It has always been common consensus since the rise of capitalism and corporations, that IQ and technical ability has been a telling factor of corporate success. Not until 1995 when psychologist Daniel Goleman published his book “emotional intelligence”, did corporate players start adopting EQ as a critical factor of employee competency models. Since then, “EQ” has been largely thrown about the business-academic sector as a scapegoat for the failure of highly intelligent and capable leaders. But what exactly is EQ and how does it predict individual success?

Daniel Goleman  studied over 200 firms in the 1990s to determine the critical factors of employee competency. The factors were categorised into technical skills, IQ and EQ. Data analysis revealed that EQ-related factors were 2 times more effective at predicting success than skills and IQ. Incases of employee cross-analysis, EQ played an increasingly important role in determining success.



The first important aspect of EQ is self-awareness.  Self-awareness means understanding one’s emotions, strength, weakness, needs and drivers. People with self-awareness are more likely to see themselves more accurately and also more welcoming to receiving feedback. This can create a culture of honesty and integrity within a company. Take a manager who may not have bought in to a directive by top management, instead of sulking and risking the spread of unhappiness amongst his subordinate, a self-aware manager will instead be frank and honest with his opinion. He/she may voice out to the management “ I am finding difficulty understanding the reason behind such a decision” This will initiate the process of solving the manager’s unhappiness through meetings with the management or tweaking of the system.

Another important aspect of self-awareness is the ability to pinpoint ones personal values. This is crucial as it allows the employee to align their values to the company’s. It also allows the employee the conviction to make decisions and reject projects that may violate one’s own values. This once again creates a culture of honesty and integrity within the company. It also leads to greater motivation and long term commitment and satisfaction from the employee.

A crucial part of self-awareness is also the ability for self-deprecating humour. An employee with high self-awareness is usually able to look back at pass mistakes and have a good laugh. This exhibits humility and the person’s ability to accurately see one’s strength and weakness. An employee who is able to accurately analyse ones strength and weakness is also more likely to accurately assess the resources within a company.


Next up on the list is Self-Regulation, the ability to rationally control one’s behaviour in spite of the emotions one may be feeling. Many a time, dishonest employees do not conduct elaborate plans into their illicit actions. These actions are often seen in a situation of opportunity, where it may be conveniently easy to make self-centred decisions at the expense of the company. Such impulses are seen in employees who exhibit low level of self-regulation.

Often, a leader who takes time to consider the situations may be seen as cold and distant by his employees. On the flip side, a leader with a fiery temperament may be seen as charismatic and powerful. This common misconception is brought about by a need for immediate action. A leader who takes his time to consider the situation is more likely build trust and fairness within the organisation.

In today’s VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) environment, it is essential that a leader is able to self-regulate their actions and not make rash decisions. It is also beneficial that an individual is able to roll along with the changes, suspend judgment and ultimately derive the meaning and reason behind each change phenomenon.


Motivation is highly discussed, and can be seen as the passion to work beyond the compensation of money or status. It is the intrinsic value that builds a cycle of humility and constant self-reflection that will lead to personal growth and development.

A highly motivated individual has been shown to more optimistic and well-equipped to face setbacks, making them more resilient in today’s corporate landscape. It is not surprising that motivation is a significant predicator for success.  Motivated individuals constantly push the bar for success and surround themselves with like-minded individuals, creating a culture of collective potential, a force to reckon with in any situation.


Perhaps the most well-known factor is empathy. Not to be confused with sympathy, empathy is the ability to read non-verbal cues that emanate from our social interactions.  Compare a situation in which a company is undergoing a period of recession.  A manager who is worried by prospect of being retrenched may neglect the same feelings shared by his subordinates. This can create an air of paranoid and fear within the organisation. Yet, imagine a manager who shares the worries of his employees and consciously act on reassuring everyone. This in turn will create an environment of trust and commaderie over a period of time.

In another example where a manager has to fire a number of employees, a less empathetic manager may make a gloomy speech about the state of the company and the reasons for the retrenchment, where another manager may make a different speech, one about hope and opportunities. The underlying intention may be the same, but the overall outcome is starkly different.

Even more importantly, in an ever globalising economy, it is empathy that will allow us to communicate beyond language and culture. The biological reactions to emotions are involuntary and organic across borders. With a high degree of empathy, we are in a better position to collaborate with international partners despite cultural barriers.

Social skill


Social skill is an accumulation and a mechanism for action of the previous 4 components of EQ. With empathy we are able to read the non-verbal cues during our social interactions. Self-awareness and regulation allows us to choose the response to these signals. With mastery over these components, any individual will be able to navigate through the complicated web of social dynamics and emerge with a network ready for all situations.

An individual who is highly skilled socially usually has a huge network available to them. This is not to say that they are constantly socialising. They realise the significant limitations of a single individual and instead build connections such that they have an available network to tap into for all situations.

Realistically, a leader’s job is to empower people such that work can be done through these channels. As such, leaders network broadly and widely and without judgement. Social skill can thus be seen as a crucial cog in the application of the above components to elevate  EQ.

In Conclusion….

This isn’t to say that IQ and technical abilities are not important attributes of a leader. If anything, IQ and technical abilities can be seen as the substance that give us form and shape in the corporate arena. EQ can be seen as the glue and lubricant that allows us to flow and glide and interact seamlessly with our dynamic environment.

The question remains though, can EQ be learned and how?

That is an article…. for another time.

Written by Peter GOH (Facilitator)
on 3rd February 2018