Emotional Intelligence Is More Than the Sum of Its Constituents

Through the lens of the post-industrial leadership paradigm, emotional intelligence is a key outer-core leadership competency forming the basis of everything that sets intelligent leadership apart from the rigid, top-down hierarchical leadership structures of the past.

It makes sense to master the language of emotions.

Emotional intelligence is a collection of psychological abilities that allows leaders to understand and control their emotions as well as those of their reports and peers. Ultimately, emotional intelligence allows leaders to shape and influence the emotions and attitudes of others around them.

“Leadership is the art of getting someone to do what you want because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower 

If we use Eisenhower’s definition of successful leadership, emotional intelligence certainly fits the mold.

In my book “Intelligent Leadership,” I have deconstructed this essential leadership skill and analyzed each of its constituents to paint a more accurate picture of its applicability.


The keystone of emotional intelligence, self-awareness is the ability to recognize your emotions as they develop. In addition to identifying certain moods and feelings, self-aware people also understand the responses their emotions elicit in others.

Self-regulation and Self-control

Self-regulation is the successful management of emotions, moods, and drives. If you are capable of self-control, you can recognize and check negative emotions. You understand the impact such feelings have on your behavior, and you are capable of shutting them down when you become aware of their presence.

Through self-management, you foster positive emotions associated with honesty, integrity, conscientiousness, adaptability, and innovation. You tune your emotional makeup to positivity while steering clear of negativity.


Empathy is an ability reserved for those of outstanding emotional intelligence. Such leaders sense, recognize, and understand the emotions, feelings, and drives of others by being able to place themselves in another’s position. Through empathy, leaders can understand and anticipate the developmental needs of their reports. In the context of intelligent leadership, empathy is, therefore, a valuable ability and asset.


Motivation is a state of mind conducive to achievement. Underpinning motivation is an emotional layer consisting of elements such as achievement drive, commitment, initiative, and optimism. These emotions drive leaders to work for reasons that exceed conventional drivers of motivation, such as material benefits and social status.

Social Skills

Social skills represent the most obvious practical application of emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent leaders seek to induce desirable changes in the attitudes of others through social skills.

Emotional intelligence has a profound impact on social skills.

Diplomacy, or the ability to persuade, is the ultimate test of emotional intelligence. It combines several emotional intelligence-rooted abilities, such as the ability to listen openly, to send convincing emotional messages, to inspire, guide, and build meaningful bonds.

Collaboration and cooperation are also essential social skills, as is the ability to create group synergy and emotional alignment in pursuit of common goals.

Not everyone agrees with the positive effect of emotional intelligence on business performance. According to organizational psychologist and best-selling author Adam Grant, cognitive ability is a much more accurate predictor of business success than emotional intelligence. Grant does admit, however, that emotional intelligence is relevant to performance in jobs that deal with emotions.

One might argue that leading people is a job where both cognitive ability and emotional intelligence are consequential. It is hardly surprising that the correlation between the two is positive.


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