Anyone trying to come up to speed on emotional intelligence would have a pretty easy time of it since the concept is remarkably recent, and its application to business newer still. The term was coined in 1990 in a research paper by two psychology professors, John D. Mayer of UNH and Peter Salovey of Yale. Some years later, Mayer defined it in HBR this way:
From a scientific (rather than a popular) standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions. It doesn’t necessarily include the qualities (like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence) that some popular definitions ascribe to it.
It took almost a decade after the term was coined for Rutgers psychologist Daniel Goleman to establish the importance of emotional intelligence to business leadership. In 1998, in what has become one of HBR’s most enduring articles, “What Makes a Leader,” he states unequivocally:
The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that 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.
The article then goes on to introduce five components of emotional intelligence that allow individuals to recognize, connect with, and learn from their own and other people’s mental states:
- Motivation (defined as “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status”)
- Empathy for others
- Social skills, such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks