Why Emotional Intelligence is the Must-Have Leadership Skill

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As a leader, you’re looking to influence a broad group of people and move them forward to meet shared objectives. Yes, it helps to have a reasonable IQ to achieve this, but it’s your emotional intelligence, or EQ, that really counts.

In the 1990s, the buzz phrase emotional intelligence entered the vernacular thanks to Daniel Goleman’s legendary book ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ’.

Far from a passing fad, emotional intelligence is an increasingly critical skill for effective leaders in a world where physical and manual work has been surpassed by work that involves human interaction. So much so, the 2020 World Economic Forum identified emotional intelligence as the 6th most important skill for leaders.

In this episode of 'Levelling up: Your leadership podcast', Lorraine Caruso, an EQ expert and facilitator for Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) at the University of Adelaide, explores how the best leaders display emotional intelligence competencies that align with human motivation, to build harmonious and successful work environments.

“Leaders who understand that business is about how well we handle ourselves and our relationships have an unquestionable competitive edge in the modern market,” Lorraine said.

And EQ at work isn’t just about being liked or being friendly. It’s about intentional leadership and having the skills to:

  • Deliver difficult feedback
  • Sit at a table and ruffle feathers from time to time
  • Drive change and understand the human influences and motivations to accept change
  • Communicate with intent and have your messages received effectively 

Four domains of EQ 

Lorraine focusses on Daniel Goleman's four domains of Emotional Intelligence in PACE’s upcoming two-day course, Emotional Intelligence at Work.


  • Taking a 360 degree view of yourself and how you’re perceived in the workplace
  • Understanding your own emotions, strengths, needs and drives and how these influence the way you interact with people
  • Being honest with yourself about how your communication is being received


  • The ability to control your emotions and present as a ‘reasonable’ person
  • Exercising emotional self-control to create an environment of trust and fairness

Social awareness

  • The ability to show empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes
  • Awareness of how people are influenced and connected in your organisation (organisational awareness) 

Relationship Management

  • Building effective coaching, mentoring and peer-to-peer relationships that inspire great work

Attributes of leaders with high EQ

 Lorraine says it’s easy to pick leaders who understand the importance of good EQ. They’ll generally display the following attributes. They will:

  • Seek out information and listen without interruption
  • Seek to understand what is being said and suspend judgement before formulating a response
  • Think before they speak – they carefully consider their words, tailor them to the recipient and think about how they will be received
  • Display emotional self-control – they don’t knee-jerk respond to the email, they sit on it, consider it with intent, and respond in a way that aims for a win-win outcome
  • Have an ego that is in check
  • Be values driven

Want to know more about EQ?

Enrolments are still open for PACE’s two-day Emotional Intelligence At Work short course. Find out more about the course which runs from Wednesday, 15 November to Thursday, 16 November.

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