Table of Contents

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Don’t let the word "intelligence" mislead you. Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence/quotient (EI/EQ) does not relate to cognitive ability. No research has proven that high IQ individuals also possess high EQ. 

In short, EQ refers to the ability to: 

  • Be aware and understand your own emotions. 
  • Harness and apply your emotions to thinking and problem-solving. 
  • Manage your own emotions and influence others. 

In other words, the focus of EQ is on your emotions, how you understand your feelings, manage them, and put them to good use. It has nothing to do with precise calculation or a wide-range vocabulary. 

Can EQ be measured, trained, and improved?

Yes, through suitable development programs and coaching

And despite revolving around the word "emotion," EQ may encompass many aspects, including interpersonal skills, stress management, and mindfulness. Thus, it is not just emotions that you can alter, but also your behaviour.  

Your emotions are formed as a reaction from your brain to respond to the external environment and then interpreted into behaviours. Therefore, making changes to your behaviour can result in gradually reorienting your emotions. 

The age-old question: EQ vs IQ 

IQ is indeed needed for leaders to be successful. IQ seems to be a better factor than EQ in shaping task-oriented leaders who have a strong focus on accomplishing specific goals. Leaders who achieve the most success tend to have similar IQs to those they lead. 

Nevertheless, IQ alone will not guarantee your success. However, an IQ score that is too high might negatively affect your leadership ability, as your followers fail to understand you. It takes more than "being smart" to be able to influence, motivate, and inspire. That is where EQ comes in. 

A true leader needs both EQ and IQ. Balancing these two is the key to leadership success. 

Does a higher EQ result in more success? 

Many studies are showing a positive correlation between EQ and career success. However, viewing EQ as the sole factor for success is one of the most detrimental misconceptions. 

For a complete picture of a person, we need to have insights into their three areas:  

  • IQ, or the ability to logically think and reason 
  • EQ, or the ability to make social connections and build relationships
  • And personality. 

Different people with varying levels of IQ and personality will express EQ differently. You need to take into account the context, culture and other external factors to conclude whether that reaction is appropriate. EQ is considered a comprehensive set of skills for social interaction and connection, hence its practicality. EQ or relationships only help you speed up, but it doesn’t dictate an exact path to success for you. 

Though it plays a critical role, EQ alone is not equivalent to being successful or turning failures into successes. EQ is only one of many tools that help you unlock more opportunities. 

Why is Emotional Intelligence important?

Has it ever occurred to you that when things do not act out according to your plan or expectations, the results are not up to par, and this makes you feel disappointed? As a result, you let your emotions take over, and when you can no longer contain them, you vent out on those around you. 

Or in another similar situation, where the person that lets their emotions run wild is your superior, and you are the one who has to endure the reprimand.

EQ allows you and leaders to suppress the negative emotions and not let them take control of the situation or hurt others’ feelings, which can potentially lead to disengagement, lowered productivity, or worse, resentment.

On a personal aspect, high EQ boosts career success, health and happiness. At a personal level, EQ allows leaders to: 

  • Carry out difficult conversations without being hurtful 
  • Manage emotions when one is overwhelmed with anxiety or stress 
  • Improve our relationships with the people who matter to us 

In the workplace, leaders and employees with EQ can facilitate: 

Research* has found that emotionally intelligent leaders tend to be more successful. Typical examples include: 

  • Executives that possess EQ competencies at PepsiCo are 10% more productive. 
  • High EQ representatives at L’Oréal generated $2.5 million more in sales. 
  • An EQ initiative at Sheraton helped increase market share by 24%. 

In addition to generating a higher bottom line or productivity, emotional intelligence is essential to foster a high-performance workplace and a higher retention rate as employees and leaders are aware of their own feelings as well as others'. Thus, EQ appears to be a competitive advantage that organisations need to own. 

Many people mistake EQ for being optimistic and confident when, in reality, it requires a lot of self-regulation. Some leaders are born with high EQ, but just like your other leadership skills, EQ can be trained and improved. 


5 key components of Emotional Intelligence for leaders

Although not being the one that coined the term "Emotional Intelligence", author and science journalist Daniel Goleman helped popularise the concept to the public with his book on the same subject. 

According to Goleman, there are five core emotional intelligence components. 

  • Self-awareness: the ability to be aware of your own feelings and how an outburst of negative emotions can affect those around you. Self-awareness is the core of emotional intelligence. Individuals and leaders who have mastered this level are confident, able to laugh at themselves and read others’ reactions. 
  • Self-regulation: instead of verbally attacking others, you take a moment to reflect and think before responding. A self-regulated leader is adaptable to changes, calm, and most important, admits their own mistakes rather than blaming others. 
  • Motivation: this includes motivating both yourself and those around you. Self-motivated leaders have a clear vision of what they want to achieve, and they consistently work to achieve that goal. 
  • Empathy: the ability to understand others’ emotions, which can only be achieved when you have mastered self-awareness. Empathy plays a vital part in managing a successful team. When you are perceptive of others' emotions, you tend to take a more proactive approach to anticipate their needs. 
  • Social skills: leaders that have the social skills element of EQ are open to taking in new ideas, willing to listen and respond appropriately. They are also great at managing conflicts and feel unsatisfied if things are left undone.   

These are the five components that Goleman mentioned time and time again in his writings. They are not only essential to leaders but to any individual that is looking to enhance their relationships with others while working their way towards their goals. Enhancing these components/ skills is one of the techniques for becoming more emotionally intelligent. 

7 universal emotions to learn for a higher EQ

When learning how to "read" body language becomes popular, people will practice turning their negative postures into positive ones. For example, they stop crossing their arms (which usually indicates a defensive stance) and begin steepling (touching the tips of their fingers to form a pyramid, indicating agreement and approval). 

Unlike our body language, it is much more challenging to control small facial muscles. In most situations, these emotions flash on your face without you knowing it. So, if you do not pay enough attention, it is easy to miss this crucial information. 

In the book Emotions Revealed (2003), Dr. Paul Ekman names seven universal emotions that are the basis of all human actions and behaviours. These emotions reveal the true feelings of people, which can help you avoid unsettling or even dangerous situations. 


One of the easiest expressions of anger to notice is frowning. You will see this expression in a person if you have just said or done something they consider insulting. 

However, this expression is fleeting and very easy to miss. In this situation, you should not brush it off and pretend that nothing happens. 


When coming into contact with an object (image, sound, smell, physical object, etc.) that makes us feel uncomfortable, our reaction is to run away. This is the typical reaction of disgust, which acts as a protective shield against diseases, threats, or anything that can make us sick. 

Some people are more sensitive, and thus, they express stronger emotions than others. Each person has a certain level of tolerance for disgust. 


This emotion takes place when we are in a dangerous or threatening situation. Fear is the option of "flight" in the "fight or flight". It may inhibit a person from telling the truth or taking action, and they may choose to hide their true feelings and opinions by making excuses or letting others take over. 


Happiness is a positive emotion to nurture. Although it is generally easy to recognise emotion, it is also easy to fake. An obvious expression of happiness is a smile, but seeing a smile does not always equate to happiness. 

In the book "Leadership Charisma", authors Deiric McCann, Jim Sirbasku and Bud Haney reveal how to differentiate between a Duchenne Smile (a genuine smile) and a non-Duchenne Smile (a fake smile) through the crow’s feet around the eyes.  

If a person is trying to conceal their not-so-positive feelings, the only thing that changes on their face is their mouth; their cheeks are not pushed up, and their eyes do not "smile." In this instance, you should pay attention to the expression they show before the smile. It may very well be their true feeling. 


In contrast to happiness, sadness is the hardest to fake due to the facial muscles controlling the expression. 

When a person is sad, they have difficulty focusing on what others are saying. Even if they can, they will most likely only recognise the dark side of it. When experiencing a negative emotion, people tend to filter out all the negatives in any situation that they are in and lose focus on the present. 


You may mistake surprise with anger at first because they both have the expression of widened eyes; the difference lies in the eyebrows. 

The eyebrows of a surprised person are raised and arched. On the other hand, when a person is angry, the eyebrows are pulled down. Surprise appears when something unexpected happens, be it good or bad. Hence, you need to pay attention to the following emotions to ensure how the other person thinks about such a surprise.


Contempt usually appears when a person considers themselves superior to others. Thus, it is one of the most detrimental emotions to relationships and is universally considered an expression of disdain and disrespect. 

Contempt is usually expressed by raising one lip corner. What makes this expression dangerous is that many people view this as a "half-smile". Research has shown that showing this "half-smile" earns you no respect or positive reaction from others as it creates an uncomfortable feeling in others.

Emotional Intelligence for leaders

Emotions can have a powerful impact on everyone. By understanding your own emotions, where they come from, you will think twice before venting your rage on others. Additionally, EQ is essential for good interpersonal communication, which is a critical skill to lead you to success both in the workplace and in your personal life.  

Empathising and pausing to reflect before responding are just two instances of portraying emotional intelligence. Other practices that you should pay attention to and enhance include:  

  • Being able to accept criticism and accept responsibility 
  • Being able to move on after making a mistake 
  • Being open and able to share your feelings with others is a gift 
  • Being non-discriminatory and non-judgmental of others 
  • And many more. 

Having all five emotional intelligence components (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills) in one leader can greatly benefit your organisation. And it is not an assumption but research-based evidence that highly emotionally intelligent leaders can improve organisational performance. 

For example, Sanofi-Aventis, the fourth largest pharmaceutical company worldwide, invested in the emotional intelligence aspect of their sales force. As a result, the annual performance increased by 12 per cent. 

But perhaps the most important factor in a high EQ leader is their ability to inspire others. In essence, the leader creates a harmonious work environment that constantly entices their employees’ motivation and productivity. 

Individuals are more inclined to go the extra mile if they are asked by a more empathetic person, someone they trust and respect, instead of someone who likes micromanaging or drains you and your staff physically and emotionally. Positive impacts can be multiplied if your organisation acquires a team full of highly emotionally intelligent leaders. 

A business-savvy leader is better at predicting the business aspects; a people-savvy leader at resolving talent-related issues. EQ is as critical as IQ in getting everyone on board with your plan, empowering them to work in harmony together to reach the common goal. You can be a critical leader, but you cannot be a great leader that everyone respects without EQ. 

How to measure and increase a leader's Emotional Intelligence

One of many reasons why EQ is loved by many is its accurate reflection of a person's social nature. High IQ can help us think and reason quickly, but high EQ can connect people, enable them to cooperate for sustainable development and effective reciprocal relationships. 

There are undoubtedly people who always speak their minds, but it does not necessarily mean the truth. What you believe is the right thing might not be so, and such a mismatch can even screw up everything, especially when you do not have a high level of self-awareness. Hence, even if a person asserts that they have a high EQ, it may very well be the opposite. 

So, is there a way to accurately measure EQ? The short answer is yes.

Using 360-degree feedback 

One of the techniques to measure an individual’s EQ is by compiling the opinions of all people who frequently interact with you. The bigger the gaps between yours and their perspectives, the more alarming your situation is. This method is also better known as 360-degree feedback

The process allows you and those you are working closely with to obtain constructive and candid feedback responses. The purpose of leveraging the 360-degree feedback process is to identify gaps between different perspectives as well as highlight an individual’s (the subject of the feedback process) strengths and weaknesses. Insights from the feedback process are an essential and integral part of your talent development strategies. Adding in a few more questions and you will have a customised evaluation dedicated to assessing your leaders’ EQ. 

Additional question topics or dimensions that can be considered are: 

  • Interpersonal: measures one’s ability to respect others and build genuine relationships 
  • Self-awareness: measures one’s ability to be aware of their own emotions and how they can impact others. 
  • Self-esteem/confidence: measures one’s openness to constructive criticism or feedback without retaliation. 
  • Optimism: measures one’s ability to maintain positivity and calmness while under pressure. 

Depending on specific organisations’ needs, the feedback process can be tailored to evaluate only the emotional intelligence aspect of selected individuals or the entire organisation’s management teams. In some other cases, you can tailor the assessment to only include a few questions to measure an individual’s EQ as an addition to other core leadership competencies evaluation.  

Either way, 360-degree feedback is a valuable tool that can give you a comprehensive look into a person’s cognitive and emotional aspects. 

Interested in learning more about 360-degree feedback and how it works?
Check out
this resource page.

Using coaching 

Who portrays the perfect example of having high emotional intelligence more than coaches? Undoubtedly, coaching sessions can be an emotional rollercoaster. Thus, coaches must be able to understand and acknowledge others’ emotions as well as manage their own and resonate appropriate feelings to their coachees.

Coaches often need to remain calm and content while examining coachees’ perspectives and helping them dissect the problems. The unbeatable calmness, unique skill sets, and experience are what makes coaching so powerful. If you are looking to improve your emotional intelligence, an EQ coach can work with you to identify areas of improvement, train you to become mindful and unlock your inner potential. 

Alternatively, you can become a coach yourself by learning from top experts, strengthening your core competencies, expanding your network, reaching your ultimate goals, helping your team members and clients unlock their true potential, and spreading positivity and meaning to the wider network using your emotional intelligence.

Coaching can take many forms and the benefits that coaching can bring to an individual, a team, and an organisation is undoubtable. Every great athlete has a coach, and so do renowned world leaders out there. TRG International is proud to partner with ITD World and brings you their popular Certified Coaching and Mentoring Professional (CCMP), a program designed to empower you, the leader, to multiply your values to your organisation, loved ones, and the world, thus generating sustainable results through effective coaching and mentoring techniques. 

Check out ITD World’s Certified Coaching and Mentoring Professional program details, investment values, timeline and more via this link.

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