16 January 2006

Emotional intelligence

Saddled with a low IQ since childhood? Can’t perform in this high-pressure competitive world? Stuck in a groove while the other guy gets that coveted promotion? Don’t worry. You still have a fighting chance. You just have to get emotionally smart. For that, you need emotional intelligence.

Don’t know what it is? Don’t worry. Read on.

“Emotional Intelligence – The ability to perceive and constructively act on both one's own emotions and the feelings of others.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is sometimes referred to as emotional quotient or emotional literacy. Individuals with emotional intelligence are able to relate to others with compassion and empathy, have well-developed social skills, and use this emotional awareness to direct their actions and behavior.”

This definition, and explanation, of emotional intelligence from ‘The Gale Encyclopaedia Of Psychology’ had pleased me so much that I had to quote it here. If you’ve understood the concept of EI from this quote, you needn’t read further.

Much is written on this subject, but the book to read is Daniel Goleman’s ‘Emotional Intelligence’. Goleman may have borrowed the term emotional intelligence (EI) from the work of two professors, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, but he has certainly popularised it. To CEOs and HR managers looking for something to pin their hopes on, Goleman's book is godsend.

According to EI theory, IQ is no longer enough to get ahead in life. Apart from being intelligent and being good at work, you need to be emotionally ‘developed’ to succeed. Brainpower, as measured by IQ, takes you only part of the way. To complete the journey, you need to possess ‘emotional abilities’. The only drawback is, not all of us are clued-in on these abilities and know how to use them. I guess I'm a prime example of this mess.

The interesting thing is, EI is not fixed at birth. It can be learnt (as I'm learning) and can help us become better persons. In fact, we all have emotional intelligence. Some just have a higher EI score (EQ) than others. Self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, social awareness and social skills, which EI advocates say are critical in emotional development, are an integral part of everyone’s life. What was accepted as wisdom or maturity in olden days, or as interpersonal and relationship skills a couple of years ago, is now termed emotional intelligence.

No doubt EI is important. The question is, is it so important that it overshadows IQ in determining achievements in the corporate world? Although a high EQ may improve teamwork and foster leadership qualities in a person, can it contribute directly to an individual's creativity or ability to innovate, analyse or plan? Whether EI helps us succeed at work with a better position and a higher pay, or turns us into natural leaders, is still difficult to say.

Perhaps organisations should recognise that we come in various combinations of IQ and EQ. It is as important to build an individual into a performer, as it is to nurture emotional intelligence in him or her. Both aspects are important in improving that individual’s and the organisation’s performance.

In the end, an organisation is still evaluated on performance. Perhaps, emotional intelligence can be a means to that end.

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