Mayer et al. (2004: 82) define EI as ‘the ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in self and others’. This definition links together the concepts of intelligence, intended as the cognitive sphere which includes reasoning, memory, judgment, abstract thought and the sphere of emotions which instead includes personal and other people’s emotions, moods and feeling states (Mayer and Salovey qtd. in Salovey and Sluyter, 1997). Therefore, EI allows a more comprehensive approach to individual abilities, skills and behaviour as it considers how emotions and thinking interact and can influence one another (Ibid.). In general, EI refers to the ability of identifying oneself and others’ emotion, assessing and possibly predict their impact on behaviours and attitudes (Mullins, 2010).
People who are emotional intelligent have a great sense of self which helps them understand other people, retain focus and identify what is important (Modassir, 2008; Quy, 1999). In this sense, EI is very important for managers and leaders: it allows them to understand and control their personal emotions and develop empathy towards the people they supervise. Through EI they can communicate more effectively, listen to individuals and better understand their personality, attitudes, ambitions, needs and expectations. Goleman (n.d.) claims that the ’emotional task of the leader is primal…the most important act of leadership’ and it is leaders’ role to convey collective emotions towards the right, productive direction. EI favours better connections between individuals and it is particularly relevant in the modern organisational environment where people see their jobs as a way of developing and self-actualising themselves. Therefore, EI can be a source of competitive advantage as it favours engagement, motivation and assists organisations in retaining and developing talents (Voola et al., 2004).
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Mayer, JD. And Salovey, P. (1997) What is Emotional Intelligence? In Salovey, P. and Sluyter, DJ. (Eds.) Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence. New York. Basic Books. Online at <http://www.unh.edu/personalitylab/Assets/reprints-public/RP1997-MayerSalovey.pdf> [accessed 22 February 2013]
Modassir, A. (2008) Relationship of Emotional Intelligence with Transformational Leadership and Organizational Citizenship Behavior. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 4(1): 3-21. Online at <http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/ijls/new/vol4iss1/IJLS_V4Is1_Modassir_Singh.pdf> [accessed 23 February 2013]
Mullins, LJ. (2010) Management & Organisational Behaviour. Ninth Edition. Harlow. Pearson Education Limited.
Quy, NH. (1999) Emotional Capability, Emotional Intelligence, and Radical Change. The Academy of Management Review, 24(2): 325-345. Online at <http://www.jstor.org/stable/259085> [accessed 24 February 2013]
Voola, R., Carlson, J. and West, A. (2004) Emotional intelligence and competitive advantage: examining the relationship from a resource-based view.Strategic Change, 13: 83-93. Online at <http://download.clib.psu.ac.th/datawebclib/e_resource/trial_database/WileyInterScienceCD/pdf/JSC/JSC_2.pdf> [accessed 24 February 2013]