Emotional intelligence is key to every individual’s success

Article originally published by the Philadelphia Business Journal on March 28, 2022. Revised 11:15am.

Emotional intelligence is recognized as a key leadership trait. EQ is also important to the success of everyone who interacts with people, regardless of their position within an organization.

I wrote an article in May 2019 headlined, “Six rules for being an emotionally intelligent leader.” I will expand here on the points I made in that article.

In a 1998 Harvard Business Review article, Rutgers University professor Daniel Goleman wrote, “The most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. 

“It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as ‘threshold capabilities’; that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions … But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership.” 

I believe EQ is also the sine qua non of success for employees at every level in an organization, regardless of their position.

Many individuals, including health care professionals, retail and restaurant employees, airline flight attendants and law enforcement officers don’t hold leadership positions, but interface with the public each day. We have all had encounters with them.  If they don’t possess EQ, they may not always exercise common sense and good critical judgment, and risk harming the reputation of their organization or exposing it to financial liability. 

In his article, Goleman identifies five components of EQ:

  • Self-awareness: The ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others.
  • Self-regulation: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods … to think before acting.
  • Motivation: A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status.
  • Empathy: The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. Skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions.
  • Social Skill: Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. An ability to find common ground and build rapport.

How do these five components of EQ translate into an individual’s day-to-day interactions and effectiveness with the people they deal with?

Photo credit: Getty Images (MAREKULIASZ)

Recognize how others perceive you

You should recognize how your words, body language, verbal tone and actions are read by others. If the way you are being read is not desired or effective, you should change. You can tell how you are being perceived by other people’s subtle or not-so-subtle cues.

Always use your common sense and good critical judgment

Most decisions are made with only limited information, so you need to fall back on your common sense and good critical judgment. Ensure you hire people with these two traits. There are too many examples of employees causing economic and reputational harm to the company because they lacked these qualities.

Don’t communicate with others in a way that puts them on the defensive

Communicate in a way that makes people feel respected and valued. Don’t waste your personal capital correcting individuals on minor irrelevant misstatements of fact. If a correction is necessary, deliver it so that the individual maintains their dignity and you are not showing how smart you are.

When a co-worker shares an idea or proposes a new initiative, listen

Don’t accept or reject an idea out of hand before vetting it. Show respect by asking how the idea might be implemented, what its impact is and whether there could be any unintended consequences.

It’s better to have them reach their own conclusion through dialogue rather than you prematurely telling them what you think. After a dialogue, both of you might have new positions or discover an alternative that is more effective than the original idea.

Value the opinion of the lone wolf within your organization. It takes courage and conviction to go against the grain. Give them a chance to air their views. They might just change your mind.

Take the blame if it’s your fault. Give credit where credit is due

Everyone makes mistakes. Own up to yours. You will be a much more effective and respected leader if you do. Publicly acknowledge the successes of others. It will motivate them to continue to succeed. And, never throw people under the bus. It destroys trust and any respect people within your organization might have for you.

Don’t self-aggrandize

Avoid telling everyone how great you are. Don’t blame others for decisions that you disagree with for the purpose of boosting your own perceived standing. Narcissistic, insecure people do this. It does nothing to win the hearts and minds and earn the respect of your organization and the other people you deal with. It makes you look bad.

Practice street smarts. Follow these emotional intelligence rules to be more effective at what you do.


Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at

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