High emotional intelligence is a predictor of leadership success and unlike IQ, which tends to be static, it is something that can grow. 

“When top leaders are assessed on their emotional intelligence (EI), they all have high levels,” executive coach Bibi Sheikh, of coachresults, told those who attended our Developing Emotionally Intelligent Leaders through Communication & Connection webinar this week.  

“That’s not the case with IQ (intelligence quotient),” she added. 

“A leader can be the most intelligent person in the room, but without a high EI score, they may fail to motivate themselves, as well as their teams. That’s not what we want from leaders.” 

Ms Sheikh said there were three tenets of emotional intelligence: 

  • self-awareness 
  • self-navigation and 
  • empathising and connecting with others. 

“Being able to recognise the emotions that you have and how those emotions motivate you or limit you is vital,” Ms Sheikh said. 

“Self-awareness allows you to be conscious of the impact of your emotions, not only on yourself but also on others. If something does frustrate you and it’s bubbling underneath, and it comes out, it’s not just you that it affects.  

“Reflecting on and recognising your own patterns is really important, in terms of emotional self-awareness. Ask yourself, when you’re stressed: ‘Is my behavior different? Is my communication different?’ 

“When we get triggered, everything changes. We see almost a different person and the more we do that, our brains are wired to form and follow patterns and therefore it will become an automatic reaction. 

“People who are emotionally intelligent are able to navigate through that and say: ‘I feel pressure, I feel stressed, but I’m not going to lose it’.” 

They do this through self-navigation (self-regulation).  

“It’s about pausing and taking a step back before taking action,” Ms Sheikh said. 

“Pause and breathe. Take notice of what’s going on internally and think about what we want to gain from the situation. It’s so important to take that step back.” 

Fellow speaker Sam D'Angelo, Performance Coach & Director, KinetiK Global, added: “When you are triggered, you need to learn how to create that space between stimulus and response.  

“Anything you say after you create that space is going to be better than what you would have said right at that point in time.  

“If you don’t learn to control your emotions, then what you’re doing is snapping and creating a fractured wound in that relationship, which makes it hard to motivate your people. If you don’t have psychological trust, then that connection isn’t there. That doesn’t help, as a leader.  

“Your job is to create psychological trust, which has preservation of relationship, first and foremost, and then you’ve got to manage the emotion along the way. Many people don’t think about their emotions and how much they impact who they are.”  

Finally, effective leaders know how to connect with their staff. 

“The reason it’s so important to have EI now as a leader is because we’ve got evidence to show that connection is so important,” Ms Sheikh said. 

“You can’t be a strong leader without being able to understand, navigate and connect with your employees. 

“Communication and EI are so important for being a good leader, in terms of understanding your team. In fact, 80% of workplace challenges are usually because of a communication problem. 

“Listening is probably one of the key things you can do as a leader in order to show that you do value that connection with your staff. Not thinking about what you’re going to do or say next, but actually listening.” 

Formulating noble goals that are aligned to everybody’s achievement is crucial. 

“In order to understand your own noble goal, you need to understand your ‘why’,” Ms Sheikh said. 

“What's your purpose? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Question yourself. As a leader, you can create a culture by your behavior.  

“You can build trust around yourself by listening. People need to follow a goal and if your goal is noble because you’ve put that purpose into action, it’s going to be value-driven.  

People will see that. It’s like a magnet. They will be attracted to it. They will want to follow you. So, if you’re taking time to listen to their needs and applying their needs into a noble goal, people will automatically follow you. It will create opportunities for you to communicate and connect.” 

Ms Sheikh likened communication to an iceberg. 

“Our communicational behaviour is the externalisation of our thinking and feeling,” she said. 

“If you think about an iceberg, you’ve got your values, beliefs, emotions and thoughts beneath the water line. 

“What people see, however, is the tip of the iceberg, and that’s your behavior.  

“So, below the surface is what we’re thinking and feeling, and those thoughts and feelings are driving our behavior. But no one else sees what’s going on underneath, only we do. They (our thoughts and feelings) have meaning only to ourselves. That meaning, in a split second, drives our behavior – good or bad – and comes to the surface.  

“When we’re thinking about our feelings and they’re aligned with other people, we can actually connect. We can build rapport and we feel safe and secure, which is great.  

“But, when we’re not aligned – and it’s usually when something is at stake like an important conversation or something that has a big impact — then these conversations trigger our emotional responses, fight or flight. That manifests in terms of our behavior – silence or violence. Neither are good for connection or communication.” 

Ms Sheikh said connection was vital in the post-COVID workplace. 

“Historically, you didn’t bring emotions to the workplace; they stayed at home,” she said. 

“But post-COVID and in the world we live in now, connection has never been as prevalent or relevant. We are living in what is known as a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.  

“One of the biggest things that people faced during lockdowns was that loss of human connection and that caused: 

  • a lack of motivation 
  • boredom 
  • disengagement and 
  • frustration. 

“As a leader working with your team, you’ve got to recognise the physical effects of COVID, as well as the mental attachments that go with those physical effects. 

“You want to re-engage your team. You want to talk through their resentment and frustration so you can come out the other side and know that you have got connection and trust with them, and you can build rapport with them.  

“In the light of the pandemic, we have seen how much EI can support us in facilitating our capacity for things like resilience, motivation, empathy, reasoning, stress management and communication. 

“With all of the positivity around EI, why wouldn’t you focus on it?” 


References: Six Seconds, Daniel Goleman, HBR, Forbes, The Chimp Paradox.

KinetiK Global has a number of Coaches certified in Emotional Intelligence.   

They can assist with standalone Emotional Intelligence Assessments, or combine these with one on one or team coaching. 

 Alternatively, they have an Agile Leadership Team Coaching program that covers the four pillars of: 

  • Emotional Intelligence 
  • Resilience 
  • Effective Communication 
  • Self Care 

 To enquire about an Emotional Intelligence Coaching program, please email training@aigroup.com.au or visit www.kinetikglobal.com

Wendy Larter

Wendy Larter is the Senior Content Writer at Ai Group. She is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.