Emotional Intelligence: The Importance of People Smarts

Some people laugh at the idea of emotional intelligence, but that just shows they lack it.

Over the years psychologistsorganisational behaviour experts, and others have researched the phenomenon to understand what makes some individuals leaders. Do smarter people make better leaders? Although the the obvious answer is “yes,” it depends on what you mean by “smart.”  Almost a century of research on basic intelligence better known as IQ suggests that IQ is slightly to moderately related to attaining a leadership position and to a leader’s success. But that doesn’t always fit with people’s experience. Some who we consider geniuses don’t always make good leaders (e.g., scientists, brilliant mathematicians, breakthrough artists). In fact, we see leaders who don’t appear particularly smart. So, IQ matters, but not as much as we might think. There are, however, other types of intelligence.

There has been huge interest in what is called emotional intelligence. It was Daniel Goleman who first brought the term “emotional intelligence” to a wide audience with his 1995 book of that name, and it was he who first applied the concept to business with his 1998 Harvard Business Review article. In his research at nearly 200 large, global companies, Goleman found that while the qualities traditionally associated with leadership—i.e., intelligence, toughness, determination, vision—are required for success, they are insufficient. Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

Qualities such as assertiveness, adaptability, and conscientiousness were cited as the most important. Is Emotional Quotient related to leadership? Yes. It’s important for creating good relationships between leaders and followers. Transformational leaders—leaders who are positive, inspiring, and who empower and develop followers—are better leaders, explains psychologist and leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio. Transformational leaders are usually described as enthusiastic, passionate, genuine, and energetic. These qualities may sound soft and unbusinesslike, but Goleman found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results.

SO how do we become effective leaders? The good news is that the competencies discussed above are pliable. They can be developed. Training in leadership development that are conducted by cognitive psychologists focus on development of emotional intelligence and social skills. Most large companies today have employed trained psychologists to develop what are known as “competency models” to aid them in identifying, training, and promoting likely stars in the leadership firmament. The psychologists have also developed such models for lower-level positions. Rationality, emotional well-being and regulation, decision making, and logical reasoning are all part of the competencies developed.

In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, leadership is “the art of getting someone else to get something you want done because he wants to do it.”

For more on emotional intelligence, read Gabriel Orgrease’s Emotional Intelligence of Mass Extinction.



Bar-On, Reuven(Ed); Parker, James D. A.(Ed). The handbook of emotional intelligence: Theory, development, assessment, and application at home, school, and in the workplace.

Bass, Bernard M. (2008). The handbook of leadership (4th ed., with Ruth Bass).

Daniel Goleman – Emotional Intelligence (Bantam, 1995)

Riggio, R.E., Murphy, S.E., & Pirozzolo, F.J. (2002). Multiple intelligences and leadership. Erlbaum.


About Hiren Gaglani

Hiren Gaglani is a Director at Headrush Outbound, a South Asia based outdoor experiential learning company. Headrush aims to impart training to variety of different ends, by merging the engagement level of the outdoors, with the science of assessments.

For its more rigorous training oriented clients, Headrush also offers Headrush Insights, its rigorous Outdoor Education modules.


  1. That is a really good tip especially to those nnew to the blogosphere.

    Simple but very accurate info… Appreciate youur sharing this one.

    A must read post!

  2. There are also many psychologists who argue that Emotional Intelligence (EI) doesn’t exist. However, I think this is an academic arguement as whilst they may not agree with the overall concept they do tend to agree with the existence of the constituents of EI such as self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and behavioural agility. Instead we need to focus on the impact of EI. Researchers from Henley Management College in the UK (Dulewicz & Higgs) found that EI contributes to 36% of the factors that determine success for leaders.

  3. I think ’emotional intelligence’ is just some silly fad-notion that doesn’t really exist outside imagination.

  4. It’s interesting that people like BASTAI would deny the existence of emotional intelligence. I mean, there are other terms for this concept, like non-cognitive skills, social skills, people skills, soft skills, interpersonal skills. What do you call these? Are these too made up? And it has not been my experience that “women rock and men suck” at it. We run a summer camp (http://www.longacre.com/) and teach leadership to teenagers. Some of these teenagers are good with others, some less so. It’s just like athletics or art or math or anything else.

  5. Emotional intelligence does not exist other than as a genderpolitikally motivated scientific fraud.

    It was fabricated from the ground up to lend scientific-looking support to female supremacism. Accordingly, emotional intelligence is presented as an extremely important “makes you truly human” faculty at which, by design, women rock and men suck. That’s all there is to it.

  6. I am really interested that the issue and subject of Emotional Intelligence has been raised – but there has been no dialogue or even an invitation to dialogue of what that means in being a Good Man.

    I’m always happy to see content coming in from a wider global perspective, no matter how glancing the association. I Joke about the middle aged spread around here, and how youth is missing in both how they see goodness and either aspire to what others say it is, or see it as wrong and want to change some wrong headed ways. I just wish there was more about “Homines Boni” which transcended boundaries and stereotypes – National and Age.

    Emotional intelligence – the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.

    I do find it odd that there are supposedly three steps 1)Identify – 2)assess – 3)control and yet they are not linear with one following the other like some choo choo train. Different people can have different levels of knowledge and are able to identify but not able to or even interested in assessing or controlling. Some actually have the ability to control other people emotionally and there is no assessment or even identifying of emotions – you only have to look at the perpetrators of such things as Domestic Abuse, both male and female, to see the lack of assessment or identity but the control coming from learned experience and socialised norms.

    This piece on emotional intelligence is both insightful and sadly stereotypical. In one way it takes two well understood words “Emotion” and “Intelligence” joins them together to attempt to communicate a new idea – and everyone thinks because they are emotional and intelligent they get the subject and know all the answers.

    Understanding you own and others emotional and how they get laid out, used and channelled is important, no matter you level of understanding. Some study the subject and can deal with their own emotions and even treat others as emotional marionettes, pulling a few strings to get the emotional response that best serves. That could be cowing someone or having them explode.

    But that emotional Intelligence can also work in very different ways – some have little to no Overt understanding but they get it right because they just tune into others, are empathetic and even just like people and being with them.

    The one thing I do find of concern is how so many useful ideas and terms such as “Emotional Intelligence” end up being monopolised around a profit and loss model, or The American Dream Model.

    This newly crowned meme and idea will make you millions – and I will make millions by selling you the idea and getting you to buy the book – your hunger for sucess and climbing that social hierarchy based upon money will guarantee my success …. and what is most interesting is, if you lack emotional intelligence you will miss the irony of how I am using emotional intelligence against you to achieve my own aims bu getting you yo buy my books about Emotional Intelligence – which of course I label with such things as How To Succeed in.. . P^)

    How Does being a Good Man fit with The American Dream when for some the emotionally intelligent thing to do is set aside the success by money ideal and look to explore the undercurrents and how other successes can be judged both emotionally and even rationally. Some God Men spoke of Holding these truths to be self evident “.. that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”.

    The Word Cynic got it’s meaning changed mid 19th Century. The guys who signed off on “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” were in many ways True Cynics – That life was best lived with some form of virtue, and worldly goods got in the way. Then the meaning of the word got changed and became about Distrusting Others Motives, Ambitions and even Displayed Emotions.

    It’s interesting to see how emotionally intelligent those guys with quills were and how they did not place profit and being financially rich at the top of any tree as a Self Evident Truth. When did pursuing happiness and being independent become measured by green paper – and how do good men safeguard against others being modern day cynics and using emotional intelligence in ways that might be good for the man but not for men?

    • Peter von Maidenberg says:

      “The one thing I do find of concern is how so many useful ideas and terms such as ‘Emotional Intelligence’ end up being monopolised around a profit and loss model, or The American Dream Model.”

      The question then is: How much of that happens because some marketing meatball is looking for a fresh angle – which is natural, and more important, their job – and how much of it happens because society feels unable/reluctant/guilty to engage with such issues unless they can be expressed materially?

      “I am really interested that the issue and subject of Emotional Intelligence has been raised – but there has been no dialogue or even an invitation to dialogue of what that means in being a Good Man.”

      Perhaps because EI is not considered substantive/real world/material enough to be worthy of men’s time and energy?


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