Emotional intelligence – the skill set of future Black leaders?

Black employees have high emotional intelligence which is desired in modern leaders

A new style of leadership is forming; managers are expected to show emotional intelligence, and new research shows that while underrepresented groups excel here, their skills are being underutilised.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to handle one’s own emotions and interpersonal relationships fairly and with empathy, which is vital in the pandemic-era workplace defined by a greater emphasis on transparent communication, mental health and wellbeing, and inclusion.

High EQ – A skill set of minorities

Ethnically diverse groups have the highest emotional intelligence in the workplace at 3% higher than white groups. Black British employees scored the highest EQ overall, at 6% higher.

These findings come from organisational change firm Untapped AI. The research also split EQ into ‘EQ self’, which concerns the self, and ‘EQ other’, regarding other people. Here, they found that women scored 8-10% higher overall, but especially high in the ‘EQ other’ category.

Out of the 10,000 people surveyed, two-thirds said it is crucial for leaders in the pandemic and the hybrid working environment to “expand their capacity for emotional intelligence.” This finding is unsurprising considering that operating through COVID-19 has brought workers’ personal lives to the fore via remote and hybrid working as well as accelerated their mental health and wellbeing needs.

With their greater capacity to show emotional intelligence to others, women can make for inclusive and equitable managers, showing that EQ should be counted as a key skillset for women in leadership.

Kendal Parmar, Co-founder and CEO of Untapped AI, explains that the high EQ of Black employees, which could help them develop into leaders too, is being wasted on navigating workplace inequity.

“On average, Black employees on our platform have a 6% higher EQ than all other groups on our platform, and yet, Black employees are sitting on an ‘untapped resource’ as they navigate systems in various environments at work.

“The sad reality is that instead of utilising their EQ in leadership roles, Black employees can often find themselves using their high EQ to ‘read the room’, avoid conflict, and diffuse microaggressions.

“This is neither inclusive nor an effective way to approach diversity, and workplaces need to do more than introduce training programmes that do not open constructive conversations.

“Organisations that want to truly drive change will need to put inclusion at the heart of everything they do and harness the best in technology to identify where they can improve.”


In this article, you learned that:

  • Employees from ethnic minority backgrounds have higher Emotional intelligence (EQ), with Black employees the highest.
  • EQ is now a desirable trait for good leadership.
  • Black employees are using their EQ to navigate workplace inequity, such as ‘reading the room’ and dealing with microaggressions.

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