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Emotional Intelligence - still poorly misunderstood after 25 years.

Doesn't time fly. Daniel Goleman's "Emotional Intelligence. Why It Can Matter More Than IQ"

was published in 1995, which makes the best selling book, and the myriad products it has spawned, approximately 25 years old.


The construct EI or EQ ( the terms seem to be interchangeable) is still poorly understood. EI/EQ has been claimed to be the singular most important trait to predict leadership, performance, business success and relationships in general. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of misconceptions, some of which even Goleman himself has been forced to acknowledge and correct. Let's walk through a few of the most common, that still have currency today:


1 EI/EQ matters more than IQ.

Not true. There is no evidence to suggest that EQ/EI is a more predictive measure of performance than IQ. General intelligence (IQ) correlates closely with leadership. 'Big 5' personality traits when combined with IQ can predict leadership and performance. Both IQ and Big 5 have a strong basis on which to make predictive assumptions.


2 EQ (or EI) is easy to understood.

EQ, as a construct is poorly understood. The most valid (and therefore the most helpful) approach to EI comes from Mayer, Salavoy and Caruso who define Emotional Intelligence as the capacity to recognise, utilise, understand, and manage emotions in oneself and in others. These researchers have developed a reliable and valid measure of these constructs, which is called the Mayer-Salavoy-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (or MSCEIT for short.)


3 Goleman's concept of EI has been widely accepted by the scientific community.

Also, not true. Generally, the scientific community concerns itself with protecting the lay community from unproven claims, such as EQ.


4 How did these ideas become so popular?

Daniel Goleman was a science writer, who created palatable literature which appealed to a wide global audience. This does not equate with research conducted by skilled academics.


I could go on. Feel free to look Wikipedia on the topic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_intelligence


5 Why does all this matter?

It matters because organisations, leaders and consultants may engage with a flimsy-at-best idea that has no basis for the assumptions it claims to make. This is, at best, useless and, at its worst, downright dangerous. How many people have missed out on opportunities such as promotion, because of the application of this popular - but baseless - idea?


6 What to do?

The role of a qualified and Registered Psychologist cannot be underestimated. We are trained to understand (and question) the evidence base for any construct. We are well placed to provide advice. We can evaluate - and refute - claims which don't stack up. We can advise.


Consider the role a Psychologist can play when identifying and selecting executive leaders. It may matter more than anything else you do.



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