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The effective leader: Understanding and applying emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence can be misunderstood and misrepresented. But the bottom line is that the manager who can think about emotions accurately and clearly may often be better able to anticipate, cope with, and effectively manage change.

By John D. Mayer and David Caruso

John (Jack) D. Mayer is Professor of Psychology at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire. David Caruso is a management psychologist and the founder of Worklife Strategies, Stamford, Connecticut.

The new scientific idea behind EI is that human beings process emotional information; they comprehend and utilize emotional information about social relationships. This idea was launched in two 1990 scientific articles by Peter Salovey and myself. Daniel Goleman's successful popularization of those early articles on emotional intelligence, and the related work of many other scientists, led to a great deal of popular discussion of the idea. This popular notion of EI as anything but IQ has created a new management fad. Unfortunately, the faddish appeal of emotional intelligence has encouraged many people engaged in otherwise legitimate business consultation to include a wide variety of approaches and concepts under the umbrella emotional intelligence.

Emotional information plays a critical role in our working lives since the relationships we form are governed by rules of behaviour - of cooperation and dominance, among others - that are triggered by our emotions. Being able to understand this information, and its impact on personnel and the organization, is what makes an individual, at least in part, emotionally intelligent. Not surprisingly, then, business leaders who can "embrace the emotional side of an organization will infuse strength and meaning into management structures, and bring them to life." (Barach, J.A., and Eckhardt, D.R., Leadership and The Job Of the Executive, Quorum Books, Westport, Connecticut, 1996). In brief, leaders who can use their feelings and their knowledge of them constructively will have certain advantages over those who cannot. In this article, I will discuss how leaders can enhance their understanding of the role and impact of emotions.

The concept of emotional intelligence

Before the 1990s, EI had been an overlooked part of human nature - recognized intuitively sometimes, but not examined according to rigorous, scientific criteria.

Emotional intelligence, then, refers to the capacity to understand and explain emotions, on the one hand, and of emotions to enhance thought, on the other We believe in a definition of EI that has been developed after many years of scientific study and real-world experience. To explain our definition, it helps to begin with the two terms that make it up. The terms - emotion and intelligence - have specific, generally agreed upon scientific meanings that indicate the possible ways they can be used together. Emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, and fear refer to feelings that signal information about relationships. For example, happiness signals harmonious relationships, whereas fear signals being threatened. Intelligence refers to the capacity to carry out abstract reasoning,

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Ivey Business Journal November/December 2002

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