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Why Measuring Emotional Intelligence Is Important

May 19, 2017

Emotional intelligence is a not a new concept. However, the debate still exists on what it truly is, how we should measure it, and if it actually represent a unique construct. Or, perhaps, is it a concept that is inclusive of other personality characteristics that are already well known? For purposes of this article and our white paper, we assume that the concept of emotional intelligence adds a unique framework that can be helpful in certain contexts. Even if it merely helps a leader understand their own behaviors, it can aid in the developmental or coaching context. Below, you can read excerpts from our new white paper on this topic.

measuring emotional intelligence

When assessing Intelligence, IQ (Intelligence Quotient) may be what first comes to mind. It is widely accepted that assessing human intelligence can predict performance over time; higher IQs indicate better ability to learn and understand than those with lower scores. Employees who have a relatively high IQ tend to be successful at their job, but many people are unaware how their emotional intelligence can play a role in how successful they are within their job, especially for leaders and executives. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a broad area that encompasses several different factors. Emotional intelligence was first described by Salovey and Mayer (1990) as "a subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and options, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions."

Emotional Intelligence was then popularized within workplace applications in 1995 by Goleman, stating emotional intelligence was “as powerful, and at times more powerful, than IQ in predicting success in life.” Five main skills of emotional intelligence were developed by Goleman:

  • Self-Awareness: One's ability to recognize and understand their own mood and emotions, and the impact that they are having on the environment around them.

  • Self-Regulation: One's ability to think before acting and controlling their impulses or moods. Integrity, trustworthiness, openness to change, and comfort with ambiguity are by-products.

  • Motivation: The person's motivations come from within them and are driven by passion rather than extrinsic factors such as success or pay.

  • Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.

  • Social Skills: The ability to build and manage healthy networks and relationships.

Why is measuring emotional intelligence important in organizations?

It predicts performance.

Earlier research shows that people with strong emotional intelligence are more likely to succeed than those with high IQs or relevant experience. Once people enter the workforce, IQ and technical skills are often equal among those on the rise, and emotional intelligence becomes an important differentiator. Read more on why emotional intelligence is important for job performance.

It's Important for Leadership.

Research has shown that the most effective leaders have more competence in emotional intelligence. More specifically, emotional intelligence has been found to be correlated with multiple factors of transformational leadership (a leadership style that has been found to increase behavioral engagement, increase organizational citizenship behaviors, and correlate with follower satisfaction, group/organizational performance, and leader effectiveness).

Read more: How to Become A Transformational Leader

It Helps Relationships.

Goleman explains that emotional intelligence contributes to a person’s ability to build and maintain relationships:

  • Self-aware individuals are typically more self-confident and have more realistic self-assessments.

  • Integrity, trustworthiness, openness to change, and comfort with ambiguity are by-products of self-regulation.

  • Individuals who are intrinsically motivated are optimistic when facing failure, have higher organizational commitment, and have a strong drive to succeed.

  • Empathetic individuals are more cross culturally sensitive and have expertise in building and retaining talent.

  • Individuals with social skills are generally influential and are talented in building and leading teams or change initiatives.

It Can be Developed.

Another difference between IQ and EQ is that IQ is relatively stable, whereas emotional intelligence has the potential to be developed. This is good news, because whether people have low levels or high levels of EQ, they can work on developing their skills. Even small developmental gains can be made by people with low EQ. For example, a low EQ leader can learn to explicitly ask how others are feeling at the end of a meeting. Many times, leaders with low EQ do not read situations correctly. Developmental “tricks” like this can be helpful when they are not able to read the situation as accurately as others. Organizations benefit from identifying employees or leaders who are lower in emotional intelligence and helping them to develop their skills. 

Good news! We've studied the best ways to select leaders with high emotional intelligence. Check out our whitepaper below to learn more. 

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Jessica Petor Jessica Petor is a Research Analyst located at PSI's Pittsburgh office. She holds a Master of Science degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Northern Kentucky University.