Emotional Intelligence

by Andy Smith


Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) is best thought of as a collection of abilities or ‘competencies’:

  • to be aware of your own emotions
  • to recognise and understand emotions in others
  • to regulate your emotions
  • to handle and inspire emotions in others.

Originating in the work of academic psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey, and Reuven Bar-On, in the 1980s, EI quickly became a business buzzword when Daniel Goleman’s bestselling Emotional Intelligence was published in 1995.

Why? Because it hit a chord with the times. As the pace of change speeded up and old certainties started to fade, people began to realise that the old-fashioned command-and-control style of leadership wasn’t cutting it. The heart is more important than the head when it comes to motivating people and connecting with customers.

The business relevance of EI comes from this simple question: how much of themselves do people bring to work? In many workplaces, people check their passion, creativity and humour at the door every day when they show up. The chances are that you’ve worked in places like that; if you still are, this section will give you some ideas on how to change things.

The businesses which succeed in the 21st century will be the ones that harness ‘discretionary effort’ (the stuff that people do beyond what they have to) by making it possible for people to bring the whole of their intelligence – emotional as well as intellectual – to work with them.

Fortunately, emotional intelligence is not a given. You can improve your own EI levels just as you can hone other skills. In the five pages starting with ‘Self-awareness’, we explain how to assess you own emotional intelligence and how to improve your EI abilities. We also explain how emotional intelligence works at an organisational level and its importance as an essential ingredient of leadership skills within the modern business framework.