By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

According to Daniel Goleman, there are 5 key elements of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Self-Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skills


Self-awareness is about being aware of different aspects of the self, including traits, behaviours and feelings. It is the process in which you become the focus of your attention. Being self-aware means that you always know how you feel, and you know how your emotions and actions can impact those around you. When you are a leader, self-awareness means that you have a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses, and you behave with humility. To be able to improve your self-awareness, you need to reflect on your behaviours, actions and feelings.

According to Tasha Eurich there are two broad categories of self-awareness:

  1. Internal self-awareness: This represents how clearly you see your values, passions, aspirations, fit with the environment, reactions (thoughts, feelings, behaviours, strengths, and weaknesses), and the impact you have on others. Internal self-awareness can be associated with higher job and relationships satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness.
  2. External self-awareness: This means understanding how other people view you. If you understand how other people view you, then you will be able to show empathy better and understand their perspectives. As a leader, if you see yourself as your team members see you, then your team members will tend to have a better relationship with you as their leader, they will feel more satisfied with you and view you as more effective in general.

Eurich then went further to identify four leadership archetypes of self-awareness:

This indicates that leaders should focus on improving both internal and external self-awareness to be able to be the best leader they can possibly be.


Self-regulation is the ability to control or redirect impulses and moods. It is the ability that you have to monitor and manage your energy, emotions, thoughts and behaviours. This is important as it will help you to create positive and loving relationships, improve your overall well-being and it helps you to deal with stressors in your life.

The ability you have to self-regulate as an adult has roots in your development during childhood. It is an important skill to learn how to self-regulate, and children learn it for emotional maturity and later social connections. Emotional maturity reflects the ability you have to face emotional, social and cognitive threats in the environment you are in with patience and thoughtfulness. Mindfulness relates to the ability to self-regulate.

Practicing self-regulation involves taking a pause between a feeling and an action. You need to take the time to think things through, make a plan, and wait patiently before you act. If you have poor self-regulation skills then you might lack self-confidence, self-esteem and struggle to deal with stress and frustrations. Self-regulation helps you to act in accordance with your deeply held values and express yourself appropriately.

Leaders who exhibit good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and responses to situations and other people. These leaders do not have angry outbursts or make snap judgements. They are honest, and their actions are in line with their values. They are adaptable, and capable of working with different people in different situations. Leaders who can self-regulate are able to look at the whole picture reasonably and put the situation in perspective.


Motivation is the action that pushes you to want to achieve your goals, feel more fulfilled and want to improve your overall quality of life. Motivation is the “why” behind everything you do, and the reason you might take up a cause, commit to an action, or work toward a goal. Everything you do is motivated by some combination of conscious and unconscious need or desire. Self-motivation requires you to believe in yourself, stay inspired, and keep going despite setbacks.

Self-motivation for leaders is vital as leaders should be self-motivated before they can try to motivate their team members. Self-motivated leaders work consistently towards their goals, and they have extremely high standards for the quality of their work. Self-motivation is one trait that virtually all effective leaders have. They are driven to achieve beyond expectations, their own and everyone else’s. Plenty of people are motivated by external factors, such as a big salary or the status that comes from having an impressive title or being part of a prestigious company. By contrast, those with leadership potential are motivated by a deeply embedded desire to achieve for the sake of achievement.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, emotionally understand what other people are feeling, see things from their perspective, and imagine yourself in their place.

It is critical for leaders to have empathy as this will help them to manage a successful team or organisation. Leaders who have empathy are able to put themselves in someone else’s situation. They help to develop their team members, challenge those who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback and listen to those who need it.

For more information on how to be an empathetic leader, please read our previous blogs:

How to be an empathetic leader – part 1

How to be an empathetic leader – part 2

Social skills

Social skills are the skills people use to communicate and interact with other people. This includes both verbal and non-verbal communication, gestures, body language and their personal appearance. Social skills are important to have as they help to build personal and professional relationships. Demonstrating strong interpersonal skills can help you to accomplish your career goals, contribute to the organisation’s achievements, perform well during the hiring process and expand your professional network. Social skills can help you to communicate more effectively and efficiently with others, and as a result, help you build, maintain and grow relationships with colleagues, clients and new contacts alike. It is important that you improve and maintain these skills no matter what your position is, industry you are working in or your experience level.

Social skill is the outcome of the other dimensions of emotional intelligence, and is recognisable on the job in many different ways. Socially skilled people, for instance, are skilled at managing teams—that’s their empathy at work. Likewise, they are expert persuaders—a manifestation of self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy combined. Given those skills, good persuaders know when to make an emotional plea, for instance, and when an appeal to reason will work better. And motivation, when publicly visible, makes such people excellent collaborators; their passion for the work spreads to others, and they are driven to find solutions.

Leaders who do well in the social skills element of emotional intelligence are great communicators. Socially skilled leaders are just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they are experts at getting their team to support them and be excited about a new mission or project. Socially skilled leaders are also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically. These leaders are rarely satisfied with leaving things as they are and they don’t sit back and make everyone else do the work: they set an example with their behaviour. Social skill is considered a key leadership capability. People seem to know intuitively that leaders need to manage relationships effectively; no leader is an island. After all, the leader’s task is to get work done through other people, and social skill makes that possible. A leader who cannot express their empathy may as well not have it at all. And a leader’s motivation will be useless if he cannot communicate his passion to the organisation. Social skill allows leaders to put their emotional intelligence to work.

Can emotional intelligence (EQ) be learnt?

Yes, it can be learnt. Some people appear to have EQ as a natural talent, and for others it does not come naturally, but they can learn EQ skills. People can learn how to interact more effectively at work and increase their emotional intelligence. To be able to make this happen, you have to be personally motivated to want to improve your emotional intelligence. You first need to have a handle of where you are starting from by completing an emotional intelligence assessment, and then understand which of the five key elements as described by Daniel Goleman need the greatest attention.

Part 4 will look at four skills a leader can focus on to increase his/her emotional intelligence and the twelve emotional intelligence competencies that are embedded in the 4 skills.

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