Emotional Intelligence – What Is it? Do You have it? How to develop it?

“The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence.” ~ Daniel Goleman PhD

As I am working on this multi-part leadership series, there are a variety of topics that I wanted us to discuss over the next several weeks. I recently wrote about mentorship and sponsorship, and the critical difference but equally important role of both in that article. The next topic in the multi-series and focus of this piece is Emotional Intelligence, which is the focus of this piece. As Daniel Goleman, PhD noted – “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”

The business world, and the rest of the world at large has been talking about emotional intelligence broadly since Daniel Goleman PhD published his book “Emotional Intelligence – Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” back in 1995. I read the book very early on in my medical career path and found it extraordinarily insightful, and it has been ever since. The term emotional intelligence was created by two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer in their article “Emotional Intelligence” in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality in 1990. It was later popularized by Dan Goleman’s book. (https://www.ihhp.com/meaning-of-emotional-intelligence/) I always look for signs of emotional intelligence whenever I am bringing new hires onto staff, navigating working relationships, as well as in my mentorship and sponsorship relationships.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

In his book Working With Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman cites the Harvard Business School research that determined that EQ (Emotional Quotient) counts for twice as much as IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and technical skills combined in determining who will be successful. In a 2003 Harvard Business Review reported that 80% of competencies that differentiate top performers from others are in the domain of Emotional Intelligence. ~ Institute of Health and Human Potential (https://www.ihhp.com/meaning-of-emotional-intelligence/)
What Exactly Is Emotional Intelligence?

The definition has evolved over time. Emotional intelligence has been defined, by Peter Salovey and John Mayer, as “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior”. This definition was later broken down and refined into four proposed abilities: perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotions. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_intelligence#Definitions)

Dr. Goleman described emotional intelligence as a person’s ability to manage his feelings so that those feelings are expressed appropriately and effectively. According to Goleman, emotional intelligence is the largest single predictor of success in the workplace.

Many of the best leaders clearly have highly developed emotional intelligence. Sadly, as various authors note however, there are many who consider themselves to be leaders who have absolutely no emotional intelligence. Many have identified these leaders as bullies, and whatever company, business or team they are “leading,” experience low morale, lack of engagement with the company mission and vision, and high turnover rates.

As society becomes more attuned to, and accepting of, the clear and vital need for characteristic leadership in every field, emotional intelligence is becoming a much more sought-after quality in leaders at every level.

Do You Have Emotional Intelligence?

“It is wisdom to know others; it is enlightenment to know one’s self.” – Lao-Tzu.

The words of the ancient Chinese Philosopher Lao-Tzu rings true today in the area of emotional intelligence. The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned and developed. And like any other quality, it can heighten, grow, and mature throughout life.

There are five key elemental domains to emotional intelligence. They are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Self-awareness is number one and the most important simply because without it, you wouldn’t successfully cultivate the others. So, it’s important to develop self-awareness. You’ll see this characteristic in many of the people you already admire.

I highly recommend reading Daniel Goleman’s book, the Harvard Business Review articles, and exploring the variety of other writings on the topic to help you develop and continually improve on this this exceedingly valuable leadership and life skill.

How Do You Develop Emotional Intelligence?

Here are a few strategies that can get you started on your quest to develop greater emotional intelligence.

First of all, begin to observe how you react to people. Do you rush to judgment before you know all of the facts? Do you stereotype? Do you let people shape who are or do you strive to stay true to your authentic self? Look honestly at how you think and interact with other people. This awareness step is the first key to unlocking your emotional intelligence potential.

Next, examine how you react to stressful situations. Do you become upset every time there’s a delay or something doesn’t happen the way you want? Do you blame others or become angry at them, whether it’s their fault or not? The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations is highly valued – in the business world and outside it. Practice keeping your emotions under control when things go wrong. Learning to stay cool under pressure takes practice, but it is worth it. It helps you to better say, do, and act in ways that lead to less damage or regret after the fact. I remember during my medical training when I was just starting out as a mere student. I witnessed a situation where a mistake was made, but because the staff was so terrified of the attending’s volatile temper, everyone refused to speak up for fear of repercussions or losing their jobs. No one was going to risk this in a fit of the boss’s volatile temper. No one spoke up until the lead surgeon left the room, and then all the discussions swirling around me revealed just how real the fear of doing the right thing was. This is a situation where better emotional intelligence of the leader and the subordinates could have resulted in a better working solution for the entire healthcare team.

Third, consider how your actions will affect others – before you take those actions. If your actions are going to impact others, put yourself in their place and see how it will affect them. If it is an action you must take, consider how can you help others deal with the effects; of course, both parties have to take responsibility for their actions.

As leaders, we must not refrain from taking necessary action, the emotional intelligence comes into play in how we take the action.

These are just a few strategies. The more you also discover, the more of these strategies and tactics you can learn and teach to others. I highly recommend reading Daniel Goleman’s book and exploring the variety of other books and courses available today to help you develop this exceedingly valuable skill.

We are all leaders whether we have a title or not – at work, at home, in the community, and in your own life. So, it’s not a question of fancying yourself in a leadership role in the future, but rather recognizing that you are in a leadership role now in one area of your life or another. You proficiently with highly developed emotional intelligence.