Emotional Intelligence Factors

Emotional Intelligence Factors

In the 1990s, scholars in the field of psychology began using the concept of emotional intelligence as a way of analyzing the effects of personality traits on leadership. Emotional intelligence can be defined as “the ability to manage oneself and one’s relationships effectively” (Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn 2005, 14). Emotional intelligence refers not only to how one manages emotions on a personal level but also how one manages emotions when interacting with others. In recent decades, scholars have determined that emotional intelligence is a critical component of leadership success and without it, leaders will be less effective.

Emotional Intelligence Skills

Emotional intelligence (EI) can be fostered in managers and leaders. As one’s intelligence develops over time, one’s emotional intelligence can also be improved through gained knowledge and experience. Emotional intelligence may begin at the foundational level of fundamental emotions and progress to complex emotions of self-management and goals. The following four skills were identified as necessary to develop emotional intelligence (Mayer, Salovey and Caruso, 2000):

Lowest Level 1

Emotional Awareness – the ability to identify one’s emotions and another’s. The perceiving of emotions accurately.

Next Level 2

Emotional Control – the ability to use one’s emotions to communicate and solve problems. Use the emotions to facilitate thinking.

Next Level 3

Emotional Understanding – the ability to understand and appreciate emotions, including emotional language and the signals conveyed by emotions.

Highest Level 4

Emotional Management – the ability to regulate one’s emotions and the ability to adjust to the emotions of others. The capacity to manage emotions properly.

These four skills are thought of as a branch, beginning with the lower level and once mastered, growing and advancing to the next level. One must have the necessary fundamental ability to identify emotions of oneself and others accurately. Without this accuracy, controlling, understanding, and managing emotions will be “off base.” This is similar to visiting a physician for a set of symptoms – what do those symptoms mean? If the physician incorrectly identifies what’s going on, then understanding and managing the symptoms will be wrong. It’s also like taking a detour on your way to the beach, but it turns out it wasn’t what you thought it’d be like. Now, you have to retrace your route and start back at the beginning. But all is not lost, as incorrectly identifying a situation or emotion is a learning experience that will enhance one’s EI.

Key Personality Traits

Emotional intelligence is the key personality trait that characterizes great leaders. Author Daniel Goleman developed a list of five skills, or personal competencies, that he argued were part of emotional intelligence and, if possessed by individuals, enabled them to become great leaders. These skills and their definitions are (1996 [2011], 3):

  • “Self-awareness—knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and impact on others.”
  • “Self-regulation—controlling or redirecting disruptive impulses and moods.”
  • “Motivation—relishing achievement for its own sake.”
  • “Empathy—understanding other people’s emotional makeup.”
  • “Social skill—building rapport with others to move them in desired directions.”

According to Goleman, “the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of…emotional intelligence” (1996 [2011], 1). Intelligence and technical skills (IQ) are important; however, “emotional intelligence is the prerequisite of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader” (Goleman 1996 [2011], 1-2).

Author Gary Yukl (2006) argues that emotional intelligence is “related to personality traits such as emotional maturity, self-monitoring, self-confidence, and achievement orientation” (Yukl 2006, 201). Emotional intelligence is a separate skill from cognitive intelligence, but the two traits are interrelated. Emotions impact an individual’s cognitive processes. When an individual experiences strong emotions, such as anger or happiness, it will that person’s mood in either a positive or negative way. This mood may linger, affecting cognitive processes and other leadership behavior.

Leaders with a high degree of emotional intelligence are better able to manage their emotions, ensuring that those emotions result in positive results. They also are better able to use their emotions in beneficial ways. For example, they are more likely to understand what types of emotional appeals may be successful in certain situations. For success as a leader, emotional intelligence is a critical personality trait.

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