Now more than ever we need leaders to practice emotional intelligence. This is something I heard time and time again when interviewing CEOs for The Future Leader. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your own emotions and the emotions of others. It’s moving past the hard skills of leadership to the “softer side” that allows you to connect with people on a deeper level.

Emotional intelligence is always vital to leaders, but especially during times of crisis. When things are difficult, emotions run high. It’s a leader’s job to regulate their own emotions and help others do the same while still moving the business forward. Obviously, the crisis every organization is currently facing is the global pandemic. But crises large and small happen every day, and leaders must be able to lead with emotional intelligence. Here are five ways to show emotional intelligence in times of crisis:

1. Be authentic

Communication is vital during a crisis. People need their leaders to be authentic and genuine. That means sharing information that people need to know and being transparent, but not letting your emotions get in the way and coming across as hot-headed or out of touch. An authentic leader communicates clearly and isn’t afraid to show some emotion.

2. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes

Empathy is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence. Leaders always need to be able to see things from other people’s perspectives, but especially during times of crisis. Consider the situation of your employees, customers, and team members and how your leadership decisions will impact them. Don’t make decisions based solely on your own perspectives. L.L. Bean CEO Stephen Smith told me this: “To be able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and to look at any dilemma or any problem, or anything you’re trying to solve from multiple perspectives, is one of the most important things for leaders to be able to do.”

3. Don’t make impulsive decisions

During times of crisis, emotions are high. The coronavirus pandemic has made many people feel anxious, worried, and stressed about the uncertainty of the future. Those emotions are valid and important, but don’t use them to make impulsive, rash decisions. People are looking to you as a leader to be even-keeled, so give yourself time to think things through calmly before making decisions.

4. Stay in tune with your own emotions

Practicing self-awareness becomes even more important during a crisis. You can’t lead others well if you aren’t in tune with your own emotions. Take time every day to check in with yourself. Spend a few minutes meditating, writing in a journal, or walking outside to see how you’re really feeling. When you practice self-awareness, you are in charge of your emotions and can better lead others by example.

5. Talk to people

You can’t understand what people are going through and how a crisis is affecting them if you don’t talk to them. Get out of your office and build relationships. Go to the source, get information, and connect with people on an emotional level. A crisis is the time to show that leaders are human and can build real relationships.

Leaders have to deal with crises, many of which we can’t even imagine. Emotional intelligence is one of the best tools leaders can have to guide their organizations through difficult times and come out stronger on the other side.


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