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What is Emotional Intelligence?

Several years ago, Emotional Intelligence (EI) became the hot buzzword in leadership.  In 2004 Mayer defined it in the Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2004/01/leading-by-feel this way:

From a scientific (rather than a popular) standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions. 

Emotional Intelligence is actually the blend of five components reflecting the ability to recognize, connect with, and learn from one’s own and other people’s mental states:

  • Self-awareness (good sense of one’s own emotions and happiness)
  • Self-regulation (ability to control emotions such as anger and frustration)
  • Motivation (defined as “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status”)
  • Empathy for others (being a good observer of other’s emotions and being able to react to these)
  • Social skills (such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks)

Why is Emotional Intelligence important?

For many years, researchers assumed that intelligence was the strongest predictor of business and entrepreneurial success.  Intelligence, often measured as IQ, shows how we learn.

Others assumed that certain personality types were more likely to emerge in high profile entrepreneurs. Personality or “style” is measured via a set of relatively hardwired tendencies such as introversion/extroversion, comfort with details versus ambiguity, etc. 

But when Emotional Intelligence was introduced about a decade ago https://hbr.org/2015/04/how-emotional-intelligence-became-a-key-leadership-skill, EI emerged as a better predictor of success than intelligence or personality type.  In many ways this was an encouraging outcome.  Intelligence and personality are stable traits that most people are born with or are very stable over time.  This would mean that one’s IQ or “personality style” would predetermine his ability to be an effective leader.  Emotional intelligence, however, is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice.

How does Emotional Intelligence predict entrepreneurial success?

TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills, and found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs. 

High IQ and relevant experience are also very important.  However, highly intelligent or experienced candidates who lacked emotional intelligence were more likely to flame out. https://hbr.org/2014/10/ignore-emotional-intelligence-at-you-own-risk  This means that an entrepreneur who understands and can moderate his own emotions and be responsive to the emotions of others is much more likely to be able to create the business team and partners needed for strong growth.  Super smart “mavericks” with low EI may ignore important emotional data putting the firm at risk.

There is also evidence that EI is linked to innovation as emotionally intelligent entrepreneurs are more open to outside ideas of others and more flexible in creating new connections.

Interested in learning more about your Emotional Intelligence level?  Take this quiz http://psychology.about.com/library/quiz/bl_eq_quiz.htm

About the Author(s)

Jeanne Rossomme headshot

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.

President, RoadMap Marketing
Emotional Intelligence