| Tel: (852) 2302 0283 | Thinking Leadership

Emotional Intelligence


Emotional Intelligence
by Daniel Goleman

There is no question that Daniel Goleman has had a huge impact on the world of industry with his prolific writings on the subject of Emotional Intelligence. His first book – published in 1995 – was a major best-seller and was quickly followed by Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998), then Destructive Emotions (2003) and Social Intelligence (2006).

Before discussing this work from the institute’s point of view, some points of disclosure need to be made. The field of “Emotional Intelligence” was first described in detail by psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in 1990. Winding back the clock, the concept of “Social Intelligence” was first described by Edward Thorndike (as “the ability to get on with others”) in 1930. In the interim period, many people ploughed this field and defined various aspects with their own labels. The expression “developing Emotional Intelligence” was used in the doctoral dissertation of Wayne Payne in 1985.

These facts (and many others which can easily be found with any search engine) are relevant because Goleman’s work, like the work of anyone who turns a scientific area of study into a hugely successful business tool, is regarded with some suspicion, and often hostility, by the scientific community.

Many critics say that Goleman did not give enough credit to Salovey and Mayer, some assert that his “popularization” of the field includes funneling the scientific work into nooks and crannies which are not justified by the science. Success, especially excessive success, is a fecund breeding ground for intense criticism. Human nature being what it is, some of that criticism is invariably driven by jealousy, while some is most likely quite accurate – such is the way of the world when that world is “taken by storm” as is the case with Goleman.

All of that having been said, Goleman has provided more food for thought for individuals, companies and various trainers than virtually anyone else – with the obvious exceptions of Edward de Bono and Stephen Covey.

“Bringing intelligence to emotion” is Goleman’s definition of his area of study. Some of his critics assert that he finds all emotion to be a bad or less-than-useful thing. It is difficult to come down on the side of that point of view on reading his work. He does assert that learning to identify and better handle emotional responses is a key development tool and, with this, it is very hard to argue. In the final reference to the critics, it is not easy to find any direct mention in these works of the concept that everyone can learn to “change” in order to handle each and every difficult emotion. That does not seem to be Goleman’s claim, although it might be an ideal for which he suggests striving.

Salovey and Mayer proposed a model which identified four different factors of Emotional Intelligence: the perception of emotion, the ability to reason using emotion, the ability to understand emotion and the ability to manage emotion. Goleman’s model might be slightly more user-friendly (especially for the layman) in that he divides the areas of study/work into “Personal Competence” and “Social Competence”. The first is basically a case of “knowing yourself” and the second “knowing how you interact with others” – all from the point of view of the effect, understanding and management of emotions and their responses.

In the modern style, Emotional Intelligence is replete with case studies as Goleman illustrates each of his sections and sub-sections of the topic with real-life examples. The reader quickly develops the feeling that the author is a “bower bird” for stories and anecdotes – collecting them from anywhere and everywhere as he finds the right tale to illustrate each of his points.

Books become best-sellers for a variety of reasons. Sex sells, politics sells to those who espouse the view of the particular writer, interesting and topical biography sells as do feel-good and simple how-to books. Emotional Intelligence falls into none of these categories readily, yet it sold millions of copies because it offered the general public a means of assessing their lives from a totally new perspective which, until it appeared, had been the domain of various mental health experts, scientific researchers and the like.

In fact, Goleman did not spell out his list and categories of Emotional Intelligence in other than chapter form in this first book – that came with the second effort – yet all of the elements are there, if not tabulated. Empathy, “Know Thyself”, “Emotional Intelligence Applied”, Optimism – as well as all of the other favorites of those familiar with the field are present and accounted for. Each is dealt with in-depth and illustrated with those ubiquitous life stories.

If a person with a real problem in an area of Emotional Intelligence can identify that problem and try to do something about it, Goleman is likely to have had some influence somewhere; if a company realizes that Emotional Intelligence is a vital element in their prospects and performance, Goleman may well be responsible – directly or indirectly.

For every critic there are many thousands of individuals grateful to the man. Perhaps his next book should be a biography called “Bringing Emotional Intelligence to the Masses” – because that is what he has done. Like it or not.

WHAT OTHERS SAID ABOUT Emotional Intelligence

“An impressive argument that excellence is more than IQ” – Daily Mail

“A well-written and practical guide to the emotions, perfectly pitched in tone and scope” – Financial Times

“Forget IQ. Brains may come in useful, as may social class and luck, but as a predictor of who will succeed in any area of life, EQ is the thing to worry about” – Good Housekeeping