Chief Executive Officer,
Women & Leadership Australia

Putting emotional intelligence into action: Leading through the Great Resignation.

Leading through the Great Resignation is a series of articles exploring the tools and frameworks that will help leaders effectively navigate emerging workplace trends, by Suzi Finkelstein, CEO at Women & Leadership Australia.

In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated changes in our workplaces that may otherwise have taken decades. Before 2020, working flexible hours and working from home were considered the exception, rather than the norm, in many organisations. Since then, staff wellbeing and mental health have shot to the very top of leaders’ priority lists. And the ways employees want to engage with their work, their work-life balance and sense of purpose, have all become part of our workplace dialogue.

People want to find meaning and purpose in their work, according to leadership expert and Excellence in Women’s Leadership Award Winner Dr Kirstin Ferguson. They want their work to enrich and complement their life. They want to honour the parts of their lives outside work, too.

As leaders, we must build meaningful connections with our teams and colleagues, to help them find purpose in their work, and hold space for them as we each adjust to our new normal.

Emotional intelligence is the key.

According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, when we talk about emotional intelligence, we’re talking about four key skills: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and social skills. Emotional intelligence acknowledges that our emotions provide useful data to help us make rational decisions and behave in adaptive ways. Ignoring this data means we miss out on critical information that is available to us from moment to moment.

In simple terms, our emotions point us in the right direction and motivate us to do what needs to be done. But emotional intelligence is also a life skill that we can build upon and lean into, as we navigate our professional and personal lives. It underpins each of the leadership development programs Women & Leadership Australia offer: participants build and apply emotional intelligence through practical exercises that enhance self-awareness and reflection, improve communication, shape team dynamics, and invite new perspectives.

And as we continue to embrace change and diversity in the workplace, emotional intelligence will hold leaders steady into the future. 

According to McCrindle Research, there are more significant workforce changes ahead. We can expect cultural diversity to increase, with a large proportion of Australia’s projected growth coming from overseas migration. More of us are likely to move out of the city, with 60 per cent of Australians who don’t currently live in a regional area considering a move to a regional area. And more than ever, we are seeing diversity of age in our workplaces, with five generations now represented in the Australian workforce.

In the face of all these shifts, emotional intelligence is the skill that will help leaders genuinely connect with their teams and stakeholders, find common ground, garner support, and lead with empathy and effectiveness, whatever may come.

Tips for putting emotional intelligence into action

  • Build self-awareness through a 360-degree feedback process to gain valuable feedback from team members, you manager and other key stakeholders about your strengths and opportunities for growth.
  • When faced with a decision or difficult conversation, ask yourself: what am I feeling but not saying? What is my gut instinct here? Set aside a few minutes to journal during the day, so you can identify and start to reflect on your emotional responses. 
  • During meetings, take a moment to consciously consider the body language of the other people present. Do you notice any defensiveness, distraction, enthusiasm or impatience in their behaviour? How can you use this information to proceed effectively?
  • Consider leadership coaching, which can provide a psychologically safe and supportive space to build self-awareness and an understanding of others.


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