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Leading with Emotional Intelligence - a key project skill

Project success depends on great teamwork

  • which is largely dependent on great leadership skills

  • which are largely dependent on emotional intelligence.

So if you want to increase the chances of consistent project success, it's a good idea to invest in developing inclusive and empowering leadership skills across the board: business leaders, project and programme managers, line managers and team leaders.

In fact, Hogan's definition of leadership nicely sums up why leadership is so important for teams and therefore projects.

Leadership is the ability to build and maintain a high performing team

Leadership skill development is a common focus for normal business leaders.

Lots of organisations have leadership development programmes and lots of people have coaching to develop their leadership skills. But it isn't always associated with project and programme managers.

And the Project Management Institute has been highlighting the need for this in their Pulse of the Profession Survey reports over the last few years:

“Project professionals will be required to ace far more than the triple constraint of scope, time and budget. Most organisations now place nearly an equal emphasis on developing leadership skills as they do technical skills. And that's leading to a new set of power skills focused on building strong relationships”

"Project professionals...won't get far without people skills"

…. which brings me nicely onto emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence is a mix of qualities, which are widely recognised as being essential for leadership excellence and professional success generally, but that are also key for change, and therefore really good for projects.

You could even think of them as a project lifeline if you like.

And keeping that theme going for a moment, they also split quite handily into three 'SOS' categories:

Self Others Situation

I'll go through each element and as you read through, just think,

  • What's been the impact on a project when you've had people who really don't have that quality?

  • How different would your experience on a project be, if everyone had each of these? How much easier would success be?

Self - what you bring

Self Confidence

The ability to stay relaxed and take action without fear, knowing that you'll find a way through. People like certainty and projects create uncertainty. People will look to their team and project leaders for confidence that everything will be okay.

Self Reliance

Having the power to develop ideas, choose between options and make decisions.

Projects provide a constant stream of opportunities to use this quality!

Self Awareness

Being aware of what you bring, how you operate and how you are feeling.

Being aware of the impact you can have on people and the results of the project. For example, it’s useful to know your strengths, and how you can use them. But also be aware of your limitations, so you and your teammates know where you need support.

Self Control

Being aware of your emotions and able to regulate your emotional response to events.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s been on a project with someone who can't do this. It tends to put the people around them on edge. And it takes time and effort to calm things down when they flare up, so the team can refocus on what needs to be done.

Others - your interpersonal skills


Focuses on taking the time to understand another person’s perspective and how that may be impacting how they feel and what they do...and demonstrating to them that they have been heard and understood.

Relationship Skills

Focuses on the attitude you have going into a relationship and the impact that has on your behaviour. Having the skills to create collaborative win-win relationships built on equality, understanding and empowerment.


Contributes to the responsibility you take for making your relationships work, by considering

  • how you communicate and

  • how you respond to how others communicate with you.

Situation - how you deal with and approach events


This is the mindset that fuels resilience, and the can-do attitude that you need to overcome challenges and find possibilities and new options in the face of adversity.

So quite handy in a project environment!


Being willing and able to flex, to take on new ideas, different perspectives, and change your mind and your behaviour.

Giving voice and being able to consider all the different perspectives that come from team members with diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking, brings value to projects and the development of solutions or workarounds.

In contrast, fixed mindsets tend not to lead to an innovative solution but pop up quite regularly during technology projects - “We've always done it this way, why don't we just get the new system to do this”


Knowing your goal and being able to generate the ongoing motivation and commitment to do whatever it takes to get it. That sort of tenacity and resilience is helpful in a project environment.

Would you like to work with a project team where everyone had all those qualities? I know I would!

If you want to increase your chances of project success, invest in your people.

Help them develop their emotional intelligence and flexible, inclusive leadership skills.

If you’d like to explore this topic and how I can help, please book a free call.

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