Emotional Intelligence Traits in a Time of Crisis

Covid-19 presents the ultimate test across industries and geographies as almost every organization is experiencing unprecedented challenges. Mental and emotional stamina, courage and compassion are the tools to navigate all this uncertainty.

Emotional intelligence is essential for communities impacted by crises. Think of Emotional Intelligence (EI) as your internal toolkit, a collection of faculties you can develop that help you to understand and regulate yourself, and more skillfully manage your relationships. Being prepared for the unexpected requires patience, compassion, empathy, trust, and a grounded emotional understanding of the self and the ever-evolving situation around you.

Crisis response requires a thoughtful approach and teams who employ these seven Emotional Intelligence traits will face challenges with confidence and resilience.

1. Calm and Focused Approach.

Crises are inherently stress-inducing, and teams need to remain calm and focused to manage the situation, maintain their own wellbeing, and support those around them who are seeking guidance. Unless we have developed the skill of self-management and learned how to calm the neurologic stress response, we may act based on our habits rather than the information at hand. New research has shown that self-regulatory practices like the body scan can significantly reduce the levels of the stress hormone (cortisol), allowing a calm disposition when making critical decisions.

2. Clear Vision.

Emotionally intelligent people are equipped with self-awareness to recognize their own biases, emotions and opinions that may influence how they approach the situational data and the challenge. Non-judgmental awareness is key to a balanced view of the challenge and develops when committed to a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence practice.

3. Adaptability.

The VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world that we live in requires adaptive resilience, and leaders who fixate on keeping the status quo will lose the trust of the people they work or interact with. Emotionally intelligent leaders have the resilience and agility required to respond to the moment at hand to make tough decisions.

4. Effective Communication.

Trust is earned through honesty, and great leaders trust that people can handle the truth. Transparency requires vulnerability and, sometimes, having the self-awareness to admit what we don’t know. When a leader demonstrates authenticity by acknowledging what they are uncertain about, they create a clear channel for trusted communication.

5. Empathy.

Creating an environment where team members feel safe to ask questions or express concerns is another essential aspect of emotionally intelligent leadership. Psychological safety is the number one predictor of a team’s success because members can feel at ease to contribute to creative solutions. One way to create the conditions for psychological safety is by demonstrating empathy.

6. Compassion.

Leading with compassion includes not only considering others’ needs but sensing what would genuinely serve them best. Compassionate leadership can take many forms as it responds directly to what is needed in the moment.

7. Hope and Vision for the Future.

Influential leaders have a vision of the future grounded in truth and lifted with optimism. Cultivating the ability to envision unseen possibilities provides a roadmap to navigate through challenges. Trusting ourselves and our teams to put the vision into action quells fear and inspires hope.


In times of crisis, emotionally intelligent people thrive based on their exceptional ability to acknowledge difficulty, communicate openly, adapt, navigate uncertainty, and create psychological safety.

At The School of We, we support organizations in developing emotional intelligence. SIYLI research shows that they emerge more present, resilient, and compassionate. Connect with us to explore bringing SIY and other online programs to your organization.

[NOTE: This article is a shorter adaptation of the post originally published in English on the SIYLI blog under the title “7 Emotional Intelligence Traits Leaders Need in a Time of Crisis”]

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