Mastering “emotional intelligence” is necessary for any leader aiming to inspire and empower others in this day and age. This trending term may seem like a modern tactic, however, it has been around for decades prior to the 21st century. Upon analysing numerous influential leaders and how they succeeded in inspiring people through their words and actions, it turns out these who were inspired have been tied to their leaders on a strong emotional level. Bonds built on mutual values and principles are hard to break. A perfect example of such case is Dr. Ghazi Al Gosaibi, who remains cherished by many long after he passed away for his perfect embodiment of patriotism, integrity, discipline and courage. His famous memoir “A Life in Management” resonates with hundreds of thousands of readers because it emphasizes on how he consistently held on to his values in all the various leading roles he occupied. Although Al Gosaibi did not witness the dazzling era of social media, his timeless quotes are still circulated, posted and tweeted to inspire different generations.
But history has proven that leaders do not always have to embody positive or righteous values in order to influence others. An interesting article written by Adam Grant – a professor at the University of Pennsylvania- titled “The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence” demonstrates such bewilderment. Grant based his article on the case of Adolf Hitler, and how he implemented emotional intelligence to become one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. Knowing all the horrendous actions led by the Führer and his people, one could argue that he was far from possessing emotions let alone using them to influence others. However, the article explains how Hitler invested heavily in mastering body language to enhance his influence through the speeches he gave to the German public. Grant quotes historian Roger Moorhouse where he admits that Hitler was “an absolutely spellbinding public speaker” given his ability to exhort people to fulfil his vision, despite how dreadful it actually was.
Fast forward to the 21st century, emotional intelligence has been embedded as a fundamental subject in every program related to leadership. To further comprehend the essence of emotional intelligence, one must acknowledge the journey of this term and how it evolved throughout the years. According to the Institute of Health and Human Potential, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is defined as “the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and; recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others”. The origin of this term and how it came to existence is explained thoroughly in Dr. Sandeep Atre’s article “A Brief History of Emotional Intelligence”. In his article, Dr. Atre elaborates on how the term was derived from “Social Intelligence” which was first mentioned back in 1909 by an educational philosopher named John Dewey. Dewey defined social intelligence as “the power of observing and comprehending social situations”. This is very similar to how emotional intelligence is defined today, which is the ability to understand humans and their actions, leading one to act properly according to different situations. Dr. Atre continues his article by stating that the term “emotional intelligence” was first used in 1964 by Michael Beldoch – a professor of psychology at Cornell University – in a research paper titled ‘Sensitivity to Expression of Emotional Meaning in Three Modes of Communication’.
The 90’s, however, witnessed a major breakthrough after John Mayer and Peter Salovey published a co-written article titled “Emotional Intelligence”, which is the first academic review dedicated to discussing this term. In the article, Mayer and Salovey constructed a model called “PUUM” that illustrates emotional intelligence in terms of four branches: perceiving emotions (use of body language and verbal expressions), understanding emotions (accurate interpretation of oneself and others), using of emotions (application in decision-making process) and managing emotions (controllable and appropriate reactions). The evolution of emotional intelligence accelerated rapidly after Mayer and Salovey paved the way for other psychologists to explore it further. Later in the 90’s, Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and New York Times writer, asked for Mayor and Salovey’s permission to use “PUUM” and the term “emotional intelligence” for his upcoming book. Permission was granted and Goleman successfully published his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”. Goleman’s book “popularized” emotional intelligence as a concept and embedded it to the minds of psychologists and the rest of the world alike. In his bestselling book, Goleman narrated emotional intelligence within a business context, affirming why it is essential for leaders to make use of it in the workplace. Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence Model includes: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. The model is relied on heavily by psychologists and influential leaders because it considers the acts of recognition and regulation across oneself and others. Together, the four domains add up to 12 essential traits that must be acquired by any potential leader in order to exercise their influence in the most effective way.
Today, emotional intelligence is perceived as the most required skill in the workplace. Up to this day, lots of efforts have been put into researching this skill, and many of the findings concluded a positive correlation between emotional intelligence, strong leadership, high performance and overall wellbeing. After going through the evolution of emotional intelligence, it is fair to say that psychologists have put a great emphasis on this subject for a great number of reasons. The main one is that, despite what jobs we might occupy we are still people dealing with other people in an everlasting loop. The ability to understand one another, to aspire to be our best selves and inspire others to become a better version of themselves is only achieved through mastering emotional intelligence.
Halah Fahd Alrayes
Knowledge Seeker. Driven by the human element in a 360° business perspective.