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Proakatemian esseepankki

Intelligent Leadership

Kirjoittanut: Esme Luhtala - tiimistä FLIP Solutions.

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Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 9 minuuttia.

Written by: Saana Keränen and Esme Luhtala


Intelligence comes in many forms. IQ, the one that most people are perhaps most familiar with measures our reasoning and problem-solving abilities. This essay will look more deeply into Emotional intelligence (EQ) and social intelligence (SQ). Emotional intelligence is about one’s ability to understand, use and manage both their own and others’ emotions in a positive way. This is a skill that helps us relieve stress, communicate better, empathize, overcome challenges and defuse conflicts (HelpGuide n.d.). Social intelligence is closely related to EQ, but more specifically it refers to one’s ability to understand and manage interpersonal relationships. Someone with high SQ knows intuitively what to say and how to act in social situations, how to consider other people’s needs, and display empathy. 


When imagining a successful leader, we might often think that it has to be someone with a high IQ. While IQ and knowledge about one’s field are necessary for a leader, these things aren’t as determining success as one might think. When looking at the differences between highly successful, versus average people in the workplace, emotional intelligence is even twice as important as IQ and knowledge. (Goleman 1998) 


Importance of social intelligence

Like Yuval Noah Harari told in his speech The Most Important skills for the Future of Work at the Nordic Business Forum (2022), work-life is changing rapidly with the help of artificial intelligence. In the past intellectual skills have been highly appreciated in work-life. The reality is, that those hard skills from the past, writing, reading, math, and the ability to use computer programs are taken over by artificial intelligence. New workplaces have always occurred and so will happen in the future. No human mind can compete with AI when it comes to many things. But since artificial intelligence doesn’t have consciousness and doesn’t seem to develop one, it lacks the ability to feel things and emotions. This deficiency causes it to lack humane social skills. This means that artificial intelligence can’t compete with friendship, love, empathy, emotional intelligence, or social skills. Future work-life needs hard skills, but the real demand and appreciation will be for soft skills. (Harari 2022)


Social intelligence is a vital skill in current and future work life. Let’s imagine a situation in a hectic weekly meeting: Britney’s phone beeps and he immediately checks on it. Kanye rolls his eyes to show disapproval and turns his chest to face Nicki who was speaking before the interruption. To Kanye’s surprise, Nicki has fully aborted the topic and is giving all her empathetic attention to Britney. Turns out something dramatic happened. After a short discussion, Britney gets a few days off on the spot and leaves. Nicki had noticed before the meeting something was off with Britney and knew to pay closer attention to her actions. The way she grabbed her beeping phone was alarming – something was definitely wrong. Remarks on Nicki’s social intelligence in the situation:

  • Unlike Kanye, Nicki seemed humane and compassionate. A person who understands when emotions are more important than things. 
  • Emotional intelligence together with social intelligence leads Britney to get space to share what has happened. Information will now and in the future help meeting participants’ acquaintanceships and communication with each other.
  • Immediate reaction enhanced the quality of work. Britney’s state of mind wouldn’t have allowed quality participation. It would have affected the whole meeting.
  • Immediate right to absence assures Britney that the company respects her and that the readiness to be flexible is mutual. Her mental health has been supported.

The list above is based on and condensed from Daniel Goleman’s points in his book Emotional Intelligence in Worklife. The piece was published already 1998 but the knowledge is still relevant and getting more current day by day. 



When it comes to emotions, everyone starts learning from the zero point. Learning is long-winded, slow, and continues throughout life. Emotional intelligence is individual and private, which means that there are no others who can provide ready answers or generalizations on oneself to improve emotional intelligence. Crucial is that person is ready and keen to learn how to honestly face feelings and actions and persuade towards more emotionally intelligent acts. On internal processing, attention should be paid to how emotions are validated. Are they seen as something negative that perhaps raises guilt or are they more of a possibility to learn about ourselves inner world? Open-minded interest and genuine exploration of emotional states can awaken a new understanding of the causes of different emotions and the reasons behind their surfacing. Increased understanding helps to keep different emotional processes in control. Wich enables better self-control of both the inner and outside worlds. (Korpinen 2004, 6566.) 

As mentioned before, emotional intelligence is an important part of leadership and something that can determine one’s success as a leader. Traditionally, EQ is divided into five pillars: self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and social skills. This essay will next take a look into each of these pillars and specifically their relation to leadership. 



The foundation of EQ is self-awareness, which can be defined as the ability to understand ourselves and our actions, thoughts, or emotions and how to use those to grow and improve. This certainly is not an easy skill to master. People tend to be more comfortable pointing out ways others should improve their behavior but truly knowing ourselves and understanding our motivations can be challenging. Successful leadership requires one to look inward at what needs to be improved in their own behavior and to seek feedback from trusted people around them. (Connors 2020, 24) 



Holding oneself accountable for commitments, handling positive and negative emotions, and learning how to manage them in a healthy way both publicly and privately all lie at the core of self-management. In today’s business world change is constant and inevitable and successful leaders need to be flexible and able to help others to handle that change. Often conflicts arise in the workplace when things don’t go as planned and that creates heated emotions. A leader should always be able to face these situations head-on, remain resilient, and persevere with a positive outlook. (Connors 2020, 29)



By Daniel Coleman’s definition motivation is “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status.” The best leaders are excited to work each day and they want to solve problems, improve employees’ experience and serve their customers in the best way possible. All of this is best achieved when one is passionate and motivated by what they are doing. Good leaders come in all shapes and sizes and what is important is finding what motivates each individual. That can be about delegating or having more of an impact on everything that goes on in an organization, leading by example, or using words to motivate others. What is important is that when a leader finds their own motivation, it’s easier to keep a team motivated too. (Connors 2020, 36) An important part of building motivation is to celebrate successful outcomes, this is something that too often leaders dismiss. Organizations exist to create value and when that happens it should always be acknowledged and celebrated. Individuals will notice what is praised and through that find more motivation to strive for achievements. (Randy Wolken, The best leaders celebrate success, 2020)



Empathy can be described as the capacity to understand and feel what other people are experiencing within their frame of reference or in other words the ability to place oneself in someone else’s position. True empathy is only possible when there is a willingness to focus, listen, and connect on an emotional level. Empathy helps build relationships and therefore create connections with people to work with. Being emphatic, understanding, and leading with positive encouragement is a perfect base for teaching people and bringing out their potential. (Connors 2020, 41) 


Social skills

Social skills can be seen as the composite of all the other four pillars introduced above. When self-awareness, self-management, motivation, and empathy grow together we will have the confidence and assuredness to influence others in an impactful way. (Connors 2020, 45) When a leader masters social skills, they have the ability to for example resolve conflicts, communicate well and act as a change catalyst. 


Culture & past matters

Sometimes it’s easy to recognize how old memories are distorting current emotions. When being aware of those old life learnings, it is possible to distinguish them from the present moment. This enables cogitation without old memories distorting the current reality. Unfortunately, many factors affecting memories and the learnings gained from them are subconscious and difficult to define. These factors affecting decision-making in the present might be coming from personal experiences or broad social entities. The effect of personal experiences is hard to define from an outside perspective, but due to research and collected data, the impact of broad social entities is more predictable.

As it is well known, society, environment, history, education, interactions, and everything else surrounding affects one’s learning. Generality the learnings are useful and edifying but it’s also inevitable to encounter intolerance toward others. This causes negative prejudices and biases on different levels of one’s subconscious. Intolerance around us causes mental models related to sexism, racism, sexual prejudice, ageism, classism, or religious intolerance (Voller 2009). 

Even though intolerances, these negative prejudices, and biases, are an unwanted part of us, they are affecting our day-to-day life. The first step to acting more socially intelligent is to accept and knowledge their existence. This helps to act more socially savvy, which means accepting deficiency and with that, doing action corrections always when possible. According to research about one of these intolerances, sexism, believing in one’s own objectivity, or in not being sexist, makes a person less objective and makes them more likely to behave in a sexist way. Those who believe they are objective in their hiring decisions are more likely to hire a male applicant than an identically described female applicant. (Criado-Perez 2017, 109.) 


Things we do in Proakatemia already that develop EQ

As shown in this essay, emotional intelligence is a crucial part of being a leader or working with a team in general. That is why many of the team learning methods and tools we use develop EQ as well. Perhaps the most impactful tool used in Proakatemia is feedback. Teampreneurs are always encouraged to give constructive feedback and as a result, get to practice receiving too. Not only does practicing feedback, in general, develop EQ skills, but often the topic of specific feedback might be about these behaviors. As mentioned previously in this essay, that is one of the most helpful things in building self-awareness. When team members see that there is a safe space to both give and receive feedback that also encourages transparency. Transparency, whether that is about one’s actions, intentions, successes, or failures. Is something that is also highly valued in Proakatemia and an important part of self-management skills. 


Mökkipaja’s are an important part of team building in Proakatemia. When done properly they can also help us develop EQ skills. Being in a different type of setting with your team can help build social skills and reflecting on your own behavior in these settings is a great way of bettering self-awareness and -management. Often mökkipaja’s are also used as a time to celebrate different successes in the team, which is an important part of the motivation. 


Learning contracts are another tool that I believe strengthens emotional intelligence. Learning details about your team members – their backgrounds, values, and dreams and reflecting those things to ourselves teaches us empathy in a very unique and valuable way. 


The concept of Proakatemia in general is also beneficial in learning to become a more emotionally intelligent leader. Teampreneurs are given a lot of responsibility and when we want to make something happen in Proakatemia or want to make certain things better, we have to take action and accountability ourselves. Getting to act in leadership positions and making decisions that affect others too, but in a safe school environment, are perfect opportunities to develop self-management. This is something that is not common in traditional school systems but is essential when we move on to work life.  


What could be done better

Although the importance of feedback is highlighted, we feel that it is not always used to its full advantage. We should spend more time truly reflecting on the feedback we have received and thinking about how to develop ourselves accordingly. Self-awareness especially is something we feel should be practiced more. It’s easy to “hide behind” or use personality as an excuse for unwanted behavior when an emotionally intelligent and self-aware person should be able to point out those things in themselves and find ways to better their behavior. In the end, Proakatemia is a school and we are here to learn and develop. Therefore we should challenge ourselves and others to take on challenges that would develop us in EQ areas that we are maybe not as strong in. 


Our team

This essay has been written partly before, and partly after Flip Solution cooperation’s training session about ‘Emotional & Social Intelligence in Worklife’. Saana Keränen was the facilitator of the session and actively brought learning topics into the discussion. This essay works as a follow-up task to read, review, and remind about the lessons learned in the training session.


Description of Picture 1: Preliminary plan of the training session.

Description of picture 2: Notes from the training session.


The training session brought up development proposals for the team’s future; In the next feedback round at Flip Solutions, there will be a section focusing specifically on developing emotional and social intelligence. The Global Emotional Intelligence test results made and reviewed in the paja were following the results given by the Belbin Team Role test. To understand one another better and to reduce the risk of conflict, when needed, skimming through others’ Belbin Team roles might be worth a while. Final but not least, the team wants to actively support the development of each other’s social intelligence. One small step towards this is to keep people accountable for their behavior. Some excuses related to personality traits or other reasoning might rise to the defense, but the goal is to push past those. Team members should be aware of the challenges arising from themselves, but regardless, actively pursue to act as socially sustainable as it’s possible.




Connors, C. 2020.  Emotional Intelligence for the modern leader. A guide to cultivating effective leadership and organizations. Emeryville: Rockridge Press 

Criado-Perez, C. 2019. Näkymättömät naiset. Näin tilastot paljastavat miten maailma on suunniteltu miehille. Schroderus, A. (suom.) Helsinki: WSOY.

Goleman, D. 1998. Emotional Intelligence in Worklife. America: Bantam.

Harari, Y. N. 2022. The Most Important skills for the Future of Work. Nordic Business Forum. Speech. 21.9.2022

Isokorpi, T. 2004. Tunneoppia: parempaan vuorovaikutukseen Jyväskylä: PS-kustannus.

Voller, E. 2009. Measuring Sexism, Racism, Sexual Prejudice, Ageism, Classism, or Religious Intolerance. The Intolerant Schema Measure. Article. Journal of Applied Social Psychology.


Wolken R. 2020. The best leaders celebrate success. Medium. Article. Read on 9.11.2022.