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Leadership and Emotional Intelligence in the modern working environment

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

One of the most inspiring authors and management-experts on leadership, S. Covey has emphasised that leadership should not be confused with management, stating: “Management is the effectiveness on climbing the success ladder. Leadership defines that you have placed that ladder on the right wall”. Therefore, leadership is not only about the effectiveness of doing all things right, but doing the right things and in an efficient manner. But why leadership is so important in the current working environment and how is this linked to emotional intelligence?


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Leadership is a person’s ability to execute a process of encouragement, inspiration and guidance for others to perform a task. Ideally, the leader acts as the role model for others to follow and is the one who enjoys the acceptance of the team members; their relationship should not be based on fear or intimidation. Successful leaders and successful companies are the ones who value and invest in the fruitful cooperation between them and the rest of the workforce for long periods, while at the same time cultivating trust, transparency and fairness. R. Branson has quoted once: Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.

Emotional intelligent leaders

Emotional intelligence plays a key factor in companies and is highly linked to leadership as it reflects someone’s ability to coach others passionately and help them to evolve. This can be achieved in a working context where goals are clear and every individual plays an important role in an environment where initiative, motivation, appreciation and mutual trust flourish.

Competitive working environments change at a laser speed. Especially in settings where teamwork dynamics play an important role, emotional intelligence can be the game changer to the success of the companies. According to D. Goleman, “Emotional intelligence is the ability of someone to recognise his/her own and others’ feelings and be able to manage them effectively”. By doing so, the leader may encourage teams to outperform exceeding their limits, while capitalising the maximum on their abilities. This relates to the long term objective of relatively most of companies, which is the gradual increase in revenues and the maximum performance of their employees.

During the past, emotions in the working environment were treated negatively and sometimes related to weakness or incompetence. The development of new technologies, the need for profit increase, the intense competition and the strict regulation framework have led modern companies to follow a different path in management, by taking into consideration the emotional intelligence aspect. Over the years, the business world has come to the conclusion that if emotions are to be managed effectively, this will lead to exceptional results. This is why companies lately place great emphasis to their human capital as being their most valuable asset. When a team does not feel connected to the leader, they show unwillingness and refrain from any positive effort. If workforce is not satisfied, the performance will subsequently drop and will inevitably affect the progression of the company in a negative way. On the contrary, if team members are satisfied and feel an important integral part of the company, it is more likely that they will be more productive.

Relevant literature highlights the following five qualities of emotional intelligent leaders:

1.  Self-awareness which relates to how one’s emotions, strengths and weaknesses affect others

2. Self-regulation, a trait in leadership coaching, which outlines the avoidance of believing in stereotypes, without prior knowledge of people, and; the avoidance of verbal attack and the lack of judgement

3. Motivation

4. Empathy and compassion, which includes the ability to recognise a perspective other than one’s own

5. Outstanding communication skill.

Can a leader be born or become?

This is a challenging question raised often by management experts and economists. A charismatic leader followed by motivated team may be a decisive factor to the success of the company. Over the years, the perception has changed towards the direction that if someone is provided with the right tools and the proper guidance, leadership can be a virtue that is learned in time. Even the most gifted leaders, without proper training, achieve less than those who invest time and effort to develop and expand their skills. The effective leadership should be a matter of personal effort for continuous professional development and self-improvement.

To sum up, it becomes palpable that leadership at work will always be a unique challenge, as was and always will be the art of managing people. The leader of the future is the one who is able to comprehend his/her self and others’ feelings and act accordingly. The leader who shows empathy and compassion to people is awarded with their loyalty. The emotional intelligent leader activates teamwork, stimulates people to contribute their best and hence increases overall performance.


Constantinos Kypriotis, Senior Manager, KPMG Limited,


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