This paper reports on a case-study research investigation that sought to identify the relevance of emotional intelligence for effective higher education academic leadership. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, pre and post a leadership capacity development intervention, to gather broad data on participants’ experiences, insights, and engagement in leadership and the utilisation of emotional intelligence in leading. The study found that emotional intelligence is recognised as a highly relevant and important requirement for academic leadership in higher education. Additionally, the investigation ascertained that emotional intelligence traits related to empathy, inspiring and guiding others and responsibly managing oneself were most applicable for academic leadership. The views of participants regarding the relevance of these emotional intelligence traits in academic leadership are presented. Illustrations of how these emotional intelligence traits might manifest in a higher education context are also discussed.