Open up any major business development book at the part around great leadership, and you’re likely to find a whole section dedicated to something called ‘emotional intelligence’. 

This movement, popularised by the book  ‘Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman’ in 1995, set about this notion that to be a great leader, you needed to be great at understanding emotions – hence emotional intelligence. 

Working with clients developing leadership programmes for scale ups, I find that most people in 2022 would agree that emotional intelligence is still of the utmost importance for effective leadership. 

With remote working and hybrid teams though, I would argue that we need to go one step further in emotional intelligence – to consider ‘Digital Intelligence’. What is digital intelligence then? To me, it’s emotional intelligence applied to the way we work today; the way we communicate using digital tools and technologies. 

I’ll give you an example I’ve used with my clients. 

A manager sends a calendar invite to someone in their team. She doesn’t include context or an agenda, and schedules the meeting for early in the morning the next day. 

Without any explanation to go on, the recipient is left to draw his or her own meaning from the invite. Some might interpret it as a standard routine thing, nothing to worry about. Another recipient however, could get really concerned and spend hours obsessing over the lack of contextualisation or instructions to be able to prepare for their surprise early morning meeting properly. 

In our sessions working with leaders, our advice would be as simple as having managers send a message explaining the context of the meeting. If the intention is to deliver developmental feedback, that information needs to be provided upfront, allowing people to digest the information and prepare. If it’s just an informal catchup, that can be expressed too.

The point to remember is that remote work widens the communication gap, which can easily exacerbate misunderstandings. 

It’s the job of the leader to apply digital intelligence to assuage this: The more you develop your digital intelligence skills, the stronger a remote/hybrid leader you can be. 

But where to start with this? 

You can’t have digital intelligence without emotional intelligence, so that’s where we have to go first.

Emotional intelligence starts with getting curious about how you are feeling. You can’t begin to understand others until you fully understand yourself.

Feelings and thoughts are the ways in which we interact with and interpret the world around us. The better you can identify how you are feeling, the better you can connect with your own self and even your intuition, which some people would argue is actually a greater connection with your subconscious mind. This level of inner connection and reflection are great assets for any leader to have, as they give you a better way to show up in the world for yourself, your team and for others. 

A really effective tool to begin the journey of self-awareness, and one we have used successfully with our clients, is the feelings wheel


Referencing the feelings wheel helps you to start really drilling down about how exactly you feel, improving your emotional literacy, and ultimately helping you to build the skills needed to better understand those around you.

Building emotional literacy also helps you understand what your own drivers and blocks as a leader are, which is where the brain’s limbic system comes into the picture.

Where emotions reside in the brain is up for debate, but scientists do agree that the limbic system plays a huge role. 

The limbic system is the part of the brain that enables people to behave in ways that help them communicate and survive physical and psychological upsets. 

When I’ve worked with clients in a 121 coaching capacity, it’s often the limbic emotional system that prevents them from moving forward from something, or that keeps them stuck in a particular situation or way of thinking. 

Once we can see and acknowledge that our emotions are valuable tools and an efficient way of collecting information about the world, we can start to use our understanding of them to bring a greater holistic perspective to how we show up at work. Ultimately this sense of self-awareness makes us more creative humans, with a great capacity to problem solve and do great things. 

It’s probably the one thing I see most clearly in my leadership development work with clients: Those who develop their emotional literacy, are more able to progress to be better leaders. 

They have better relationships with themselves and others, are able to take on bigger challenges and face them with greater resilience, and are able to understand what drives each of their team members to deliver their best work.

If there is one thing you can do right now, today, to improve your EQ, get the emotions wheel and use it to help you to describe more clearly and precisely how you are feeling. You’ll open up a whole new world of understanding of yourself. 

If you and your rapidly growing company want to invest in greater leaders, then please reach out to me for a free 30 minute strategy call.

My team and I have a wealth of experience to offer, and we’d love to help you achieve your business goals by developing your greatest asset: your people.