The COVID-19 pandemic has been a colossal test of leadership across industries and geographies. Nearly every organisation has faced unprecedented challenges over the past few months, ultimately testing the values and skills of its leaders. Needless to say, in order to navigate this uncertainty, one requires courage, compassion, and mental and emotional stamina.

Emotional intelligence is your internal toolkit – a collection of faculties you can develop to understand and regulate yourself, especially in times of increased complexity. As an emotionally intelligent leader, you need to demonstrate patience, empathy, a grounded emotional understanding of the self and the ever-evolving situation around you, so you can employ a thoughtful approach to the current unstable times.

Here are four things that emotionally intelligent leaders exhibit in times of crisis:


Emotionally intelligent leaders have a clear perception of their strengths, values, beliefs, and emotions so they can perform well even during unstable times. Their self-awareness enables them to understand other people and how people perceive them.

Rather than letting their feelings rule them, they allow their feelings to influence their rule. Emotionally intelligent leaders keep a rigorous check on their emotions since they are aware of their power to influence other people. They don’t let themselves succumb to pressure, avoid the urge to blame others and don’t absolve themselves from responsibility – something that we all struggle with especially in the times of crisis.

To be an effective leader, you should try to learn which emotions are difficult for you to manage and work on controlling them before communicating publicly.

Social Awareness

Emotionally intelligent leaders are genuinely empathetic and concerned about the fear and pain of others. It is this behaviour that makes people feel connected to their leaders on a personal level.

Maya Angelou said, “People will forget the things you do, and people will forget the things you say. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” In difficult times, leaders are not particularly judged on what they said or did, but how they made people feel. It is also important to be honest and sincere as people are likely to sense if the leader is simply saying what is expected of them. While you may not be able to eliminate every pain point or problem that your employees face today, you need to be socially aware and creative so you can address as many issues as possible in a meaningful way. Take care of your people so they can take care of your business.

Relationship Management

Emotionally intelligent leaders are servant leaders with strong relationship management skills. Due to their ability to communicate effectively, they are masters at building and maintaining relationships and managing disputes and crisis. Today, most emotionally intelligent leaders are doing everything essential to keep people safe, preserve jobs, salaries, and work-life balance.

While communicating through a crisis is often the most difficult thing a leader has to do, emotionally intelligent leadership can push you out of your comfort zone. Besides, don’t the best leaders rise to the occasion? As a leader, you need to make the decision to “give” in any capacity. Make relationship management your first “production” commitment. The business world would have significantly changed by the time the time the COVID-crisis will be over, and one of the most conspicuous changes will be how employees look at leaders and determine how much they respect and trust them.


In times of crisis, it is common for the situation to change drastically and constantly without warning. Emotionally intelligent leaders, however, possess adaptive resilience and agility required to respond to the moment at hand to make tough decisions.

So, move along with the crisis as it changes. It’s okay to be vulnerable, to be uncomfortable with not having all the answers and to rely on others who are knowledgeable. Don’t pretend that you have answers that you don’t have, but make sure you provide your employees assurance and comfort that those answers will be found.