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Are people with high emotional intelligence more successful?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) refers to a person’s ability to understand, manage, and use their own emotions, as well as perceive and influence the emotions of others. People with high EQ are skilled at reading social cues, resolving conflicts, managing stress, communicating effectively, and empathizing with others. An increasing body of research suggests that EQ is strongly correlated with professional success. Individuals with robust emotional skills tend to fare better in their careers and achieve higher levels of leadership than those with lower EQ. In today’s fast-paced, demanding work environments, emotional intelligence may provide an edge over raw intellect alone. This article will explore the connection between emotional intelligence and professional achievement.

What is emotional intelligence?

The term “emotional intelligence” was first coined by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990. They defined EQ as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

EQ encompasses four key capabilities:

  • Self-awareness – Understanding your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values, motivations, and goals.
  • Self-management – Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under control, staying flexible and optimistic, taking initiative, and following through on commitments.
  • Social awareness – Sensing, understanding, and responding to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.
  • Relationship management – Inspiring, influencing, and developing others while managing conflict and change.

Unlike IQ, which tends to remain stable over a lifetime, EQ can be learned, developed, and improved through training, modeling, coaching, and practice. Expanding one’s emotional skills takes commitment but the payoff can be immense.

The link between emotional intelligence and career success

A large body of research confirms that emotional intelligence strongly influences professional performance and leadership potential. While IQ and technical expertise contribute to success, EQ is a stronger predictor of who will achieve top performance and career advancement.

Better job performance

People with robust EQ handle work stress more effectively, express themselves clearly, listen well, resolve issues collaboratively, and navigate office politics smoothly. This allows them to concentrate on their responsibilities with less distraction from interpersonal problems. In his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman notes that EQ accounts for 58% of job performance among top executives.

Stronger leadership skills

To lead effectively, you must be able to understand your own and others’ motivations, regulate your frustration, resolve disagreements, and win people’s trust and loyalty. In short, you need stellar emotional skills. A study of over 3,000 executives found that EQ was twice as important as IQ and technical expertise combined in predicting who will rise to leadership positions.

Enhanced teamwork & collaboration

Building strong relationships and getting people to work together toward shared goals requires outstanding communication and people skills. Employees with higher EQs tend to excel at conflict resolution, collaboration, coaching, and building rapport. This helps teams avoid breakdowns and complete projects on time and within budget.

Greater adaptability & innovation

Change and uncertainty are now constants in the workplace. People with agile EQs tend to handle ambiguity better and see connections between disparate ideas. This sparks greater innovation to keep organizations competitive. Emotionally intelligent leaders also stay open to feedback so they can tweak plans and processes to maintain excellence.

Ways emotional intelligence boosts work success

There are many ways a high EQ gives individuals an advantage at work:

  • Self-motivated – They set challenging goals based on self-knowledge and manage emotions like fear of failure that hinders achievement.
  • Confident – They present ideas assertively, where others may hold back out of shyness or self-doubt.
  • Calm under pressure – They think clearly during crises when anxiety reduces mental bandwidth.
  • Aware of impact on others – They avoid insensitive remarks and read body language to gauge reactions.
  • Able to admit mistakes – They own up to errors rather than blaming others to save face.
  • Know strengths & weaknesses – They build on natural talents and shore up gaps through self-improvement.
  • Seeks constructive criticism – They actively request feedback to improve rather than viewing it as threatening.
  • Empathetic leaders – They care about staff morale and help workers feel valued.
  • Excels at persuasion – They tailor pitches by reading what appeals to different personalities.
  • Strong networking skills – They build rapport and long-term relationships that foster trust and loyalty.

When you combine these advantages, it becomes clear how managers with robust emotional intelligence outperform others to rise higher on the career ladder.

Studies on EQ and job performance

Many studies validate the links between emotional intelligence and positive outcomes at work. For example:

  • A study of entry-level employees found that those higher in EQ received greater pay increases and higher performance appraisal ratings over the first 18 months on the job.
  • Research of executive recruiters showed they prioritized emotional intelligence over IQ and expertise when evaluating potential hires.
  • A meta-analysis of EQ studies found employees with high emotional intelligence stay calmer under pressure, have better people skills, and achieve greater success in the workplace.
  • Doctors higher in EQ have more satisfied patients because they explain things thoroughly and empathetically.
  • Business owners with strong EQs demonstrate greater entrepreneurial success. They creatively solve problems and persist through challenges.

The weight of studies leaves little doubt – emotional intelligence offers an advantage when it comes to excelling at work and reaching your full career potential. It should be considered as vital as hard skills and technical prowess.

How to improve your emotional intelligence

Unlike IQ which changes little over a lifetime, EQ can be enhanced through deliberate training and practice. Here are some tips:

  • Immerse yourself in mindfulness meditation – This builds self-awareness of your emotions and reactions.
  • Read books & articles on EQ – Learn techniques from experts to apply at work.
  • Take a structured EQ course – There are classroom and online options of varying lengths.
  • Role play scenarios – Practice handling realistic interpersonal work situations.
  • Learn an instrument or new language – These activities strengthen focus and teach perseverance.
  • Develop active listening skills – Give your full concentration and reflect back what you hear.
  • Expand your emotional vocabulary – Increase awareness by naming feelings instead of repressing them.
  • Journal about your emotional responses – Writing things down brings clarity.
  • Ask for 360 reviews – Solicit honest feedback from colleagues at all levels.
  • Discuss EQ concepts with a mentor – A coach can pinpoint where you need improvement.

Make a habit of putting one or more of these suggestions into practice each day. Over time, you will see increased EQ deliver greater success.


Emotional intelligence allows individuals to navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead with empathy, thrive under pressure, and build strong relationships. Unlike IQ, EQ can be developed when you commit to lifelong learning. Studies confirm that managers and executives with higher emotional intelligence get rated as better performers and achieve greater career success than peers with lower EQs. In today’s organizations, technical expertise alone is not enough to propel you to the top. Mastery of emotional skills is equally essential for leadership excellence. Anyone can become more emotionally intelligent with deliberate effort and practice over time.