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What is Emotional Intelligence and Why is it Important?

In This Article

(Click the links below to move easily to sections of this article)

Case Study: Frank the Efficient But Flawed Manager
What is Emotional Intelligence
Case Study: Why Frank Failed
Why is Emotional Intelligence Important
Benefits of Emotional Intelligence
Video: What is Emotional Intelligence & Why Is It Important



(Rule Your Feelings, Lest Your Feelings Rule You. — Publilius Syrus)

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Case Study: Frank the Efficient But Flawed Manager

Frank was a successful manager known for his ability to tackle tough organizational problems and get results. He excelled at assessing situations, making decisions, and taking ownership of projects.

Frank quickly rose from a small divisional manager role in an important department to more senior roles in the organization. With each success, he continued to lobby the organization’s senior leadership to increase his functional responsibilities by giving him bigger and tougher organizational problems to solve. He quickly rose through the senior ranks of management.

Serious businessmanFrank made no secret that his goal was to be in the executive suite. He was confident that he would end up there and many in the organization believed it was inevitable. Frank did not end up in the executive suite, however. In fact, his career stalled and senior leadership eventually reassigned much of his organizational area to other managers.

What happened to this talented manager? Why did his career path to the executive suite veer off course?

The organizational gossip about Frank’s decline centered on his tendencies to micromanage his managers (including his superstars) and his inability to delegate independent authority to his managers to complete the duties he gave them. Frank was able to get by with this behavior at the lower levels of management but this behavior became problematic as his organizational scope grew.

Eventually, Frank led an organization that was too large for this level of management control. He started getting poor results and he accrued large budget deficits as he struggled to meet his objectives.

The organizational gossip about Frank’s decline was  accurate, but only to an extent. Frank’s tendencies to micromanage and not delegate authority to his managers were symptoms — symptoms of a bigger problem. The root of Frank’s problem was that he lacked emotional intelligence.

Leaders who lack emotional intelligence hurt their careers. People rightfully wonder why they these leaders should manage anyone if they can't control their own emotions. Click To Tweet

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What is Emotional Intelligence

So, what is emotional intelligence?

As the video above explained, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage emotions and relationships.

The term emotional intelligence comes from the work of researchers Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer (Daniel Goleman later popularized their work in his book, Emotional Intelligence).

In their work, Salovey and Mayer concluded that people with emotional intelligence do the following:

  1. They understand their own emotions (positive and negative).
  2. They understand the emotions of others (positive and negative).
  3. They are effective at regulating their emotions effectively to pursue their goals.
  4. They are effective at influencing positive emotions in others.

The saying take a look in the mirror also applies to emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence begins with a leader recognizing and then managing his or her own emotions. When a leaders is able to do this, he or she can begin to improve their own credibility with others.

The next step for emotional intelligence is to recognize and manage the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence has the following five dimensions:

  1. Self Awareness – Being aware of your emotions (understanding what you are feeling)
  2. Self Motivation – Ability to persist in the face of obstacles and setbacks (influencing constructive emotions in yourself)
  3. Self Management – Ability to effectively manage your emotions and impulses (controlling your destructive emotions)
  4. Empathy – Sensing how others are feeling (understanding what others are feeling)
  5. Social Skills – Ability to effectively handle the emotions of others
Where emotional intelligence is concerned, leaders must first deal with their own emotions before they can address the emotions of others working with them. Click To Tweet

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Case Study: Why Frank Failed

Frank’s rise and fall as a manager explains why leaders need emotional intelligence.

Frank was unable to understand and manage his own emotions. This lack of self awareness and accountability meant he also could not understand and manage the emotions of his team.

Frank’s emotional handicap was his fear.

What was Frank’s fear?

Basically, he feared that he would lose control of his organizational area if he stopped micromanaging everything. He feared that he could be replaced or eliminated if his managers did their jobs too well. He feared that he could no longer maintain control over his managers if he gave them the full authority that they rightfully needed to do their jobs.

With this mindset, Frank became an obstacle to his own success. Operations slowed to a halt as he retained all organizational decision making and budget authority. Talented managers who were capable of making significant decisions found that Frank had to say yes or no to everything before ANYTHING could happen.

Frank’s managers became increasingly frustrated with what they perceived to be his “meddling” in their operations. Some of his best managers took jobs elsewhere and those that remained in Frank’s organization focused on staying out of his way rather than getting the best results for their units.

Senior leadership took notice that Frank lacked the skills and temperament to lead his managers effectively. They gave “his promotion” to another manager who knew how to work effectively with his management team. Frank lacked emotional intelligence and this ultimately led to his downfall. Emotional intelligence is a critical skill for effective management and leadership.

Emotional intelligence is a critical skill for effective management and leadership. Nothing tells employees that it is every person for themselves than having a manager who has an emotional meltdown whenever a crisis occurs. Click To Tweet

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Why is Emotional Intelligence Important

The story of Frank is common.

Many managers have known someone like Frank.

Others, may have been “Frank” earlier in their leadership development.

Frank’s story shows why leaders need emotional intelligence.

Organizations produce poor outcomes when negative emotions are out of control. The dysfunction includes unmet business goals, decline in organizational productivity, strained work relationships, and increased absenteeism and organizational turnover.

When a manager is unable to control his or her emotions, it's not just the employees that suffer. The entire organization suffers! Click To Tweet

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Benefits of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is critical to effective management and leadership and it is essential for career success.

The following infographic1 provides some useful statistical information on the benefits of emotional intelligence:

Emotional Intelligence

Managers who are unable to control their anger in the workplace create an environment where their employees work around them instead of with them. Click To Tweet

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Video: What is Emotional Intelligence & Why Is It Important


1Infographic courtesy of Pearson Online Education. To access this infographic click here.

Written by Robert Tanner | Copyrighted Material | All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Robert Tanner, MBA

Welcome to my leadership blog. I'm the Founder & Principal Consultant of Business Consulting Solutions LLC, a certified practitioner of psychometric assessments, and a former Adjunct Professor of Management. As a leadership professional, I bring 20+ years of real world experience at all levels of management.

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