Emotional intelligence as the basis for resilience?

Leaders need to have emotional intelligence. They are working with people and relying on people to take visions and ideas and making them concrete. It is not a leader's role to draw a map and decide the plan of action.

Emotional intelligence as the basis for resilience?

Last week, I attended two insightful events: The Grow Remote AMA with Chris Heard (Firstbase) and the repeople conference. During both events, some speakers addressed the topic of emotional intelligence, trust, and (servant) leadership. I wanted to bring these topics together in this newsletter but couldn't find the article that created the spark. In place of this, some disconnected findings that seem to make sense the more I think about them. It’s not the big A-ha I was hoping for, but more of a "hmm, that is interesting…”

Why this picture: I chose this picture to be reminded about the power of words. Resilience has a positive association, but it also carries a darker side. Everyone reaches a moment where their plate is full.

Learn more about The Future of Work and specifically remote work:

  • Listen to Chris Heard talk about remote work with members of the Grow Remote community.
  • Keep an eye on repeople website to watch recordings of their conference. For example, tune in to Pilar Orti’s (Virtual Not Distant) workshop on Visible teamwork or Theresa Sigillito Hollema (Interact Global) talk about Developing cultural competence on virtual teams or listen to Shane Pearlman, Liam Martin and I talk about remote working as a parent. If you are currently working at home with your kids, check my tips.

Key points

  • Emotional intelligence has a positive impact on task performance.
  • Emotional intelligence is also a norm that exists within teams.
  • Emotional intelligence and intra-team trust lead to higher team performance.
  • A leader's emotional intelligence is related to transformational and authentic leadership behavior.

In last week’s newsletter, I talked about team resilience. While researching team resilience, two things stood out: (1) We don't know a lot about it, and (2) having team members who you trust and who have your back is essential. The second point brings me back to the topic of meaningful connections.

At the beginning of the Irish lock-down, I participated in two unconnected virtual Hackathons (Hackremote and HRvsVirus) with different team members. In both teams, the ability to connect with others over distance was central to our discussions, and the solution we created.

What is emotional intelligence?

Depending on who you ask, emotional intelligence is a type of intelligence or personality or a combination of both. For the current discussion, this distinction is not that important but impacts how you measure emotional intelligence. According to Daniel Goleman, who first coined it, it has four dimensions: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social/relationship management.

Emotional intelligence is said to be important as it drives individuals to have healthy social relationships. Thanks to emotional intelligence, individuals are not self-centered, but they know how others feel and how their actions impact others. For this reason, it easier to work with them and to have constructive discussions with them. For me, a constructive discussion consists of exchanging ideas, politely pointing out biases and assumptions others have, and together creating a shared product or solution.

Based on past research, we know that:

  • Emotional intelligence has a positive impact on task performance. Significantly, individuals with low cognitive intelligence benefit more from high emotional intelligence than individuals with high cognitive intelligence.
  • The impact of self-efficacy on work effort is higher for individuals with higher levels of emotional intelligence. A person with high emotional intelligence will see a more significant effect of believing in oneself (self-efficacy) on their work effort than a person with low emotional intelligence. Therefore, believing that you can do something isn't enough for you to put effort into achieving it. You also need to have high levels of emotional intelligence.
  • A leader's emotional intelligence is positively related to transformational leadership. Transformational leadership behavior is a type of behavior that focuses on building relationships with people.
  • A leader's emotional intelligence is also positively related to authentic leadership. Authentic leadership draws upon and promotes both positive psychological capacities and a positive ethical climate.

I realize I just threw several disconnected findings at you. I'm still missing the so-what factor, but maybe it sparks an idea in your mind.

For me, what stands out, is the confirmation that leaders need to have emotional intelligence. They are working with people and relying on people to take visions and ideas and making them concrete. It is not a leader's role to draw a map and decide the plan of action. Leaders have visions and ideas. It is up to people to turn these visions and ideas into realities. And yes, people have the freedom to modify the ideas of leaders.

There is a link between emotional intelligence and team resilience. But until I have seen the evidence for it, this link is an assumption.

But before I explain the hypothesized link, I first need to mention another research finding. This time about team emotional intelligence. The theoretical argument goes like this: If individuals have emotional intelligence, it can be assumed that teams also have emotional intelligence. As teams are composed of individuals, their characteristics (e.g., personality or expertise) can be transferred to the team. Of course, the process is more complicated than simple copy-pasting, but that is another newsletter

Team emotional intelligence can be the sum of team members' emotional intelligence (cumulative emotional intelligence) or the expression of communication norms (emergent emotional intelligence). Teams with high emotional intelligence will communicate more with each other. As said above, emotional intelligence is about being aware of others and oneself and managing one's social environment. A result of these behaviors is healthier interactions among team members. Consequently, teams develop a denser network. A denser network describes a team where more collaboration is going on. The consequence of this is higher team performance. But, don’t forget, a team whose collaboration network is too dense will suffer other negative effects (e.g., group think, lack of innovation).

Now, I'm assuming that teams with higher team emotional intelligence will also have higher team resilience. Emotional intelligence helps team members be aware of each other's actions and needs. This awareness is crucial for knowing when a team member is stressed out or when someone needs help. It also creates a supportive environment necessary for team members to feel safe to speak up. But that's just an assumption - anyone interested in researching this together?

Book inspiration: Read more about the importance of creating connections in Dr. Karen Sobel Lojeski book on The Power of Virtual Distance.


Côté, S., & Miners, C. T. H. (2006). Emotional Intelligence, Cognitive Intelligence, and Job Performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 51(1), 1–28. https://doi.org/10.2189/asqu.51.1.1

Goleman, D. (1995), Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Bantam Books, New York, NY.

Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2018). Emotional intelligence and authentic leadership: A meta-analysis. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 39(5), 679–690. https://doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-02-2018-0066

Zhang, H.-H., Ding, C., Schutte, N. S., & Li, R. (2020). How Team Emotional Intelligence Connects to Task Performance: A Network Approach. Small Group Research, 51(4), 492–516. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046496419889660

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