As organizational leaders, CIOs should develop emotional  intelligence (EI, ESI or EQ) capabilities as our main priority for personal development. We need to focus on “people skills” more than on technical skills. We also must make EQ a relevant development priority for our teams.

Digital transformation—like any change—provokes strong emotional responses in people as it changes their work practices, behaviors and reporting relationships. CIOs understand the process and technical implications of moving to digital. However, we also need to lead people through change, which means dealing with people’s emotions. Ignoring or misunderstanding the emotional response to change only makes the resistance stronger.

EQ plays a critical role in enabling us to understand both our own emotions and other people’s feelings and behavior. Additionally,  Research shows a connection between higher EQ and improved overall job performance, even more important than IQ or professional qualifications. Yet many people underestimate the value of EQ or even know what it is.

We can train to improve our levels of emotional competence, a learned capability based on emotional intelligence.

Below is the framework for emotional competence, based on the book “The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership Into the Science of Results” by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. 

Based on data in D. Goleman, R. Boyatzis, and A. McKee. “The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership into the Science of Results.” Time Warner. London. 2002.

Evaluate EQ = Self-Aware and Credible

As CIOs, we tend to have strong analytical skills. We focus on the logical reasons for an initiative and speak in terms of the process and business improvement technology can bring. We can often neglect how much of an implementation might disrupt established work practices. Every change elicits an emotional response, which is why people tend to resist it. Ignoring or failing to perceive negative emotional reactions is common in leaders with high IQ but lower EQ and can contribute to transformation failure.

Leaders who display emotional stability outperform their peers. Honest and authentic expression of emotion enhances leadership credibility. Paradoxically, a leader who shows vulnerability is perceived to be stronger than one who does not.


Evaluate your own EQ by taking an evaluation, similar to personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Practice recognizing and naming your emotions and understanding the information they convey. This is not something that can be achieved overnight; it requires study, practice and persistence.

Online Evaluation Sites

Regulate Your Emotions to Become Effective at Leading People Through Change

The first step to improving our leadership skills is to work on developing our ability to name and regulate our own emotions. Without this vital self-awareness, we cannot recognize what others might be experiencing emotionally.

A study by KRW found that organizations with leaders who possessed traits such as integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion saw a higher return on assets than organizations led by more “self-centered” CEOs.

Leaders competent in soft skills are more successful in the initiatives they lead. Emotional competence is as valuable a soft skill as clear communication and presentation skills. Leaders who allow negative emotions like stress and anger to dominate when problems arise in a program, risk inducing negative emotional responses in employees. Worse, those involved in the program will not feel able to raise any concerns or problems without fear of retribution. Conversely, leaders who remain calm and confident in the chaotic moments of a transformation program are more likely to inspire trust and confidence in employees that it will be a success in the end.

Learn to regulate your emotions with three simple steps:

Label your emotions as you experience them. Just observing that you are angry, upset or anxious is a form of information. Identify the trigger that caused the emotion to understand why you responded in such a way and if anything can be done to alleviate it.

Reframe your thoughts in a more positive light. Strong emotions influence our perception of reality, usually with a more negative interpretation of events. Take time to calm down, the look at the situation objectively. Could there be another interpretation? Are you seeing the bigger picture?

Employ mood busters to help maintain a positive mindset. Something as simple as taking a walk, talking to a friend, exercising or listening to music. What matters is the activity distracts you from negative thoughts.