You have probably noticed airport bookstores cluttered with the latest batch of business books, their time on display shelves lasting little longer than cut flowers. One of the few with staying power is Daniel Goleman’s 1995 bestseller, Emotional Intelligence. Goleman introduced the concept to a wide audience of parents, teachers, and businesspeople – men and women responsible for interacting in constructive ways with their charges, be they children or teams organized to carry out a company’s goals.
Though Goleman popularized the term, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was first coined by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey in 1990. However, the concept of EQ has been around for much longer, traces arguably going back to classical Greek philosophers.
But this is not the place for a lecture; rather, I’d like to remind business leaders why Emotional Intelligence (the concept, and not just Goleman’s original and more recent books) remains evergreen. It is still current because the original insights and concrete strategies are still relevant, and because our understanding of Emotional Intelligence has increased over time. This is due in part to the increasing recognition of the importance of EQ in various areas of life, such as leadership, relationships, and personal development. As a result, more people may be focusing on developing their EQ and incorporating it into their daily lives.
Here is a definition and an important distinction: Emotional Intelligence is a measure of a person’s ability to understand, manage, and use their own emotions and the emotions of others. It is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to perceive, express, understand, and regulate emotions. In negative terms, the rise and sometimes toxic effects of social media underline the importance of freeing ourselves from destructive emotional echo chambers.
Intelligence quotient (IQ), on the other hand, is a measure of a person’s cognitive abilities, such as their ability to learn, reason, and solve problems. IQ tests are designed to measure these abilities by assessing a person’s ability to perform a range of tasks, such as spatial reasoning, logical thinking, and problem-solving.
For many years schools and businesses focussed on IQ while EQ swirled around unseen, or at least underappreciated. No more.
Is Emotional Intelligence an inherent quality, something we are born with, or can EQ be developed? Good news: research has shown that leaders can practice proven techniques to enhance their emotional intelligence. Goleman’s and other books, articles in business journals, and even online texts contain practical EQ-enhancing tools.
The results of time spent on increasing one’s EQ can be impressive. They include:
- Better communication and collaboration: Leaders with high EQ are better able to understand and respond to the emotions of others, which can facilitate better communication and collaboration within the team. This can lead to improved teamwork and productivity.
- Improved decision making: Leaders with high EQ are able to take into account the emotions and perspectives of others when making decisions. This can help them to make more fair and effective decisions, which can lead to better outcomes for the team and organization.
- Enhanced ability to handle difficult situations: Leaders with high EQ are better able to handle difficult situations and to resolve conflicts in a way that is fair and beneficial to all parties involved. This can help to create a positive and productive work environment.
- Greater personal and professional satisfaction: Leaders with high EQ often experience greater personal and professional satisfaction. This is because they are better able to manage their own emotions and to create positive relationships with others, which can lead to a more fulfilling and enjoyable work experience.
Overall, having high EQ helps leaders to be more effective in their roles and to create success for themselves, their teams, and their organizations.