Emotional Intelligence

Many people work with a distinction between logic and emotion. Logic is good. Emotion is bad. Business is supposed to run on logic and emotions (especially in others) should be ignored, allowed to pass, or patiently endured. The concept of emotional intelligence brings feelings into the centre of business life. Now, in fact, we have long known that they are central.


A person with intelligence as usually defined is someone who knows things, can work out things, can see connections, can analyse logically. We tend to use the word in an intellectual sense but there are many other forms of intelligence. Thus a painter, a sculptor, a cabinetmaker, a pianist or an ace bricklayer may not exhibit what we think of as intellectual intelligence (though they also may.) They have a form of intelligence that manifests itself in the mastery of shape and form. Emotional intelligence is yet another type.

Emotional intelligence

People said to have emotional intelligence can control and understand their own emotions and more importantly are able to connect with others’ feelings, to comprehend them, to reflect them and to treat them as important. If you have seen “Star Trek, the New Generation”, you will be familiar with the character of the Counsellor whose role it is to advise Captain Jean-Luc Picard on the emotional world that surrounds him. The android character, Data, has all the logical intelligence but none of the emotional intelligence and both are vital as advisers and support to our hero.


As have I said, this is nothing really new. The idea exists in the work of Elias Porter, of Meredith Belbin and indeed Maslow. However, what is new is that researchers have been able to measure emotional intelligence and correlate it with managerial and leadership success.

Does it make a Difference to the Bottom Line?

It appears that emotional intelligence skills make the greatest difference in performance at work – greater than logical intelligence. It has been said that nearly 70% of organisational culture and climate is created by the nature of the leader and that up to 30% of business results stem from the culture that is created. Increasing management emotional intelligence has been claimed to increase productivity by up to 200% – a lot! – and salespeople with high emotional intelligence skills sell twice their emotional intelligence challenged colleagues. Indeed, an absence of emotional intelligence skills has been said to account for the eventual failure of even the most brilliant leaders.

Why should anyone be surprised by this? Organisations are composed of people. Business is done between people. People have values and therefore emotions. Decisions have to take account of them – and major ones are usually made on the basis of them.