A person who is in touch with his or her feelings will have a stronger chance of effectively leading those he or she is responsible for leading.
Emotional intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ) is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to manage and monitor one’s own as well as other’s emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions (Salvoy & Mayer, 1990).
Daniel Goleman’s work in emotional intelligence has outlined five main areas of this intelligence.
They are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
These areas can be consciously cultivated to create spaces where more people can be productive, as their emotions will not rule over their reactions and interaction with the world around them. The higher the emotional intelligence, the more cooperation can be fostered. Emotional Intelligence is the new “smart.”
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Examples of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
As personalities differ from person to person, the creation of emotional intelligence in the workplace takes effort. Anyone who has ever worked in a toxic work environment can attest to the importance of increasing empathy in this space. People with high emotional intelligence can lead the charge to multiply examples of EI in the workplace.
Here are some examples of what emotional intelligence in the workplace looks like:
- People express themselves openly and respectfully without fear of offending coworkers.
- Resilience is evident when new initiatives are introduced.
- Flexibility is present.
- Employees spend time together outside of work.
- Freedom of creativity is celebrated and consistent.
- Active listening in meetings is the norm.
- Employees will find a compassionate ear when needed, as we all have bad days.
An archaic perception of leadership would be that a leader must squash their emotions. In today’s workplace, an effective leader can monitor and utilize emotions in such a way to regulate and motivate not only themselves but those around them. Healthy workplace environments don’t happen by accident; they are intentional because leaders are intentional.
Examples of High Emotional Intelligence in Leadership
America’s old and ingrained belief that a good CEO or Executive level leader is ruthless has been replaced with the rise of humanity conscious leaders. New leaders in various industries have embraced a human-centered approach to leading their companies.
When employees are more deeply connected to a vision for their company, and they are cared for in a broad sense rather than just their production value, better working environments are created.
A leader could be the most intelligent person in the room, but without a high EI score, this leader may fail to motivate employees. The presence of positive mood in leaders at work creates more effective and broader thought processes in certain types of decision-making abilities (George, 2000). Conversely, negative moods foster improved systematic information processing.
A leader with high-level emotional intelligence can navigate not just motivating and empowering employees, but also navigating complex and challenging decision making with the mastery of emotional response.
In other words, a leader must have the ability to process emotion to make sound decisions. It doesn’t mean that the leader will always be in a positive mood. It means that when a complicated issue erupts, that leader may have an adverse reaction that can aid them in making a good decision despite that negative reaction.
An example of where a leader may have a negative reaction would be to the presence of sexual harassment in their workplace. Having an angry response to the knowledge of its existence gives the leader the ability to focus and affect change.
With such a complex and high-risk decision-making need, a leader must effectively process that anger to make the best decision possible for the office as a whole.
Leaders are generally responsible for the following:
- development of a collective sense of goals, and a strategic plan for achieving them
- instilling in others knowledge and appreciation of the importance of work activities and behaviors
- generating and maintaining enthusiasm, confidence, and optimism as well as fostering cooperation and trust
- encouraging flexibility in decision making and embracing change
- establishing and maintaining a more profound, meaningful identity for the organization
Different emotions and moods serve different types of leadership situations. Developing a vision for an organization is a creative process. Positive affect enables the initiation of higher abilities for the utilization of creativity. Being able to communicate that vision to employees effectively is another use for emotional intelligence in leadership.
Here are four practical steps to creating vision in leadership:
- Be crystal clear about the desired destination, and identify values.
- Make the dream large. A good example is Disney; their vision is To Make People Happy.
- Communicate a strong purpose on multiple levels. Not all employees will feel the same about purpose. Offering various perspectives increases chances of organizational cultural connection.
- Set a strategic path for goal achievement.
When instilling the appreciation for work behaviors in employees, several levels are at play. A leader must be effective at communicating the problems being faced, in addition to relaying the confidence placed in those employees to solve problems within the bigger vision of the organization.
There are subtle emotional differences needed when interacting and communicating these with employees. A negative affect may allow for deeper reasoning when complex problems arise.
Here are four practical steps to help employees see the appreciation for their work behaviors:
- Create a focus on employee development. Employees will feel more purpose after skill mastery.
- Reinforce and reward learning behavior.
- Leaders show their own areas of development to lead the way.
- Encourage autonomy. Trust can develop when employees are allowed to make their own decisions in their work activities.
Generating enthusiasm in a workplace can be a difficult task as not all people are motivated and enthusiastic in the same way or on the same level. A leader with high emotional intelligence can read their employees’ accurate reactions well.
There’s no faking it where this generation is concerned. If people aren’t genuinely engaged in working for the vision, ambivalence and apathy can erupt.
Here are four practical steps to effectively build enthusiasm in an organization:
- Leaders share their optimism and belief in the “why” or vision with absolute passion.
- Create an environment where people want to give their very best effort.
- Allow space for employees to talk about their needs and desires concerning the company’s growth.
- Attitude will determine direction.
Leaders who have high levels of emotional intelligence will understand the derivation of emotion and will, therefore, flex when a different perspective is warranted. Having the ability to know that an activity that warrants different emotional states gives a leader the ability to show up with what is needed, when it is needed.
The organization won’t benefit when a leader shows up to a creative meeting in a negative state. It will also not help when a leader shows up to excite the room, and the employees’ feelings and emotions are not being accurately assessed.
Here are four practical ways to build flexible thinking:
- Cultivate new experiences (daydreaming, etc.).
- Active listening and gathering opposing opinions.
- Be a participant in the cultivation, not just a spectator. Team effort counts.
- Engaging with employees and practicing flexible scenarios.
Culture is key for organizations. Volkswagen’s recent ad campaign for the Women’s World Cup is a great example. Their donation of ad space for meaningful causes shows the powerful connection the company has with purpose and that culture motivates employees to show up to create something emotionally charged.
Without culture, an organization will feel like work. With rich, deep, emotionally accurate culture, motivation is shared, and jobs aren’t so much work, as they are a purpose.
Here are four practical ways to improve culture:
- Utilize the performance/ values matrix with all employees (Edmonds, 2017).
- Demonstrate trust and respect for team members.
- Make values as important as results. For instance, integrity, kindness, and citizenship should be a part of the daily reality of the organization.
- Create an organizational constitution with a “servant” mentality in mind.
Real Life Examples of Using EI in Education
Self-Awareness and Emotion Management
Creating a “take a break” or “feelings” corner of a classroom can enable young students to step away to identify and explore their emotions. This allows kids to step away before an outburst or a situation where the child can no longer be kind occurs. Students can develop the self-awareness needed to create a safe and productive classroom.
For Middle and High School students creating opportunities for metacognition is very beneficial not only for their education but also their wellbeing. A great example of this is having students create autobiographies. Cultivating opportunities for the connection of adolescent life to educational materials is powerful.
Create an atmosphere where empathy is celebrated. Provide opportunities for real-life practice of empathy, for example: sitting with someone new at lunch, interviewing classmates, or a classroom charity project.
Random Acts of Kindness groups are becoming more and more popular in schools. With an adult supervising and ensuring mindfulness and thoughtfulness, it can be a fantastic way for kids to act on empathy. Both the group and its recipients benefit from the acts of kindness.
Teaching effective ways for students to communicate in the classroom is a great way to foster emotional intelligence. When kids have appropriate assertive abilities, their values are communicated, and their needs are met.
A fantastic example of fostering a culture of collaboration in education is a character checklist. For the classroom, create a chart of desired cooperative behavior. When a student behaves in one of these desired ways, a check would be placed in the chart.
Setting weekly cooperation goals for the entire classroom by increasing these behaviors class-wide is something to celebrate!
Here are some examples of desired cooperative behavior.
- Listen for understanding
- Sharing with others
- Taking turns
- Compromise during conflict
- Volunteering to do your part
- Being an encourager
- Showing people they’re needed
- Being an includer
Calling on emotional intelligence when in conflict is a difficult task for many students. Improving communication skills aids in improving conflict resolution, but having a construct for what resolutions look like will help kids know what is expected.
A proven example of conflict resolution is allowing kids to write out the conflict, instead of verbalizing their sides. It allows kids to cool down and more accurately communicate their complaint and their needs.
This example also allows kids to be heard, as there will be no instances of interrupting when they are communicating in writing.
5 Emotional Intelligence Examples from Movies
There are plentiful examples of emotional intelligence in the movies. Here are some specific examples and the areas of emotional intelligence represented in several genres. It’s so powerful when a movie can evoke emotion, but also make you think about what it’s like to manage that emotion in real life.
1. Inside Out
This Pixar masterpiece is an incredible display of emotional intelligence. The colorful characters all represent the core emotions of a young girl handling a difficult time in her life.
The richness of the emotional content in this film could be a perfect lesson in teaching emotional intelligence.
Emotions matter, and it’s ok not to be ok sometimes. Kids knowing that emotions are there for a reason is an excellent introduction to learning how to self manage.
In the Pursuit of Happyness
This movie is based on a true story and displays some brilliant examples of emotional intelligence. The characters show self-management, commitment, empathy, social skills, and relationship building throughout the entire film. The main character’s ability to overcome circumstances that were so dire shows incredible perseverance.
There were also examples of low emotional intelligence in the film. The lack of empathy from his wife when she left them to take care of herself is a prime example. Several outbursts were understandable, yet good examples of when emotions overtake someone in crisis.
This American classic shows empathy, relationship management, social skills, communication, and cooperation throughout its brilliant coverage of interaction with a lovable alien.
Young Elliott navigates the post-divorce realm of a kid trying to find his way through Middle School. The wealthy family interaction and the friendly cooperation that ensues throughout an unexpected and stressful interaction with the Government villains is emotional intelligence leadership in action.
This haunting film portrays resilience, empathy, and self-management. The main character creates a safe environment for her offspring by self-managing her emotional reactions to the horrifying situation in which they both find themselves. The mother was self-aware and able to protect her son while managing to persevere through impossible circumstances.
Throughout this film, self-awareness is a consistent example. The main character exhibits very low levels of self-awareness throughout his journey to reclaim his former glory. Personal growth arises from the bedrock of self-awareness, and without it, cultivating emotional intelligence is impossible.
General Examples of Low EQ
When someone exhibits low measures of EQ, there are many ways it can be behaviorally visible. Here are a few examples of what it looks like when someone is operating with low levels of EQ.
- A person with low EQ will likely have emotional outbursts, typically out of proportion to the situation at hand.
- People with low EQ also have difficulty listening to others.
- Becoming argumentative is another example of behavior that is elicited from someone with low EQ.
- Another sign of low EQ is blaming others.
- Another example is believing that others are overly sensitive because the person with EQ cannot understand how others feel.
- Difficulty maintaining friendships and other relationships with others is another sign.
- Stonewalling, or refusing to see other’s points of view, is another example.
An Interesting Case Study
A case study (Dearborn, 2002) done to validate the work of Daniel Goleman in emotional intelligence. The research supports the need to increase Return On Investment (ROI) for individualized training in the concepts of emotional intelligence for improved leadership capabilities.
The need for self-directed learning of emotional intelligence abilities is highlighted. A traditional training setting was found to be less effective than an approach that is individually focused. The development of emotional intelligence is subjective and also depends on the organizational culture.
The research of Rutgers professor Goleman has created a framework for the development of emotional intelligence usage in organizations. Developing leaders and understanding what information they put into action in their organization is vital to initiative success. What was found was that most leaders would attend training, get energized, and then return to their organization without changing much of their approach.
With individualized assessment and prospective development, a better ROI can be achieved. When the people and interconnective effort of an organization starts to matter more than the bottom line, something organic occurs. When a vision is caught by more than just the leaders, and the employees adopt the vision as a mission, the organizational design is more likely to produce the desired outcome.
A Take-Home Message
Increasing emotional intelligence in any setting will deepen levels of human understanding and functionality. Improvements in empathy, social skills, self-awareness, motivation, and self-regulation will serve everyone. Being intelligent is great, but knowing how to use that intelligence is something even more impactful.
The fact that these abilities can be cultivated and nurtured is an exciting concept. A culture with more individuals who score high in emotional intelligence would see less violence and dysfunction. This culture would instead see higher levels of cooperation and human connection. A high EI culture would be able to resolve conflicts and have functional communication between human beings.
An effort to increase these abilities should be a foundational part of every organization and family. Feelings should not be ignored, but rather taught as signals to cue appropriate response and behavior. Imagine the possibilities if a culture embraced emotions not as indulgent, but rather as information to make better decisions.
Thanks for reading.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Emotional Intelligence Exercises for free.
If you wish to learn more, our Emotional Intelligence Masterclass© is a 6-module emotional intelligence training package for practitioners which contains all the materials you’ll need to become an emotional intelligence expert, helping your clients harness their emotions and cultivate emotional connection in their lives.
- Salovey, P., & Mayer, J.D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality,
- George, J. M. (2000). Emotions and Leadership: The Role of Emotional Intelligence. Human Relations, 53(8), 1027–1055.
- Edmonds, S. C. (2017). Building a purposeful, positive, productive culture. Leader to Leader, 2017(84), 42–47.
- Dearborn, K. (2002). Studies in Emotional Intelligence Redefine Our Approach to Leadership Development. Public Personnel Management, 31(4), 523–530.