Emotional Intelligence: Another Management Buzz Word? Or a Tool to Recognise True Leaders?

6671 Emotional Intelligence Another Management Buzz Word Or A Tool To Recognise True Leaders

​Yesterday, I was lucky enough to hear Anna-Lucia Mackay speak at the RCSA’s October breakfast.

Anna-Lucia presented on Emotional Intelligence (EI), one of the new “buzz phrases” in modern day leadership.

First of all, what is “emotional intelligence”?

Anna-Lucia defined emotional intelligence as “how we recognise, understand and manage our emotions, as well as how we recognise, understand and manage others’ emotions”.

“OK, well that sounds like management 101, mumbo jumbo”, I thought.

Anna-Lucia then threw this statistic at us:

The success of a leader is 15% reliant on their technical skills and 85% reliant on their emotional intelligence.

Ever the sceptic, I still wasn’t convinced.

Then she asked this question:

Think of the best leader you have ever worked for. What are the skills and abilities that made them such a successful leader? All of a sudden, her argument about emotional intelligence was gaining some traction…

When I think of the best manager I have worked for, I think of man who motivated me to achieve my personal and professional goals, the man who made me feel comfortable to be myself but inspired me to be better. He did this via the way he behaved around me, the way they spoke with me, and the way they treated me. I can’t actually recall if he was, from a technical perspective, any good at his job at all!

As the owner of a growing business, our company’s leadership is paramount to our success. If 85% of our leadership capability is determined by one’s emotional intelligence, then the concept of EI suddenly moves away from being a management buzz phrase to a concept worth paying attention to. I decided to get my pen out and take some notes on what Anna-Lucia was saying…

The big question (when undergoing any training), is:

“How can I apply what I am learning to make me better at my job, improve my business’s performance and, ultimately, allow me to enjoy life a little more?”

The key take away from Anna-Lucia’s session was how we can tangibly measure a leader’s emotional intelligence.

Anna-Lucia referenced Daniel Goleman’s legendary work on emotional intelligence, which breaks EI down into five key components:


Leaders know their own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values and goals – and how these impact others. If you know that you get stressed about tight deadlines, do you proactively plan your time to make sure work gets done well in advance?

What to look for: Self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, self-depreciating sense of humour


Once a leader is aware of their disruptive emotions, they are able to effectively redirect these emotions, to ensure they don’t manifest into behaviours that have a negative impact on those around them. Successful leaders can absorb information, process that information, and consciously react to that information in a productive manner, all within a matter of seconds.

What to look for: Trustworthiness, comfort with ambiguity, openness to change


Leaders set goals and work tirelessly to achieve them. Why? Because this is what floats their boat. It is what gets them out of bed in the morning. Achievement is a successful leader’s drug of choice.

What to look for: A strong drive to achieve, optimism, organisational commitment


Great leaders consider other people before making decisions. Great leaders ask questions. They then take listen to responses to learn, not just wait and plan their next response.

What to look for: Expertise in building and retaining talent, cross cultural sensitivity, a focus on service.

Social Skills

The best leaders are able to move people in desired directions, not because it is what they want, but because they genuinely believe all those involved will be better off for it.

What to look for: The ability to make you feel comfortable, persuasiveness, the ability to find common ground.

So next time you are considering hiring a new manager or promoting a staff member to a leadership role, take the time to look past their technical skillset and consider their emotional intelligence. Chances are, it will be a better determinant of their success!