We present and explore a follower-centric model of how employees perceive the emotional intelligence (EI) of change leaders. Qualitative investigations of EI are rare and have not explored the field of organizational change leadership. Accordingly, we analyse qualitative data from a series of interviews set within the context of organizational change. We examine follower attributions about the abilities of their leaders to manage and express their own emotions and to respond appropriately to the followers' emotions. The findings reveal that the ways in which leaders deal with emotion might be the key to followers sharing their own emotions with them. The impact of perceived leader EI on follower responses to change is also discussed. The complexity and ambivalence of our participants' perceptions of the EI of their change leaders highlight the utility of a qualitative investigation.