Career Advice Career Guidance and Counselling

Emotional and social intelligence is the key to leadership

There’s an old saying: people quit bosses, not jobs. How many times have you heard of someone leaving their job because of their boss, or jumping ship to another company just to continue working for the same boss?

The key component in the equation is leadership.

For me, a person’s strong emotional, as well as social, intelligence underpins their effectiveness as a leader, and fosters a positive climate for staff engagement.

I’ve led through many crises, including sub-standard financial performance during an economic downturn, morale issues arising from M&As or integrations, misalignment among local business leaders, and so on. Such situations entail a forceful, directive leadership style to hold the fort and keep the business afloat.

However, a dogmatic and dictatorial approach will quickly lose its appeal. As a result, emotional and social intelligence are more than just “nice to haves” in these cases. A leader’s effectiveness in (re)building team morale and staff engagement tends to be strongly related to their empathy, participatory coaching style and vision.

Last but not least, the ability to manage conflict during challenging times, both within a team or across business units, is a hallmark of an effective leader. Whether you are a factory production supervisor or the CEO of a listed company, the ability to recognise and understand the nature of conflict, as well as to bring about resolutions swiftly and fairly, will mould you into a strong leader. Inability to do so will come at a price – including damage to your personal and managerial credibility – which, in most cases, results in diminished business results and performance.

So if you’re on the lookout for effective leaders, do consider the candidate’s emotional and social intelligence, as well as their ability to manage conflict. Collectively, these attributes will enable the leader to build a positive team climate, which will lead to better staff retention, higher morale, enhanced productivity and, ultimately, better business results.


This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as The way to lead.