by M. Campbell | Oct. 3, 2022 | 3 Min Read

Empowering Teams: Leadership and Emotional Intelligence


It’s time to prepare for “The Great Rehiring” by developing key skills in emotional intelligence so teams feel empowered at work.

If we’ve learned anything from “The Great Resignation” that impacted the workforce in early 2021, it’s that teams want authenticity, and they want to know that leaders care about their daily struggles. So, how do we reconnect with our teams as leaders? The short answer – leaders must embrace emotional intelligence, and here’s why:

A new Gallup workplace report states that stress is at an all-time high this year, with more employees feeling burnt out and unhappy at work because leaders aren’t paying attention to their well-being. When leaders recognize the stressors of work life, they can reconnect with their teams by building a supportive work culture that challenges these gaps.

At Unboxed, we give leaders the tools they need to model a positive workplace culture that encourages communication and connection. Let’s dive into what this looks like by defining emotional intelligence and sharing best practices for building this skill as a leader, so you can encourage your team’s growth and well-being.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, describes it as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and feelings, as well as those of others. He goes on to say that “Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal,” and those common goals can be found when you develop the proper skills to connect with others.

The Five Keys to Emotional Intelligence

These skills stem from Daniel Goleman’s five key components of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness — You understand your strengths and shortcomings, and how you respond in certain situations and to certain people.
  2. Self-regulation — The opposite of impulsiveness, you control your behavior through self-evaluation.
  3. Empathy – You’re a good listener and interpreter, attuned to body language and expressions.
  4. Motivation – You’re doing it for you, to fulfill your personal goals and needs, or to drive higher performance.
  5. Social Skills – You connect to others through active listening and strong verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

When you practice each of the five components of Goleman’s theory, you will develop strong leadership skills that support a healthy team environment.

How Do You "Feel"?

Have you ever worked with someone in a bad mood? Moods are not only contagious – but they can impact the way the brain responds to other people’s pain. A new study published in Psychophysiology suggests that bad moods impact the neural underpinnings of empathy. When you become self-aware of how moods affect people’s perceptions of one another, you can model self-awareness and create meaningful connections during 1:1’s with your team members.

Those same team members may create tense and toxic environments if they aren’t given the tools to handle anger, frustration, or stress. This is a lack of self-regulation, or skill to monitor emotional responses. Julia Henderson, CFO of Datatrak, addresses these emotions by expanding on the importance of self-regulation, “When emotions control us instead of us controlling them, situations can escalate into conflict.” When you learn how to regulate the emotions of your team, you can help de-escalate tense situations, so teams experience less conflict and more connection.

Empathy is the secret sauce to any healthy team dynamic. Cindy Wahler, a leadership consultant for Forbes, takes it a step further by saying, “When you demonstrate empathy and find many ways to show how you value your employees, you cultivate leaders and create high-performing teams.” Practicing empathy not only builds connection, but it encourages high performance through better communication. As a leader, it’s important for you to make empathy a daily practice so you can better understand your team’s dynamic.

While awareness, regulation, and empathy build connections, motivation keeps you energized. This motivation doesn’t stem from a raise or a promotion – it happens when you enjoy what you do. When teams see a leader passionate about their work, the excitement can spread within the culture.

Once you understand yourself and others, you can build a strong rapport with your team by expanding on social skills. Demonstrating empathy, active listening, and communicating verbally and non-verbally are key to developing a supportive team environment, and leaders can model these skills daily.

Best Practices to Build Emotional Intelligence

How can you apply these emotional intelligence skills within your team culture? Check out these five steps you can take today to challenge stress and improve team development:

  1. Record your observations and responses. This is the first step to practicing self-awareness and regulation. Write what went well in your interactions, and what you can work on to understand which skills you need to focus on to improve communication.
  2. Be proactive, not reactive. Sometimes, this means taking it slow so you can think through how you will respond. As a leader, you must regulate your emotions so you can set the standard for the rest of the team.
  3. Put yourself in people’s shoes. Ask yourself why someone may think or react in a certain way, before making a judgment. By demonstrating empathy, your team members will naturally do the same.
  4. Take responsibility for your team vs. placing blame. Blame gets you nowhere but showing up as a self-aware leader who cares will set the tone for your team culture.
  5. Ask for feedback from your supervisor – or your direct reports. Accountability is the key to growth, and it can be challenging to evaluate yourself with an objective lens. Ask your supervisor or your direct reports (because accountability works both ways!) the following questions to learn more about your emotional intelligence:

Am I aware of what’s happening around me? Do I regulate my emotions well? Do I appear motivated? Am I empathic? What are my social skills like?

When you lead teams with empathy and support, you teach individuals how to regulate their own emotions and stressors. It all starts with focusing first on your emotional intelligence so you can demonstrate it to those in your charge, but you don’t have to do this alone. To continue your development, consider training programs that focus on emotional intelligence, communication, and feedback to help start conversations that encourage a healthy workplace culture.

Take Action: Improve Your Leadership Training Today

Our Spoke® Learning Management System (LMS) at Unboxed Training & Technology does more than house your company’s content and training materials. Spoke® integrates individual and collaborative learning with practice. As a result, our custom and turn-key content is engaging, impactful, and can be customized to meet the goals of encouraging positive work culture.

Contact us today and see how our leadership training programs can make a difference for your employees and organization.

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