The Role of Emotional Intelligence on Leadership and Organisational Culture

Sneha Banu
Sneha Banu

In the fast-paced and commercially driven dynamics of the current market, many leaders often neglect the role emotional intelligence plays in leadership success. Most individuals in leadership roles are exclusively result-oriented and focus on numbers alone; though a data-driven thought process is an absolute must for any organisation to succeed and reduce bias, it is important to factor emotional intelligence into the organisational culture to stay relevant in today’s self-motivated landscape. Many tend to view empathy and emotional intelligence as a subjective factor in decision-making as opposed to the more objective elements like data and reports. However, it is important to measure emotional intelligence and factor it into data to ensure a 360 viewpoint.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ) depicts one’s aptitude to manage and comprehend the emotions of oneself and those of the individuals around them. From an organisational perspective, it encompasses the ability to view, understand and read the emotions of team members while ensuring that their own emotions are regulated in an appropriate manner. There are five categories of emotional intelligence to focus on, which include Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Empathy, Motivation and Social Skills. These categories are often interconnected while dealing with employees on a regular basis.

Why is it important to promote Emotional Intelligence?

Post-COVID-19 era: has marked a significant shift in the mind-set of employees across the globe. Individuals are no longer happy to aimlessly contribute their efforts in exchange of pay checks alone. There is a demand to be associated with an organisation that has good culture promoting fairness and ethics, safe environment subsidizing towards better health (both physical and mental), and to be heard and valued for their work, experiences and point of views.

Gen Z entering the job market: noteworthy changes observed in terms of how the new generation views work and their personal priorities. Organisations can no longer enforce outdated methods and culture, while continuing to remain relevant to the dynamics of the generational shifts brought upon the job market.

Increase in the outflow of talent and diversity in the job market: with the socio-economic and political changes across the globe, a surplus of talent in the market detected. It is important as an employer to stand out and attract the talent pool. In order to become the employment destination of choice, every organisation require building their brand value in order to entice high potential candidates from the market. Improving the organisational culture to ensure the organisation is known for their empathetic viewpoint and embody the importance of emotional intelligence in its culture can heavily contribute towards building a reputation in the market, that attract diverse set of talent.

Henceforth, to motivate and retain potential talents and appear relevant in the market it is important for leaders to invest time and efforts to ensure the environment focuses on promoting emotional intelligence.

How to build an Emotionally Intelligent organizational culture?

There are plenty of ways to ensure the organisational culture encompass emotional intelligence within its environment. Some of the imminent ways to achieve this can be as follows:

Feedback Driven Culture: Understanding the emotional space of the employees of varying hierarchy is vital for any organisation that aims to build a safe culture for its employees. Regular feedback collection is a healthy way of monitoring the current state of the organisation and work towards enhancing the culture. This can be achieved by various ways, such as pulse/employee feedback surveys in regular interval, focus group design thinking workshops, more organised Ask Me Anything – AMA sessions/platforms.

Reducing the gap between employee and leadership: In most organisations, there often is a palpable distance between the senior leadership and the employees. Employees having lack of access to their leaders and viewing them like in-house celebrities contributes towards a culture that is numbers driven. In such environments, employees tend to feel disposable and lack a sense of belonging and motivation. Reducing this gap between the leadership and employees opens the door to have emotionally intelligent perspective and enriches the culture where diverse set of employees feel heard and valued. The organisations can take several steps to bridge the gap; by incorporating Open Door Policy, organised Town hall/ business sessions followed by open Q&A forum to allow questions, regular scheduled casual lunches/tea session with different group of employees, ensuring more participation of leadership in the company organised engagement events and team building activities.

Organising Coaching and Training initiatives to improve empathetic overview of new leaders: By designing a program that enables the right behavioural and thought leadership for new and existing individuals either already in or those getting groomed for leadership roles, helps ensure the culture is set at the mid management and senior leadership levels. More often, companies do not realise the importance of people skills and emotional intelligence prevailing at the mid management levels, as this is the make or break phase of any organisational operations. It is vital to design consistent developmental programs that cover soft and people skills inclusive of emotional intelligence and empathy.

Promoting a culture of safe communication: Efforts need to be put together to ensure the organisational environment is safe for open communication. This can we achieved through regular feedback collections, open door policy with leaders and HR, anonymous platforms to collect feedback, suggestions and concerns including whistle-blower initiatives. The organisation also require to ensure the safety and confidentiality of the individuals who come forward to discuss topics that are unconventional, engage in well documented investigations (if required), and incorporate training initiatives with their leaders and emerging leaders to ensure they create a safe space within their environment that allows open communication.

How can Leaders measure emotional intelligence to reduce bias?

Measuring emotional intelligence (EI) in an organizational setting can be challenging due to the subjectivity and the potential for bias. Some strategies that can help reduce bias in measuring emotional intelligence includes:

Multisource Feedback including 360-Degree Feedback: It is vital to gather feedback from a variety of sources, including peers, direct reports, supervisors, and even clients or customers. This approach can help to provide a more comprehensive view of an individual’s emotional intelligence by gathering insights from different perspectives.

Behavioural Interviewing: Incorporating a competency framework while designing questions for interviews, be it for new hires or internal design thinking sessions, focusing on past behaviours and situations that demonstrate emotional intelligence. An example can be to ask candidates to describe a time when they successfully managed a conflicting situation or when they provided support to a team member can reveal their ability to understand and navigate emotions.

Performance Reviews: Incorporating emotional intelligence competencies into performance evaluation criteria to assess how well individuals demonstrate emotional intelligence skills in their day-to-day tasks, interactions, and decision-making processes.

Psychometric Assessments: Using validated assessment tools specifically designed to measure emotional intelligence. These assessments should focus on observable behaviours and competencies rather than subjective impressions. Ensure that the assessments are culturally and contextually appropriate for the organization to minimize bias. These assessments would help while designing individual development/ leadership development programs by providing a baseline to build the coaching program on.

General Observation: General observations and keeping an eye out for patterns of behavioural outcomes are often helpful to further base investigations. Evaluation of behaviours exhibited by leaders and employees in various situations, looking for indicators such as empathy, self-awareness, adaptability, and social skills. This observational method can provide valuable qualitative data on emotional intelligence. Provided the risk of subjective observations with potential for unconscious bias, one should never only make decisions based on third party observations and ensure factual evidence is there to support any action.

Anonymous Reporting: Implementing mechanisms for anonymous reporting of behaviours related to emotional intelligence through whistle-blowing policy and platforms can encourage employees to provide honest feedback without fear of retaliation or bias.

Continuous Evaluation: Emotional intelligence is not static and can evolve over time. Thus, it is important to implement regular evaluations and check-ins to assess progress and provide feedback for development.

Data Analysis and Benchmarking: regular collection and analysis of data on emotional intelligence metrics over time to compare individual and group performance against benchmarks helps in identifying areas for improvement and track progress.

By incorporating a combination of these strategies into the measurement of emotional intelligence in an organisation, organizations can gain valuable insights into the emotional intelligence of their workforce and its impact on leadership effectiveness and organizational culture. One can help reduce bias and obtain a more accurate assessment of individuals’ abilities towards the critical area of leadership and organizational culture. It is essential to approach measurement with sensitivity and ensure confidentiality to encourage honest feedback and participation from employees.

  • Sneha Banu, Assoc. CIPD,

About the Author:

Sneha is a highly educated and experienced HR professional with strong interpersonal skills. With a rich educational background in Psychology with Human Resources Management and an Associate member of CIPD. She holds a diverse range of experience across industries and domains. A versatile, innovative, and creative leader with notable awards and recognition. Multi-skilled and committed to staying updated in the evolving HR landscape.