8th October 2020

Equipping your leaders with emotional intelligence

4th December, 2018

Jayson Darby

The concept of EI can be summarised as “the capacity to harmonise thought and emotion”. By this we mean an individual’s ability to understand and control their own emotions, as well as recognise and manage those of others. This requires a person to be self-aware, perceptive and able to regulate emotional responses in various situations.


“Your trait emotional intelligence can be described as a constellation of emotional perceptions, your emotional world.”– Dr K.V. Petrides, Director of the London Psychometric Laboratory, University College London (UCL)


Emotional intelligence (EI) is a powerful tool that, if mastered correctly, can help leaders tackle a variety of challenges, whether that is in recruitment, development or employee engagement.


The role of EI in leadership


Employee engagement is a critical driver of business success. Companies with high levels of engagement exhibit lower employee turnover (40% lower), higher productivity (18% higher) and twice the annual net profit [Engage for Success]. With leaders responsible for driving and maintaining engagement within an organisation, levels of engagement represent a key indicator of leadership success.


Leaders have a significant impact on employee engagement, which can be measured through the relationships employees have, the role they do, and the reward they receive. It’s important to consider a leader’s personality traits and how these impact the drivers of engagement.  


A recent study from Thomas International looked at the EI of 10 General Managers from a successful golf and leisure company and the workplace engagement of 534 of their staff to explore this relationship. An important point to note is that each of these General Managers were responsible for autonomous business units, and as such they oversee several other managers, departments and staff. In this way, the behaviours associated with emotional intelligence (EI) of the General Managers set the tone and define the culture for the whole business unit. Therefore, the impact of their EI extends beyond their relationship with their immediate employees but permeates throughout the unit as a whole.


Results showed that leaders with higher emotion perception (the capacity to perceive and understand their own and others’ emotions) lead teams with a greater sense of voice and togetherness at work. This suggests that if leaders are able to recognise subtle emotional reactions and adjust their style accordingly in order to motivate their team, they are able to facilitate a greater sense of trust and cooperation, resulting in employees being more likely to express their ideas and opinions and feel appreciated.


When leaders regulated their emotional responses, employees reported greater clarity around their objectives and purpose at work. This implies that leaders who can remain calm and composed, are likely to communicate more clearly when delegating goals and tasks and trust their staff with more autonomy.


Leaders who see the positive, even in negative situations and who view the future positively (higher optimism) had staff with a higher sense of growth, challenge and enjoyment in their work. If leaders are more adept at seeing opportunities in most situations, including during times of stress, this may allow them to better understand how their team can best contribute to successful outcomes, based on identifying their individual strengths. They can then allocate appropriately challenging work and development opportunities.


Leaders who can better understand and manage their emotions and those of others have more engaged staff. Leaders should consider the potential to develop their awareness of their emotional intelligence which would help to:


·      Enhance their interactions with their employees

·      Build trust and minimise conflict

·      Identify the needs and talents of their people

·      Delegate challenging work that plays to an individual’s strengths

·      Inspire their people to grow and develop in their role


When taken into consideration, what becomes apparent is that organisations need emotionally intelligent leaders who can recognise the impact that they have on their employees and use this in a positive way to boost levels of engagement. This in turn will lead to improved organisational outcomes.


So, how can you identify and develop your future leaders?


For instance, Wiltshire Council is taking an innovative approach to staff development by introducing the use of psychometric assessments into its leadership and management programmes.


The assessments it’s deploying include the Personal Profile Analysis (PPA), which provides an insight into how people behave at work, and Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue), which assesses how well people understand and manage their emotions.


Judy Vanderpump, Organisational Development Consultant at Wiltshire Council, explains: “A successful leader has to have a good level of self-awareness. They need to understand their strengths and limitations and how to modify and adapt their behaviour in different situations. By doing this, they can get the most out of their teams.


“We continue to be impressed with the accuracy of the profile reports. Staff constantly feedback to us on how well the reports capture their key behavioural traits and characteristics. The use of Thomas psychometric tools is now a key part of the selection process for anyone joining the Council at manager or head of service level.”


Is this approach proving effective? Judy believes so: “We have recently undertaken a transformation of our Adult Social Care Service and 90 percent of those promoted into more senior roles had taken the Thomas assessments as part of our leadership programme. For me, that shows a very clear link between the assessments and success as those candidates are demonstrating the skills required to be a good manager and leader.”




Wiltshire Council’s experience shows the real mix of things which need to be considered when identifying and developing leaders.  It’s not just a question of spotting people with the right leadership traits.  It’s also about knowing how to develop them, making them self-aware so that they will progress and equipping them to work well with colleagues and teams.


Although it’s common to think psychometrics can only be used for recruitment purposes, they can play a hugely important role in development to ensure you develop the right people into the right roles for maximum business impact. For more information about the psychometric assessments discussed in this piece visit www.thomasinternational.net.  



For more information about how your organisation can support mental health and wellbeing in the workplaceby developing the emotional intelligence of leaders, register hereto receive Mad World News and updates about the Mad World Summit

Jayson Darby

Jayson Darby is Head of Psychology at Thomas International. Working with a team of consultants and analysts, Jayson is responsible for delivering solutions for our clients that are grounded in psychological methods and hard data. Jayson works with both our UK and International network of partners and advisors, ensuring that the Thomas experience and standards are consistent around the world. As Head of Psychology, Jayson works on a range of projects with our clients, such as the design and delivery of talent benchmarking programmes, as well as the development of new products and solutions at Thomas.

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