Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Why Emotionally Intelligent Organizations Should Start With The CEO

An emotionally intelligent CEO fosters the development of key team players, listens more than he speaks, makes space for strategic thinking and visioning, and responds to stresses that arise from a place of centered-ness.

Organizations that want to succeed the fourth industrial revolution, with AI, need to attract the best people: people with advanced emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent people are attracted to emotionally intelligent organizations. In order to be one, it needs to come from the top.

Rather than focus solely on hiring more, or landing bigger clients, or re-skilling your workforce, CEOs need to uplevel their emotional intelligence if they want their companies to succeed. With increased emotional intelligence, CEO’s may more clearly see which tactical moves need to be made; from this enhanced awareness they are then equipped to make the best possible decisions for the organization.

If you want to be an emotionally intelligent organization, the CEO must model this way of being. An emotionally intelligent CEO is not ruled by ego; he recognizes that the company and larger mission are much bigger than himself. He fosters the development of key team players, listens more than he speaks, makes space for strategic thinking and visioning, and responds to stresses that arise from a place of centered-ness.

There are five key components of emotional intelligence that CEOs should think about:

Self-perception. For healthy self-perception, CEOs must have a healthy self-regard, continually pursue self-actualization and improvement, and understand their own emotions and how those emotions affect them.

Self-expression. A CEO who expresses herself well can express emotions constructively, assert herself without causing offense, and is emotionally independent, therefore not holding others responsible for her emotions.

Interpersonal. The most effective CEOs have mutually satisfying relationships inside and outside the company, deploy empathy in interactions, and have a social consciousness through which they envision ways in which they may give back to the larger community through the business.

Decision making. A capable CEO is able to problem solve and find solutions when stakes are high rather than believe every worst-case scenario presented–or, on the flipside, overly positive report that crosses his desk. He also has impulse control and a strong desire to spare the company the consequences of rash decisions.

Stress management. Emotionally intelligent CEOs are flexible, able to adapt to the demands of various situations and people. They have fully developed coping mechanisms for dealing with stressful situations, as well as a positive outlook on the future.

If one of these areas of emotional intelligence suffers, all others suffer. The reverse is also true. By elevating one area of emotional intelligence, the whole is enhanced.

Let’s examine how this plays out in real time. Imagine a CEO who struggles with the self-expression composite of EQ. He always seems angry–direct reports and team members feel chastised and diminished after interactions with him. The CEO believes he is simply communicating facts that should be evident to all– yet the impact of his communication style is that team members are always left wondering what they’ve done “wrong.”

Eventually, those surrounding the CEO will stop contradicting him. Colleagues in the C-Suite will realize that it is futile to contradict the boss. Company leadership will either become “yes” men and women, or leave. If leadership is not free to give honest feedback, no one else in the company will be, either, and the organization will eventually become an echo chamber in which those who challenge the status quo are silenced. Innovation will grind to a halt, and competitors will outpace the company.

One “small” communication issue creates a serious disadvantage in the market.

CEO’s cannot afford this type of mistake. A CEO who is not emotionally intelligent breeds a culture in which communication, conviviality, and innovation are stalled. The workplace lacks creativity, and fun, and talented employees leave, creating another problem: the cost of replacing talent.

Darrell West, VP of Brookings, believes it is absolutely crucial for leaders to develop emotional intelligence:

Emotional intelligence shapes how leaders perceive situations, express themselves, relate to others, make decisions, and handle stress. As the global business environment increasingly relies on emergent technologies, having leaders who understand both reason and intuition is vital. Mastering one without the other can undermine effective leadership and management and derail an organization.

Contemporary leaders confront many challenges in terms of technology, organizational routines, and geopolitical alignments. Old formulas no longer guarantee success. Hiring leaders with the dexterity to understand shifting circumstances and the empathy to bring people together in a common mission is crucial. Companies that do this effectively will be well-positioned for the future.

There is no algorithm that will fix company culture, no technology that will solve your candidate outreach and selection systems and elevate the employer brand. AI can aid your operations and streamline processes, but your business is still made up of people. You’re still serving people. Talent, not tech, is still the golden ticket to your company’s success. Identifying, onboarding, nurturing, and cultivating talent is the most important job in an organization. If you as a CEO are not actively developing your EQ with the aim of best serving your people, you are neglecting the key touchstone of your organization’s success.

Let’s come back to the CEO with the communication problem. The good news: acknowledging the situation for what it is creates the conditions for meaningful change. Say the leadership team decides to take emotional intelligence seriously and undergoes an EQ assessment and organizational audit. The CEO scores low on ‘self-expression; this is not a judgement on his abilities, merely a reflection of where he is and where there is room for growth, both individually—and as an organization.

With the data in hand he is able to have open and honest conversations regarding how his communication style is holding the company back. His leadership team undertakes the same assessment, and suddenly, all players have a clear, bias-free snapshot of their own EQ and that of their colleagues. They now know what they’re working with– and how to move forward. They are able to have meaningful, empathetic conversations and put egos aside as they envision how best to serve employees and customers.

That is an organization which will be able to withstand the upheavals of the AI age. However technology advances, people come first. Emotionally intelligent organizations will be able to survive and thrive in an era of tumultuous change–and they start with you.

Read more: Become a Better Leader With Emotional Intelligence


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.