Emotional Intelligence

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”  – Daniel Goleman

Growing up the early 70’s, my mother was a professional psychometrist who tested children for academic placement in school systems in the south.  As a form of practice, or simply due to a lack of any other stimulating family activities, she would occasionally run me through a test or two for good measure, always assuring me I was a very smart little girl, despite never actually revealing evidence of that fact to my increasingly skeptical mind.

Her reasoning for keeping me in the dark on my test scores was that her studies at the time showed most cognitive measures, like the classic Stanford-Binet intelligence test that forms modern IQ scores, only give partial clues to academic potential.  There were, she proclaimed, other skills that mattered as much, if not more, than raw intelligence in determining success, specifically those centered on emotional and social intelligence. In her work, the knowledge of IQ scores often created self-fulfilling prophesies that resulted in negative behavior (“I’m so dumb, why should I try,” or “I’m so smart, why should I listen.”). Was my mother holding back my incredibly high IQ to keep me balanced and level headed? Or was she protecting me from the knowledge that I tested rather low and subsequently encouraging me to keep those social skills sharp if I wanted to make it out of school?

Book cover for Daniel Goleman's "Emotional Intelligence"

Daniel Goleman's groundbreaking book.

A recent reading assignment in our UTS Managers Development Program included the 1998 Harvard Business Review article by Daniel Goleman titled “What Makes a Leader?” and “Emotional Intelligence: Issues in Paradigm Building”.  These articles are based on Goleman’s best selling book Emotional Intelligence originally published in 1995, which pushed the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) into the spotlight of popular culture.  His research redefined what it means to be smart and successful in life.

“Many people with IQs of 160 work for people with IQs of 100.”   – Daniel Goleman

In reading both the original book and the HBR articles, I found resonance with the words of my mother.  IQ does not determine your destiny!  In fact, Goleman suggests, IQ contributes only about twenty percent to the factors that determine life success and states the remaining eighty percent is made up of other characteristics, specifically a range of abilities that includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.  These abilities are the basic tenets of EI and are outlined by Goleman as follows:

  • Self-Awareness:  the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others
  • Self-Regulation:  the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods – the propensity to suspend judgment – to think before acting
  • Motivation:  a passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status – a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence
  • Empathy:  the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people – skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions
  • Social Skill:  proficiency in managing relationships and building networks – an ability to find common ground and build rapport

Unlike IQ, Goleman believes these abilities can be developed and improved.  (Your temperament is also not your destiny.)  The book is rich with real-world examples of each characteristic in the context of everyday  relationships, education, marriage, and work, describing both the physiological science behind emotions and revealing the lasting value of nurturing specific emotional skills in balance with cognitive strengths.

Note, he doesn’t discount IQ altogether but rather challenges its use as a sole predictor of success, calling it more a gauge of “threshold skills”  – those essential intellectual skills one must have to enter certain professions (i.e. engineering, science, executive leadership).  So, while IQ might be a strong indicator of future achievement among the general population, once you get into a specific field of practice, emotional intelligence becomes a more powerful predictor of who succeeds and who does not.

“There is an old-fashioned word for the body of skills that emotional intelligence represents:  Character.”   – Daniel Goleman

It’s clear that developing and nurturing your own emotional intelligence can have profound benefits, whether you are striving to be a leader in your current profession or simply working on being a better parent at home.  Daniel Goleman’s research and continued work in this area is deep and amazingly relevant.  Even if you know your IQ (and I still don’t, thank you Mom!), it’s worth the time exploring this other side of intelligence and cultivating the emotional acuity that can lead you to greater influence and success in all facets of your life.

(Ed. note: this article is part of a continuing series from the OIT Managers currently enrolled in the Manager Development Program)

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2 Comments

  1. Nicole
    Posted April 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Great article Kim! In a class on Emotional Intelligence, I remember the statement, people are often hired for their IQ, but fired for their EQ (emotional quotient).

  2. Sandra Butler
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Kim, this is a well done summary. I loved it!

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