24 Nov

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Emotional Intelligence


Emotional intelligence enables leaders to engage meaningfully with people to help them achieve desired results. In order to engage effectively, a leader has to create an openness value system and use effective engagement behaviours. In this article, the structure of an openness value system will be briefly introduced, with more attention being given to effective engagement behaviours. (The openness value system will be discussed in more detail in a follow-up article).


Peter Senge considers openness as imperative for learning organisations. The concept openness reveals a value system with a very specific structure. The following elements could be considered as the core of an openness value structure:

  • Respect, honesty and trust: Critical prerequisite values for openness.
  • Reflective openness: Involves self-understanding and taking personal responsibility for change.
  • Interactive openness: The ability to share ideas convincingly, but also to listen with an open mind to other ideas.
  • Structural openness: All individuals are regarded as equals and contributions receive credit based on merit, irrespective of status.

An openness value system creates a culture that is conducive for effective leadership engagement.


Engagement behaviours enable leaders to develop meaningful relationships with people, facilitating the achievement of mutually beneficial and satisfying results. To engage effectively, leaders should be able to employ the following five engagement behaviours:

  • Connecting: Connecting means to unite and become one with your people or team. Sadly, this is where I believe most leaders fail. Leaders often live and operate in a world that is too far removed from ordinary people to be able to connect with them. Leaders could connect with people by disclosing themselves, sharing personal experiences and removing all barriers that separate them from followers. Without connecting, a leader is like a locomotive that is disconnected from the wagons of a train and therefore unable to lead.
  • Directing: Directing involves clearly defining expected results as well as the strategies and plans to achieve such results. All people in an organisation should share a common vision and be aligned to clearly defined goals, objectives and standards. Regular feedback on progress ensures that followers remain on track towards achieving results. People who are aligned with the direction provided by leaders usually tend to remain engaged and committed to organisations.
  • Influencing: Leaders influence followers when they assist them in making informed decisions and selecting effective behaviours that will contribute toward achieving desired results. This could be done by providing guidelines, making convincing recommendations, communicating relevant information, sharing of experience, and facilitating the effective exchange of ideas. In this way leaders ensure that followers remain focused and on track towards reaching a common destination.
  • Mobilising: Leaders mobilise people when they generate energy that activates behaviour, to provide momentum in the direction of defined results. This means leaders have to create passion, enthusiasm and excitement that will energise people and activate positive behaviour. Leaders can only mobilise people if they themselves are passionate, enthusiastic, excited and energised. This is a great way for leaders to create a high-performance culture where people are likely to experience job satisfaction. Followers who are motivated in this way, gather their own momentum that will be maintained, even when the leader withdraws.
  • Empowerment: Empowering means that leaders create the capacity needed by people to perform and achieve results. Leaders should empower people in four ways. Firstly, they should provide people with knowledge, skills and experience to perform competently. Secondly, leaders should provide people with decision-making skills and the authority required to make appropriate and informed decisions. Thirdly, leaders should ensure that people have the right tools and equipment to perform their tasks and lastly, they should create an environment conducive for performance. Empowered people are people with the desire and means to perform and achieve results.

Emotional IntelligenceThese five engagement behaviours could be applied at every level, and in all leadership situations. They are applicable in innovative leadership, transformational leadership, team leadership, individual leadership and change management. The effective use of these behaviours, however, requires a considerable amount of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence in leadership could therefore be regarded as the foundation of leadership development.


The effectiveness of all forms of leadership is dependent on the ability of a leader to engage with people. Leadership engagement is only possible in the presence of an openness value system and when leaders use effective engagement behaviours. Openness and the effectiveness of engagement behaviours could be significantly enhanced by applying emotional intelligence in leadership, a set of skills that leaders can learn to apply in any leadership situation.

Dr Niel Rall

CEO: Leadership Dynamics

Website: http://www.leadershipdynamics.co.za

Reference: Senge, P.M. The fifth discipline. The art and practice of learning organizations. New York, 1990.


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