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How Emotional Intelligence Became a Leadership Skill
From a scientific standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and other’s emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions. It does not, however, necessarily include such qualities as optimism and self-confidence that many popular definitions ascribe to it. In the late 1990s, Rutgers psychologist Daniel Goleman established the importance of emotional intelligence to business leadership in his article, “What Makes a Leader.” In that piece, he stated that the most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of emotional intelligence. “Without it,” he wrote, “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 detailed five key components of emotional intelligence that allow individuals to recognize, connect with and learn from their own and other people’s mental states: self-awareness; self-regulation; motivation, defined as "a passion for work that goes beyond money and status;" empathy for others; and social skills such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. In subsequent research, Goleman focused on additional aspects of emotional intelligence. Most recently, in a paper titled “The Focused Leader,” he applied advances in neuroscience research to explain how leaders can increase each element of emotional intelligence by understanding and improving the various ways they focus their attention. In a sign that this field of study is reaching a certain level of maturity, it is starting to see some counterarguments. Most notably, Wharton Professor Adam Grant conducted research that showed a lack of correlation between scores on tests of emotional intelligence and business results. While Goleman and others have challenged Professor Grant’s methods, most agree that focusing on emotional intelligence issues is better than ignoring them.
Harvard Business Review (04/15) Ovans, Andrea
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