How Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Inspire Their People


Much has been said and written about the indispensability of emotional intelligence (EI) in achieving career success. Those aspiring to or already in leadership positions, particularly, stand to gain the most. 

Still, it’s not uncommon to find people in managerial or supervisory roles who have weak EI. More often than not, they were given those positions not for demonstrating people skills, but for being consistent high performers. While results-oriented leadership styles are necessary for excellence, knowing how to exercise EI to inspire your employees can multiply growth exponentially. Here’s how to do just that.


P.S. Arm yourself with EI skills and watch yourself and those around you thrive as a result. Sign up today for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying emotional competence to manage self and others!


1. They don’t fear vulnerability


Brene Brown may have tapped into a cultural zeitgeist with her viral TED talk on vulnerability, but the topic remains largely neglected, at least in the Singapore context. Here, the modus operandi in the corporate world is efficiency and self-sufficiency, which on the surface, doesn’t seem to mesh well with the apparent messiness of being vulnerable; Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”


It’s precisely the fear of vulnerability, though, that holds managers and employees alike back from achieving peak performance. According to Google’s re:Work research, the most critical ingredient for high-performing teams is psychological safety. This refers to how comfortable people are taking interpersonal risks with one another. 

When people are unafraid of being vulnerable with each other, they unlock the power of psychological safety and create the kind of mutual trust and understanding that underpins stellar teamwork. Leaders who practice vulnerability are also much likelier to be attentive to feedback and admit to their mistakes. In so doing, they win the respect of their subordinates and set an example for what it means to be honest with yourself and others about your weaknesses.


2. They practice active listening


The key to success is finding ways to provide value to those around you. In business, especially, this is crucial. To do this, though, you need to know what they want and need, which isn’t always easy. People aren’t open books a lot of the time; chances are, they’ll hide their true motives and intentions. Alternatively, perhaps they aren’t that good at communicating their objectives. 


Practicing active listening with your customers, superiors, subordinates, and other stakeholders will allow you to pick up valuable insights and read between the lines to arrive at mutually and maximally beneficial solutions.

It’s deceptively simple. According to sound and communication expert Julian Treasure, there are four components of listening well: receiving, appreciating, summarising, and asking. Hearing what the other person is saying is only the first step (receiving.) Most people, though, jump straight from this to responding with their own thoughts. 

MORE: Why Are Some People Such Bad Listeners?


3. They motivating & mentor through empathy


People are at the heart of every business. A company is a corporate entity; it does not have feelings and thoughts of its own–people do. If managers don’t find ways to tap into and unleash every employee’s potential, the desired results won’t materialise. Good managers always make it a priority to provide their people with what they need to thrive.


The thing is, though, every employee is different; different people require different conditions to succeed at different times. For this reason, empathy is an invaluable skill to have in leadership. In the first place, it takes an empathic leader to understand how important it is to tailor your motivation strategies for each employee.

Gary Vaynerchuk, for one, has long been a vocal proponent of motivation through empathy. To set employees up for success, he writes that managers must “sit down with [their] employees and understand where they want to take their careers. What’s their ambition? What do they want to do with their life?” 


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