Emotional Intelligence in Uncertain Times for Leaders


At the Sesan Kareem Institute, we frequently emphasise why emotional intelligence is critical for leadership success. Whether you’re a business leader, political leader, spiritual leader or a leader at your home, improving your emotional vocabulary, awareness, and understanding will help you to succeed in your leadership roles.

By the way, we are all leaders in our individual spheres of influence. Leading people comes with responsibility and authority. It is a tough job to influence different people with different personalities and emotional wavelengths.  However, great leaders are people-oriented; they are those who have mastered the science and art of getting the best from their team members.

In our COVID-19-ravaged world, leaders require a high dose of emotional mastery during these tough times to navigate challenges and create new opportunities for their people. Therefore, leaders who desire to succeed must first master their own emotions and manage other people’s emotions effectively.

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Why leaders need emotional intelligence

There are five critical reasons why emotional mastery is essential for leaders. In this edition we will discuss the first two reasons.


  1. Wellbeing

The first reason while leaders must improve their emotional stability during these difficult times is because emotions affect the wellbeing of the leader and the entire workforce. Let’s face it. Over the last 12 months, we’ve experienced a lot of unpleasant feelings – from stress, anxiety, boredom, frustration to worry, fear, anger and loneliness. What studies have shown us is that for both adults and children, when we experience a lot of consistent, unpleasant emotions, we go into survival mode. We initiate a flight, fight or freeze response.

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As a matter of truth, the part of our brains responsible for good feelings literally get cut off when we are experiencing high levels of stress. However, moderate levels of stress are acceptable, even necessary. For instance, the stress associated with learning a new thing is a moderate stress and is a good one. Unfortunately, what we are discussing here is the bad stress.

As a leader, many of your workers are already worried, frustrated and overwhelmed with the socio-economic impact of the pandemic and it may look like they have attention problem. The truth however may be that they’ve had so much stress that hasn’t been managed effectively and it’s manifesting itself in their wellbeing.

Pleasant emotions are generally very helpful for wellbeing. For example, when we experience calmness, serenity and inspiration, the parts of our brain responsible for thriving light up. Thus, the bottom-line includes: one, we have to manage stress effectively (our own and our team members); two, we have to create a work environment where people feel a sense of safety and trust, as well as ownership and togetherness. This isn’t easy to create and maintain. But we must try as leaders. Three, we have to create as many opportunities as possible for ourselves and for our employees to experience the calmness, serenity and inspiration essential for optimum wellbeing.

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  1. Relationships

The second reason emotional intelligence matters for leaders is that they affect the quality of our relationships. At the Sesan Kareem Institute, I often discuss emotions as signals to engage or disengage. This occurs for our own experience of emotion.  There are days you wake up and you feel, “I want to meet everybody I can talk to today.” Other days, you wake up and feel frustrated or stressed and you’re like, “I don’t really like to talk to anyone today.” However, as a leader, you must not allow your feelings to dictate your actions.

What is fascinating about emotions is that we’re observing the world around us every day. We are noticing our team members’ body language, voices, vocal tones and facial expressions. What studies have shown us is that individuals who display a lot of unpleasant emotions are sending signals not to engage. On the flip side, those who display pleasant emotions are sending positive signals for people to engage them.

When it comes to our team members they may be displaying a lot of unpleasant emotions because of the tough times the world has been in. They may feel anxious, stressed, frustrated or act inappropriately. My hope is that you will see that as a signal to engage. Because what is beneath that behaviour is a need that is not met. To get the best out of your team you must engage them even at their lowest point.

Achieving Spiritual wellbeing

In conclusion, I would like to offer you a simple exercise. Over the next few days, take a moment and just think about the different people that you work with. Write their names down, and just jot down the first feeling that comes to mind around that person. Ask yourself, does that feeling influence the way I approach that person, the way I engage that person, the way I greet that person, the way I listen to that person?

What this exercise can do is to improve your self-awareness about the quality of your relationships.

Action plan: Strive to intentionally slow down to be more conscious about how you feel each moment. Also, be conscious about the signals other people are sending to you when they disengage or engage.

Affirmation: I master my emotion. I am blessed and highly favoured.


Sesan Kareem serves as Regional Manager at Pharmaplus, www.pharmaplus.com. ng, and the Principal Consultant at Sesan Kareem Institute, www. sesankareem.com.ng


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