Emotional intelligence as a tool in change management

A resonant leadership style also connects agile teams

The biggest challenge in change management is where people are involved. We can change algorithms, technical processes and logistical processes. As soon as people become part of the equation, we have a problem. Do we have a problem?
This article is about Emotional Intelligence as a leadership tool in Change Management. We highlight facts as well as new findings and how to use them for Leadership 4.0.

C-level leaders differ only minimally in terms of their cognitive and intellectual competencies. The decisive difference is found at the emotional level, according to business psychologist Daniel Goleman.

Emotional intelligence as a pillar of Leadership 4.0

There is no question that leadership is currently undergoing massive change. What was previously a strictly hierarchical and closed system is now networked and open. The teams/units to be led are often non-local and not necessarily assigned to a corporate hierarchy. This forces the leader to open up and act in a more agile way.

The security of a company’s internal hierarchy often disappears. It is replaced by networking, in which visibility plays a role. This is often an unpleasant scenario for old-school managers.

The rapid change cycles of digitization unsettle employees and destabilize teams.

This is where Emotional Intelligence comes into play at the latest. It is not a new tool, but it is gaining in importance in the era of digitization and is an important pillar of Leadership 4.0.

Resonant and dissonant leadership

As early as the 1990s, Daniel Goleman showed that emotional intelligence is the most original and important element of leadership. He distinguishes between dissonant and resonant types of leadership.

The resonant leader automatically generates positive resonance in his people. The dissonant type drains them and drives them away.

Basically, the employees in the direct environment adapt to the emotional leadership of the leader. The reason for this sits in the limbic system. This is the part of the brain that processes emotions. The limbic system is an open loop so that people support each other emotionally. It has prevailed in evolutionary history and is still valid.

Emotional intelligence improves business results

Let’s get specific: If leadership creates a positive climate, it can make a 20-30 percent difference in business results! This is Goleman’s conclusion after he has examined hundreds of companies and evaluated countless studies.

Here’s what pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis found: Salespeople were trained in emotional intelligence; a comparison group did not receive this training. The emotionally intelligent group achieved 12% more sales.

These are inspiring numbers. Put them quietly in relation to your annual sales projections.

Emotional leadership in volatile times

In impressive synchronicity, we now have two comparably open systems: the limbic system as hardware and the new leadership style as software.

In the open system and in volatile times, it is more difficult to keep a team focused. With emotional intelligence, the leader manages to neutralize emotional distortions and open a space for positive emotions.

According to findings from brain research, participants follow in their emotionality the member of the group who expresses his or her positive emotions. Leaders use this effect consciously.

In such a positive climate, people are willing to do things together that an individual would not or could not do. An emotionally intelligent leader can also create this effect in an agile team.

EQ more important than IQ

Cognitive intelligence (IQ) cannot be developed. Emotional intelligence (EQ), on the other hand, can be trained. And it pays off.

In his studies, Goleman found that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ for leaders to develop individual resources in employees. These are the four leadership competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (empathy), relationship management.

By the way, the brain stores new information better if it is coupled with positive feelings.

Emotional addiction patterns

But that is not all. There are important new findings in emotion research.
The good news is that positive emotions spread like viruses, making it easier to resonate with them. This is called mirroring.

The bad news is that emotional imprinting works like a physical addiction. The body is addicted to its usual biochemistry because every emotion flushes neurotransmitters and neuropeptides into the metabolism. Strictly speaking, our body is a protein-producing factory.

The classic emotional product palette is laid out during the imprinting phase in the first years of life. This generates the emotional autopilot that controls our behavior from the subconscious.

A basic biological principle – homeostasis – ensures that balance is maintained in the metabolism. This is why we find it so difficult to change.
Biochemically, we are fixed in the past. In addition, we always extrapolate what will happen based on past experience. We always react to this in the same way. So the expected results are highly emotionally colored by the past.

We all know meetings and conversations in which the same dialogues are reeled off again and again. I call this emotional ping-pong with always the same result.

Emotional intelligence as the foundation of change management

How do we succeed in changing emotional patterns against the resistance of physiology? According to neuroscientist Dr. Joe Dispenza, we need to take back control of the body. The body – that is, biochemistry – behaves like a horse gone wild. We need to take the reins and learn to gain full control of emotions in any situation. This requires training, willpower and focus.

And there’s a big trap: it’s not about not feeling anything anymore! Emotional repression is not what is meant here, it makes you sick. It’s about leading myself and others by being able to generate positive emotions at all times and in all circumstances.

For this, there is a wide range of breathing exercises and neurotechniques that I use in workshops and coaching sessions. Participants can then balance emotions quickly and without much effort, and thus regain emotional leadership.

The heart has a central role – it is the true seat of intelligence. Nearly thirty years of research by the Heart Math Institute has shown this. The heart has a more powerful electromagnetic field than the brain. Both communicate constantly and we have influence on other people through this field.


Digitalization brings us AI, robotics, the Internet of Things and much more. What distinguishes us humans from the machines and algorithms? Emotion. And we need to use this in leadership.

Emotional intelligence is the opportunity to actively shape change. Those who close themselves off to it are no longer even leading themselves.

Ava Hauser navigiert Führungskräfte durch die Stromschnellen massiven Wandels. Ihr Fokus liegt auf der Selbstführung als Basis für erfolgreiches Führen. Mit über 20 Jahren Erfahrung als Coach, Trainer, Speaker und Therapeutin hat sie ein Programm entwickelt, das Menschen stark macht - nicht nur für Führungsaufgaben.

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