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December 12th, 2016

The Ins and Outs of Emotional Intelligence


Emotional intelligence (EQ) has been mentioned a few times before in this blog, most recently in the series done on Success. Because of this, and its relevance to so many different areas in business and leadership, it is time that it received its own post.

There is an abundance of information on EQ across the internet already, the intent of this post to provide a concise explanation of why EQ is an important topic to continue to study.


To understand why EQ is important we do need to first unpack what it actually is.

In its most concise state, EQ is how able and accurate a person is at both recognizing and understanding their own emotions and those of others. This information is then used to guide the decision-making and problem-solving process. Related to this are qualities such as empathy, sympathy, and compassion which allow a person to discern how others perceive events and interactions, and how to adapt should the interaction or event be perceived negatively.


When leaders lack EQ

How people in leadership roles deal with power – or not – has a lot to do with EQ.

When EQ isn’t as developed as it should be, the authority that leadership roles have often blinds those who hold them to key EQ competencies. Most notably, self-awareness and empathy.

In the previous blog post on Power and Conflict, the ways that people are either susceptible to power, or how power can influence a person’s moral compass, was discussed at length. In a nutshell, EQ is either lacking, or there is the possibility that despite having high levels of EQ as they climbed the corporate ladder, leaders may lose those skills and lose touch with their employees. Just like IQ needs to be nurtured with continuous learning, so too does EQ through actively maintaining relationships and not losing sight of what’s going on at the frontline of the business' big picture.


EQ: It’s not just for leaders.

Much of the research done on the subject of EQ revolves around its impact on leaders and their successes or failures. However it is a skill that everyone needs to some degree in order to be successful in business and other social settings.

When looking at the health of an organization as a whole, both an individual’s EQ and the organization’s culture play a large role.






The “perspective gap”

What makes EQ so challenging to be highly proficient at is that we are inherently biased to view the world through our own personal lens. If we are not in a certain situation ourselves we don't fully appreciate how something is affecting those who are. Adam Grant tackles this problem in his book Give and Take, calling it the “perspective gap.” Doctors underestimating patients pain is a classic example of this. 

Training our minds to avoid being dismissive and gaining higher levels of EQ qualities such as empathy helps to bridge this gap. Seeing and understanding the world around you from alternate perspectives helps to formulate a more complete picture so that your decisions are more successful overall.


Does EQ play a significant role in business success?

There is a growing body of literature that promotes the importance of having a well-balanced leader. Whether in politics, business, sports, or academics.

The Economist Executive Education Navigator surveyed over 4,000 professionals from all levels of the organizations to find out what skills the C-Suite should be focusing on. What is interesting is that employees tended to agree with the current literature findings and placed high value on leaders who prioritized emotional intelligence and the development of those skills, while many of those in leadership roles saw technology and finance as areas that they need to focus on improving in.

Obviously leaders need to have the technical knowledge and skills involved in how businesses are run and how to turn a profit. But being able to genuinely connect with your employees and inspire them to do all that they can to fulfill the vision of the company is a more nuanced skill, one that can often make all the difference to an organization’s overall health and long-term success. EQ assessments should therefore complement other leadership indicators used when hiring and promoting candidates to management positions.










Sources used for this post:

Baker, N. (2016). Your employees wish you were emotionally intelligent. The Economist Executive Education Navigator. Retrieved 30 November 2016, from

Cummins, D. (2014). The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence. Psychology Today. Retrieved 6 December 2016, from

Grant, A. (2014). The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence. The Atlantic. Retrieved 5 December 2016, from

Lloyd, A. (2015). How great leaders balance execution and empathy | SmartBrief. Retrieved 29 November 2016, from

Lopez, L. (2016). One explanation for why Donald Trump forgets things the second he says them. Business Insider. Retrieved 10 December 2016, from

Martin, E. (2016). 14 psychological reasons why good people do bad things. Business Insider. Retrieved 15 December 2016, from

McKee, A. (2016). How the Most Emotionally Intelligent CEOs Handle Their Power. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 8 December 2016, from

Rosete, D. & Ciarrochi, J. (2005). Emotional intelligence and its relationship to workplace performance outcomes of leadership effectiveness. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 26(5), 388-399.