In the past two decades, emotional intelligence or EQ has been recognised as an integral part of every aspect of life including leadership, teamwork, and human capital development.

With the world becoming more integrated, leaders have little choice but to help those under their tutelage to realise their fullest potential by using emotional intelligence.

Little wonder that Mr John Lim, the chairman of Singapore Institute of Directors (SID), thinks that qualifications alone are insufficient to make someone a good independent director. He believes that “whether you make good independent directors depends also on the commitment you make, the EQ that you have — IQ itself may not be enough — and the strength of character.”

In the book, Primal Leadership: Realising The Power Of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, who promulgated the concept of emotional intelligence, says: “Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas.

“But the reality is much more primal: Great leadership works through the emotions. Even if they get everything else just right, if leaders fail in this primal task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should.”

For any organisation to succeed in achieving its goals, consideration for human factors will be of prime importance.

In his book EQ And Leadership In Asia, Sebastien Henry suggests that Asian culture is naturally inclined towards emotional intelligence, in particular, he says.

“Asian thinking has developed an art of dealing with paradoxes that Western thinking has just started to integrate and appreciate. Obviously, the art of handling paradoxes was not pursued for the sake of developing emotional intelligence”.

There is a framework developed by Goleman highlighting essential elements of emotional intelligence:


Emotionally intelligent individuals have a high level of understanding about themselves that helps them to keep their emotions under control.


When they keep their emotions under control, emotionally intelligent individuals are able to avoid making spurious decisions. In the words of Sebastien Henry, “emotions are like the weather: they are always around, and they always change. It requires some particular skills to handle them”.


Emotionally intelligent individuals welcome challenges and embrace changes willingly if they are for the betterment of the organisation.


Being empathetic is a hallmark of emotionally intelligent individuals, fostering a productive working relationship. Indians, it is sometimes said, have a particular knack for empathy because of their upbringing in a culturally diversified environment.

Social skills

Social skills hold leaders in good stead when it comes to teamwork, especially when encouraging others to work towards a common goal.

Dr Goleman argues that good leaders are people who are in tune with the moods of their followers and have resonant relationships with them. They are literally on the same wavelength as others, in that the actual brain chemistries of leaders and followers change in similar ways during the course of their social interactions.

According to Sunny Verghese, group managing director and chief executive of Olam, driving emotions in the right direction is one of the qualities required by a chief executive officer.

He should have the ability “to combine conceptual and analytical skills with emotional intelligence, that is, the ability to understand himself, his emotions, his ability to control his feelings, postponing gratification”.

In August last year, Time magazine did a cover story on India’s biggest export, which was in reference to CEOs. Egon Zehnder, in a study of S&P 500 companies, found more Indian CEOs than any other nationality except for the Americans.

The discussions, moderated by Shaili Chopra of ET Now, highlighted one of the main reasons why Indian CEOs are doing so well in global companies: the comfort level with diversity, which needs high emotional intelligence.

Obviously, Asian leaders seem to have achieved success combining EQ and leadership by effectively leveraging on the Asian cultural strengths. It could now evolve as best practices for other corporate leaders to emulate when they take up leadership in the Asian region.