What is Emotional Intelligence?

What is Emotional Intelligence?

What is Emotional Intelligence is a good question. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been found to be a key factor in improved leadership and business performance. This article is an introduction as to why.

IQ or EQ?

If you are above a certain age, like me, you have done a number of Intelligent Quota (or IQ) tests throughout your lifetime. Maybe even at school? But how often have you completed an Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) test? The answer is interesting as historically IQ was considered the sole measure by which a person’s intelligence could be measured.

Historically emotions were seen as negative, uncontrolled and liable to lead to poor decision making. Karl Young said in 1943 “Emotions cause.. a complete loss of cerebral control [and contain] no trace of conscious purpose”. Britain’s stiff upper lip was very much a product of this type of thinking. Grown men don’t cry. Emotion shows weakness.

Today the thought that IQ is the sole harbinger of intelligence is thankfully dying. HR departments utilise psychometric testing. We understand better the concept of “gut feel”. Sales are trained to watch for changes in body language. As an example of cultural shift, it’s quite likely that the older readers of this article had more austere (stiff upper lip) parents.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The term Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has garnered a lot of press throughout the business world over the last twenty years. Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional  Intelligence” (1995 Bantam Books) brought the subject to the mass market, as well as a number of follow up books. He developed the argument that non cognitive skills matters as much as IQ as it relates to the workplace and leadership effectiveness.

After extensive research, Goleman identified five ‘domains’ of EQ as:

  1. Knowing your emotions.
  2. Managing your own emotions.
  3. Motivating yourself.
  4. Recognising and understanding other people’s emotions.
  5. Managing relationships, i.e., managing the emotions of others.

Why Should I Care?

Reading Goleman’s EQ list may cause you to think, okay, what’s the big deal?

Studies have shown that;

  • 67% of the competencies needed for effective performance are emotional (Rosier 1994)
  • EQ is 90% of the difference between average and best performing leaders (Goleman, 1997)
  • Emotion is five times more important than intellect quotient (IQ) in determining success (Bar-On et al 2006)

The business value of hiring, developing and retaining staff with high emotional intelligence is remarkable. The following are excerpts from The Business Case for Emotional Intelligence (EI) (Cherniss 1999) which lists 19 case studies where emotional intelligence significantly impacted business performance. Below are just three examples;

  1. Experienced partners in a multinational consulting firm were assessed on the EI competencies plus three others. Partners who scored above the median on 9 or more of the 20 competencies delivered $1.2 million more profit from their accounts than did other partners – a 139 percent incremental gain (Boyatzis, 1999).
  2. The US Air Force found that their most successful recruiters scored significantly higher in emotional intelligence competencies. These included Assertiveness, Empathy, Happiness, and Emotional Self Awareness. Using EQ-I to select the recruiters themselves they increased their ability to predict successful recruiters by nearly three-fold. The immediate gain was a $3m annual saving.
  3. In a national insurance company, insurance sales agents who were weak in emotional competencies such as self-confidence, initiative, and empathy sold policies with an average premium of $54,000. Those who were very strong in at least 5 of 8 key emotional competencies sold policies worth $114,000 (Hay/McBer Research and Innovation Group, 1997).

If your competitor has higher emotional intelligence than you – watch out.

“In the last decade.. researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life.” –  John Gottman.


What is Emotional Intelligence? It’s a predictor of general intelligence, as well as a predictor of personal and business performance. Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence can be developed.

A good leadership management development programme raises personal awareness of feelings and emotions. It increases empathy and understanding of others.

In short they develop personal capability around emotional and social skills. The result? Better communication, improved influencing skills and greater buy in from others. Tie that into vision, strategy and execution and you begin to build a high performing organisation.

Future articles on the subject will look in more depth at what constitutes emotional intelligence, how it can be scored, and crucially how it can be increased.

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To understand how increasing emotional intelligence can create significantly improved results for you, get in touch.

(C) Welcome Insight 2016. Author Mark Bateman. Flickr image by TZA.