Emotional intelligence in leadership is more crucial than ever in 2023

Hands reaching out leadership

Here we are – halfway to Spring! It seems like the whirlwind end of 2022 was just days ago, yet we’re already cruising through Q1 with all of its new challenges and opportunities.

A time-honored, symbolic rite that often ushers in a new business year is the development and declaration of resolutions or goals. If you did this, you may have focused on good ol’ standards like better health and more wealth. Onn a personal level, maybe you’ve resolved to read more, travel more, spend more time with friends and family, or finally use that tennis racket that’s been in the garage for two plus years. One or more of these resolutions (or “I oughtta’s” as I call them) may actually be in progress.

But what about fostering ‘resolutions’ that could benefit you as a leader? You could resolve to do a better job of keeping up with business trends; maybe attend more networking events and sessions now that we are engaging face-to-face again. Maybe it’s time for you to try connecting with leaders in fields you’d like to explore and possibly be part of in the future.

Goal-setting is a big part of the leadership process, and it leads us to ask questions like:

  • What types of resolutions could help you make this new year more professionally fulfilling and, perhaps, less personally harrowing than the last?
  • How could investing your time and effort on setting goals focused on increasing your use of emotional intelligence (EI) create greater balance, influence and results for you in 2023?

  • And we have to face it – ‘stuff’ happens, so how could EI help manage your capacity to handle challenges that will inevitably appear?

Emotional intelligence has long been shown to be a prime ingredient of leadership success. EI can be defined as an ability to recognize, control and understand your emotions. A leader with a heightened awareness of their EI may have the valuable added ability to connect meaningfully with others in professional, social, and personal settings, and, with self-reflection, gain a better understanding of their own thought process.

Practicing Emotionally Intelligent Leadership Isn’t Easy! 

Women talking by computer emotionally intelligent leadership

Leaders can be viewed as singularly focused, shatterproof, impassive beings. The persona of ‘get it done’ may have gotten someone quickly promoted in the traditional leadership expectations of the past. Frankly, that façade can be exhausting to maintain in catastrophic situations and no longer characterizes an effective leader in today’s business world.

Research in workplace well-being shows those who apply EI in their daily interactions develop a higher stress tolerance and are better enabled to more quickly find balanced “out of the box” solutions. These solutions tend to create less havoc for everyone in the leader’s sphere of impact and influence (staff, clients, stakeholders, colleagues, public, etc.,) Everyone ‘wins’ in such a case. In fact, the data below (provided by Norwich University online) paints a stunning picture of just how big a difference emotionally intelligent leadership makes!

Pepsi co Statistic 10% more productive with emotional intelligence

Having coached leaders of both genders, I’ve learned that one particular aspect of EI is often seen as a proverbial double-edged sword – showing vulnerability.  This quality of human-centered leadership has proven to be a powerful way to practice or model EI and can be significantly effective way to earn loyalty.

A very recent and very public demonstration of vulnerability was seen in the resignation of Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. The swirl around that event created quite a few opinions – not all of them positive. When the news came out, I posted on a professional social media platform about how being vulnerable was not a sign of weakness or an admission of failure – that vulnerability is not cheesy or an easy way out. It’s being brave.

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership also incorporates empathy. It’s the ability to vicariously experience and understand how people are feeling through imagination or observation.

I witnessed this quality in a very personal way when I worked on 35th floor in Tower One at the World Trade Center in New York City. I was not there that day of 9/11, but life still crashed down around me – as you can imagine. The CEO of American Express at the time, Ken Chenault, will always represent the pinnacle of leading while being vulnerable. He understood the need to communicate quickly, acknowledge what had happened, admit his fears, and, while life would never be the same, Mr. Chenault repeatedly and passionately assured support and care for employees.

Developing Your Goals for Increasing Emotional Intelligence

So developing and growing your emotional intelligence as a leader is necessary… what now? Here are some important steps to get you started:

  1. Tune In with Self-Reflection: Leadership begins with leading you. Reflect on this past year and see which events and encounters you recall as being highly emotional. What did you feel? Which ones leave a positive feeling and image? Which left you feeling deflated or discouraged?

  1. Keep Your Values Front and Center: In those events you identified, were your values supported and reinforced? Which ones? Did those events line up with your personal and professional goals? How?

  1. Self-Care Matters Most: What actions could you incorporate to experience greater mental and emotional self-care? Invest in low-cost practices such as reflective journaling about what’s on your mind (scribble down a few words – it’s not a thesis) or try just clearing your ‘headspace’ by getting outside for five minutes several times a week . These have been shown to be prime ways to get and stay cognitively balanced.

What Works Best For You? Look at your schedule – what actions help you manage your emotions? What can you ‘shift’ to fit into your life and schedule in a way that balances, not disrupts, your life.

Are You Ready To Grow?

Plant growing

As said before, we may already caught up in the fast pace of Q1, but it’s never too late to put things into perspective. Consider applying EI in daily business gatherings, one-to-one feedback sessions, and apply EI liberally when there’s a moment to sit back, breath fresh air and just be you.

Developing emotionally intelligent leadership qualities is a strong focus at Churchill Leadership Group, and our team of expert coaches can help your leadership unlock higher levels of EI. Want to learn more about our industry-leading programs and coaches?  Learn about our programs or get in touch with us today!

Dr. Pat Baxter


Dr. Pat Baxter Ed.D, CSA, CEIC, Certified Resilience & Well-Being Coach
Dr. Pat Baxter maximizes the effectiveness and influence of organizational leaders by leveraging her extensive experience to lead high-impact culture change—while retaining valuable talent. Learn more about her.

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