entities. The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of a current global health issue that has exposed leaders to many challenges. The lack of EQ has been seen in how political leaders initially responded to the disease when the supply of personal protective equipment (PPEs) was unstable. For example, in the United States and elsewhere, direct care teams in February 2020 experienced negative emotions because federal and state agencies were not doing enough to provide PPEs and enforce social distancing and wearing masks (Kantor et al., 2020). The political leaders exhibited a lack of emotional intelligence when addressing direct care teams’ needs and public health recommendations.

Connection to EQ Components

The case of policymakers lacking emotional intelligence is seen in their response to COVID-19. Three EQ components can be connected to this incident: self-awareness, empathy, and social skills. Leaders were unaware or did not understand the emotions of the frontline staff. By comprehending the direct care teams’ feelings in COVID-19 settings, the leaders would have formulated better solutions to the challenge (Kantor et al., 2020). Empathy is another aspect of EQ absent in the leadership during the early part of the COVID-19 crisis. Leaders did not anticipate the emotional reactions of the public to policy changes, including lockdowns. Empathy would have helped them minimize anxiety and other negative emotions, including stigma. This social skill was also lacking – leaders did not share their sentiments about the disease even after the death toll began rising. As a result, the culture of openness and trust was somewhat dampened.

Different Strategies

Applying the principles of EQ to leadership responses to the COVID-19 pandemic would have ensured better outcomes. Policymakers could have sought to understand the feelings of frontline providers and heed expert advice. Consistent with the self-awareness hallmark of “self-deprecating sense of humor,” acknowledging failure and limitations is a characteristic of self-aware leaders (Goleman, 1998, p. 95). Such self-knowledge would have ensured transparency about the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 situation. Useful leadership strategies for improving empathy are nurturing talent and cross-cultural sensitivity (Nevins, 2020). Leaders should have thoughtfully considered healthcare experts’ advice, not just economic considerations, in deciding to relax movement restrictions. Additionally, persuasiveness (a social skill) would have allowed them to move people in a specific direction – adherence to social distancing rules and wearing masks.

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Possible Solutions

Higher levels of emotional intelligence will be required during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Measuring and rewarding EQ is one way stronger emotional intelligence can be developed in organizational leaders (Nevins, 2020). Feedback and performance assessments should include EQ measures as the basis for appreciating and recognizing top performers in addition to technical or analytical proficiency. EQ training would also enhance the emotional capability of leaders. Formal support systems for managers would enable them to deal with negative emotional responses.


As a leader, I recognize EQ as an essential soft skill in navigating personal and workplace challenges. Therefore, self-awareness (knowledge of individual strengths and weaknesses), effective self-management (emotional control), empathy, and social awareness are more important managerial attributes in the workplace than IQ and other metrics. EQ training, feedback, performance assessments, and EQ-based rewards systems would ensure a more emotionally intelligent leadership, required in times of crisis. The global COVID-19 pandemic and sociocultural unrests demand empathetic, self-aware, and socially and cross-culturally skilled leaders able to control their emotions to make sound decisions that will positively impact lives and business performance.


Goleman, D. (1998). What makes a leader? Harvard Business Review, 76(6), 93–102.

Kantor, M. A., Apgar, S. K., Esmaili, A. M., Khan, A., Monash, B., & Sharpe, B. A. (2020). The importance of emotional intelligence when leading in a time of crisis. Journal of Hospital Medicine, 15(9), 568–569.

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Nevins, M. (2020). Why a post-covid world demands greater emotional intelligence. Forbes.

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"The Importance of Emotional Intelligence." PsychologyWriting, 11 June 2022,


PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'The Importance of Emotional Intelligence'. 11 June.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. "The Importance of Emotional Intelligence." June 11, 2022.

1. PsychologyWriting. "The Importance of Emotional Intelligence." June 11, 2022.


PsychologyWriting. "The Importance of Emotional Intelligence." June 11, 2022.