Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence in Leadership: How to improve motivation in your team

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Learn how to lead and manage your team using best-selling author, Daniel Goleman’s, psychological theory on emotional intelligence.

Key points:

  • Managers with emotional intelligence (EQ) achieve objectiveness through their self-awareness, which promotes productive, motivated, and equal workplaces
  • Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence theory outlines five components of EQ: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills
  • Emotional intelligence can be applied to meet goals and targets, as well as create a happier and healthier working culture

Who is Daniel Goleman?

Scientific journalist, author and psychologist, Daniel Goleman, popularised the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) in 1995, in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

Goleman is not the founder of emotional intelligence theory, otherwise known as ‘EQ’.

He developed a framework of five key components that make up emotional intelligence, plus a range of skills that can be developed and improved, so it’s possible for anyone to become more emotionally intelligent.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and feelings, as well those of others.

As a manager, you can apply emotional intelligence to achieve self-awareness, objectivity and equality, all in the name of improving results, workplace culture and employee fulfilment.

Goleman breaks down EQ into five components:

#1. Self-awareness

#2. Self-regulation

#3. Motivation

#4. Empathy

#5. Social skills

The five components of emotional intelligence in the workplace

1. Self-awareness

Emotions affect your team.

  • For example, a manager in a bad mood, with no self-awareness, makes bad and biased choices.
  • A manager, in a bad mood, with heightened self-awareness realises and isolates negativity, refocusing on the task at hand.

If you’re self-aware, you know and feel comfortable with yourself.

You understand your strengths and shortcomings, how you respond in certain situations and to certain people. That information gives you the power to meet goals, motivate, and create a fair and inclusive culture. It tempers your communication style and gives you reason to listen to people around you.

In other words, you’re self-aware enough to know when you need help, from who and how you can apply your characteristics to achieve an outcome.

Luka, a newly promoted manager in an office environment, is helping his team complete their day-to-day tasks. His actions are being interpreted as micromanaging.

Luka senses the tension but hasn’t made the mental jump from worker to manager. He doesn’t realise his actions are detrimental to team performance.

When Luka’s employees say: “Don’t worry, you’re busy, I can do it” he doesn’t hear the truth of the statement – that his focus should be elsewhere – and assumes they’re demotivated.

To gain more self-awareness as a new manager, Luka could keep a self-reflective journal, to help him process the situation. Or, he could use the Einsenhower Matrix to help him prioritise and delegate.

2. Self-regulation

Think back to your last employer who acted impulsively, or irrationally. Did you trust them? What was work like under their watch?

An emotionally charged environment is usually fraught with unresolved conflict. It feels tense and distracting. You probably felt like you couldn’t contribute without fear of reprimand.

Calm in the face of adversity is not a natural response, or something you’re born with.

The emotional brain is far faster (and older) than the rational frontal cortex. It sends us into fight or flight whenever we need to defend ourselves, and it can happen at innocuous and frustrating moments. For example, when an employee challenges your decision, or if you’re asked a question you don’t know the answer to in a meeting.

Self-regulation is a skill you need to practice and there are great rewards if you can master it.

You become approachable, able to deal with conflict, create a nurturing environment and lead by reliable example.

3. Motivation

Goleman’s third component refers to motivation for enjoyment, rather than money or a promotion.

What is motivation for enjoyment? You need to:

  • Understand why you are passionate about your job
  • Realise how much you want to lead
  • Have an optimistic outlook.

Even in the face of a bad day, you can still find the silver lining, feel energised to fix problems and determined to cheer the people around you onto the next success.

It’s self-motivation. You’re doing it for you, to fulfil your personal goals and needs, to drive higher performance.

4. Empathy

If you can understand the emotions of others and relate to them, you can see problems from all perspectives and make objective decisions. Empathy defuses bias.

Being empathic means you’re a good listener and interpreter, attuned to body language and expressions.

Your employee worked hard on a report, but a mistake at the beginning has affected the results. The mistake is a mathematical flaw, stemming from a missing qualification. The employee is not lazy and does not have poor attention to detail.

On the one hand, it is your duty to point out the mistake and help them to rectify it, but you sense doing so will deepen an existing insecurity. You could say:

I can see you’re disappointed with my feedback, but please don’t be concerned. You’ve put a lot of hard work in, and it won’t take much to get things back on track. That’s why we have quality checks. You can always to come to me for support, and if you would like to improve your skills in this area, I can arrange some training.

An empathic manager is considerate, balanced, and fair.

Applying empathy gives you a superpower. You can read what your employees need from you – when they need challenging, when they need constructive feedback, and when they need more training.

5. Social skills

It’s important to build a strong rapport with your team.

Not only is it part of good leadership, but it’s also essential to boosting staff productivity and increasing loyalty.

Having solid social skills such as active listening, verbal communication, nonverbal communication, leadership and persuasiveness enables you to connect with your team.

How to handle low emotional intelligence

Symptoms of low emotional intelligence will impact workplace performance, and no one has time for it.

Argumentative and emotional workplaces, where blame culture is rife and no one listens, lack leaders with emotional intelligence. If it sounds like where you work, or like your team, all is not lost and it can be fixed.

Goleman believes that emotional intelligence can be learnt or improved. His five components make it easier for you identify areas of improvement and work towards understanding emotions and managing them.

Having strong emotional intelligence skills will enable you to empathise with your team, communicate effectively and manage conflict. These three capabilities are qualities of an effective leader or manager.

Leadership pushed to the limit

The skills our apprentices learn on a Leadership & Management course can prepare them for almost anything.

Listen to our ILM Level 5 delegate Jamie Davies, talk to us about flexing his leadership muscles in the Jordanian desert, during his time as a recruit on SAS: Who Dares Wins.

How you can use emotional intelligence to help motivate your team?

Through practicing emotional intelligence at work, you can help your team strive for success and reach their full potential.

Goleman’s motivation element is key here – motivation is an infectious quality. Through being self-motivated, you can inspire members of your team to become motivated.

Utilising your social skills, another of Goleman’s components, will play a part in encouraging your team to go the extra mile. If you form a strong relationship with your employees, they’re more likely to go above and beyond.

The advantages and disadvantages of emotional intelligence in the workplace

There are pros and cons. Emotional intelligence in the workplace is extremely beneficial, but there can be disadvantages to using EQ too.

Emotional intelligence can be used to manipulate others. While this shouldn’t be on the agenda for anyone in leadership or management, it’s important to be aware that emotionally intelligent members of your team might use EQ to their advantage.

However, generally, the use of emotional intelligence at work has a positive impact. It can increase job satisfaction and performance through the following:

  • Controlling stress and minimising conflict
  • Creating smoother, easier adjustments
  • Improving communication and teamwork
  • Increasing motivation
  • Promoting a positive work environment

Above all, as a leader or manager, you’ll be effective and respected.

To improve your emotional intelligence, you can identify your weaknesses, referring to Goleman’s five components, and ask for help and feedback from your own manager. Once you have identified the areas that need attention, you can actively practice emotional intelligence.

8 ways to improve your emotional intelligence

  • Keep a journal, record your observations and responses and get to know yourself. Learn what your values are and why they are important to you, what motivates you, what riles you up
  • Ask for feedback from your seniors: “Am I aware of what’s happening around me? Do I regulate your emotions well? Do I appear motivated? Am I empathic? What are my social skills like?
  • Take responsibility and stop blaming everyone around you
  • Take it slow and don’t react, take a minute to think and breathe
  • Practice seeing the good in the world
  • Put yourself in other people’s shoes: “I wonder what Ty would think about that? What about Olivia?
  • Sit back and watch body language, ask yourself “What does that posture mean?” and imagine, “How would I respond to that?
  • Practice responding to emotions, whether you’re reading a book or watching the TV, take a second and think how you would advise, comfort, or support a person in need.
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