We Are Sunshine

Five Pillars of Emotional Intelligence: The secret of top-performing managers

Monday, August 14th, 2023

Becoming a great manager is a process that is both tough and delicate. You’re only human, but how you wield your strengths and weaknesses have a profound impact on the team dynamic. It’s true that managing others requires a certain level of intelligence, but the most essential kind is one you may have overlooked: emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize your own emotions and exercise them in a way that helps your interpersonal relationships, while also practicing empathy to recognize the feelings of others. When this critical ability is lacking, it results in palpable tension and friction between team members and their manager. When put into practice wisely, emotional intelligence can foster transparent communication and a sense of trust between these parties.

If you aspire to inspire, heed these five basic principles of emotional intelligence:

  1. You should generally like people. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be an extrovert, or that you have to be friends with everyone you meet, but you should enjoy building relationships with people regardless of their position. Learn how you can help each other, what the other person needs in a manager, and what motivates them to perform their best.
  2. Practice empathy. Before you have a tough discussion or try to pass on criticism with a casual, lighthearted comment, take some time to anticipate how the other party is feeling. Showing compassion and understanding requires you to act in a way that honors their feelings. If you have to deliver news that might make an employee feel defensive or threatened, remind them that they are valuable to your team and make them feel like you are on their side.
  3. Know your strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect, and while that may seem like a cliché, many managers are tripped up when they view having weaknesses as a weakness. Managers who lack this self-awareness may attempt to present themselves as infallible or beyond reproach, which is not an effective way to cultivate relatability or respect. Maximize your strengths and own up to your weaknesses. Your team is there to support you, not idolize you. Learn how you weaknesses influence the team and involve them in finding the best solution.
  4. Control your emotions. The best managers don’t bottle up their feelings or give them control over the situation. Instead of reacting in the moment, they take time to reflect on the reasons behind their emotions. Set a mature example for your team by practicing restraint, expressing yourself in a respectful manner that doesn’t attack others.
  5. Find internal motivation. If you view problems as something you’re paid to deal with, your time as a manager is going to be difficult. Reset your outlook to find the opportunities in challenges, and the appreciation for your team’s accomplishments. Managers who find themselves mostly motivated by a raise and a title change are less likely to maintain their resilience over time. Take the time to discover what excites you about your goals and challenges; the process of achieving will seem less like work, and you’ll have a greater appreciate for the hard work your team did to get where they are.

Don’t stunt your potential by ignoring the importance of emotional intelligence in management roles. This quiet but powerful skill defines strong, respected leaders. If you’d like to get an idea of your emotional intelligence quotient, take the Harvard Business Review’s quiz at