The Two Letters Every Leader Needs to Know – Part 1

In 1995, author Daniel Goleman changed the definition of an “effective leader” with his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Goleman challenged leadership convention by shifting the north star of long-term leadership success from only “business know-how” and included “human know-how.” Although high IQ makes leaders smart, high emotional intelligence (EI) makes leaders great. An effective leader with high EI can navigate the complexities of the market and the emotions of themselves, their teams, and their customers. Since then, EI has been solidified as a core leadership competency, being named a top 10 skill leaders need in 2020 by World Economic Forum, as 75% of companies value EI more than IQ for team members, from CEOs to new hires.

If the picture of a healthy, effective leader were like a puzzle, then EI offered the pieces to fill the gaps left by the former focus on IQ and technical skills for leaders. For instance, adding EI to the puzzle made sense of why those with average IQs outperform those with higher IQs 70 percent of the time.1 And research now show EI is the best predictor of long-term professional success, even when compared against 33 other necessary work skills.2 When leaders properly understand emotional intelligence, it offers leaders an unmatched accelerant for performance impact and leadership-development opportunities.

Emotional Intelligence Sets Great Leaders Apart

Emotional intelligence is a leader’s interpersonal GPS, helping he or she navigate the complex terrain of human emotions and the behaviors attached to them. Navigating this terrain is essential to managing one’s own behaviors and others, and it sets effective leaders apart from merely competent ones. As Daniel Goleman shared:

“…emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, 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.”3

Although some leaders may find this difficult to ascertain at first, every leader can develop his or her EI once he or she understands what constitutes EI.

Daniel Goleman provides a clear, nuanced picture of emotional intelligence through four key domains, which are comprised of 12 competencies:

  • Self-awareness: Recognizing and understanding our own emotions, captured in the competency of emotional self-awareness.

  • Self-management: Effectively managing our own emotions, captured in the competencies of emotional self-control, achievement orientation, positive outlook, and adaptability.

  • Social awareness: Recognizing and understanding the emotions of others, captured in the competencies of empathy and organizational awareness.

  • Relationship management: Applying our emotional understanding in our dealings with others, captured in the competencies of influence, coaching and mentoring, conflict management, inspirational leadership, and teamwork.

Emotionally intelligent leaders implement these personal and social competencies to gracefully, competently, and consistently navigate the inevitable emotionally-based challenges that occur in work relationships. Leaders who possess the self- and situational awareness foundational to EI understand that most of the day-to-day situations between themselves and managers and team members are ripe with opportunity based on how they navigate their own and others’ emotions.

Leaders who intentionally develop deeper emotional intelligence are more likely to see the positive gains of an energized, engaged workforce with low turnover4, high productivity, and high customer satisfaction where empathy and an emotional connection are essential to a customer’s journey.5 Additionally, leaders with high EI inspire team members to aspire toward developing their own emotional intelligence, and when the collective EI of a company rises, it unleashes new growth opportunities for that company.

As one PROMARK coach shared, “Leaders with high EI, who value and inspire their employees, provide development opportunities for them, appreciate their contributions, and etc., have higher employee engagement and get better results.”

And the good news is that every leader can intentionally develop their EI and begin experiencing these results.

Emotional Intelligence Is a Muscle to Strengthen

Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence is not a static trait or an unalterable genetic inheritance like DNA. It’s more like a muscle that can be strengthened with intentional commitment and practice. Some personalities may find EI more intuitive than others, but it’s worth every leader’s commitment to learning how to manage his or her own emotions and behavior, navigate the social complexity of his or her workforce, and make decisions that achieve positive results for his or her company. Leaders looking to develop their EI must commit to a growth mindset, looking to every interaction as a means of developing their emotional intelligence.

“Emotional intelligence can evolve over time, as long as you have the desire to increase it. Every person, challenge, or situation faced is a prime learning opportunity to test your EI.”6

Leaders who desire to improve their EI will be served best by engaging a coach. Similar to a trainer at a gym, coaches provide insight and expertise to help leaders not only recognize gaps in their emotional intelligence but also know the best ways to practice and implement their EI strategies. Coaches provide non-judgmental feedback into leaders’ current patterns and habits that result from their emotions, deepening leaders’ self-awareness. Coaches also provide practical tools to help leaders further develop their relationship management with team members through empathy and social competency.

Emotional intelligence, as a term, may seem like the latest leadership fad, but its primacy for long-term leadership effectiveness is ubiquitous among leadership circles. A leader’s IQ and technical skills remain important, but they provide only part of the picture of an effective leader. And without EI in the picture, leaders will find themselves with restricted growth and bottom lines.

The exciting thing about emotional intelligence, though, is that every leader can know and enjoy the exciting growth possibilities that come with high EI.

Over the next few months, we’ll continue to unpack specific competencies of emotional intelligence to help improve your understanding and provide you insights to develop your own EI capacities.

For leaders ready to begin the conversation about developing their emotional intelligence, we’re ready to help. Contact us today.


1Travis Bradberry, Emotional Intelligence- EQ, Accessed on March 3, 2019.
3Daniel Goleman, “What Makes a Great Leader,” Harvard Business Review, January 2004.
4A three-year study conducted by consulting firm Six Seconds found a 64% reduction in personnel turnover after leaders and managers went through EI training and participated in EI coaching.
5Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon, An Emotional Connection Matters More than Customer Satisfaction, August 29, 2016. Accessed March 4, 2019.
6Ashley Stahl, 5 Ways to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence,, March 29, 2018. Accessed March 5th, 2019.

The Two Letters Every Leader Needs to Know – Part 1
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