What is Emotional Intelligence


If you think about the sort of skillset that you would need in order to be a highly successful CEO of a Fortune 500 company, what comes to mind?

A high IQ?... Probably.

A solid education?... We would think so.

Excellent financial understanding?... Um, yeah definitely!

In this video, Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Group, reveals something that will drop your jaw to the floor: he never knew the difference between net profit and gross profit!

How… on… earth… is… that… possible?

If you’ve ever read one of Branson’s books, you will know he is very candid about his troubled times growing up. He had dyslexia and poor academic performance as a student, but later discovered he had the ability to connect with others, which would prove invaluable when starting up Virgin Records in the 70s.

Though it seems strange now, the dogma back then was that IQ was the most important factor in determining one’s success, yet Branson’s career highlighted that there was a growing demand for a completely different type of intelligence in order to be successful in the new economy.

Emotional intelligence came into the spotlight when Daniel Goleman published the book “Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” in 1995 (although the study of different forms of intelligence actually began long before the publication: See History of Emotional Intelligence)


Goleman describes being hit with a tidal wave of attention from the business community. Many prominent CEOs and executives told him they finally had a new language to articulate the core traits that had helped them succeed, despite being school dropouts like Branson.

Three years after his landmark book, Goleman wrote an article in Harvard Business Review called “What Makes a Leader?”, which attracted a higher percentage of readers than any other article published in HBR in the past 40 years. When the CEO of Johnson & Johnson read the article, he was so impressed that he had copies sent out to the 400 top executives in the company worldwide. HBR still lists the article as one of its ten “must-read” papers of all time.

TIME Magazine apparently thought something of the idea too, calling Emotional Intelligence one of the 25 “Most Influential Business Management Books.”


Caption: "What's Your EQ? It's not your IQ. It's not even a number. But emotional intelligence may be the best predictor of success in life, redefining what it means to be smart."

Despite its considerable importance, the field of Emotional Intelligence is still relatively new. Just as there is no consensus on what the term intelligence means, there is no universal definition of Emotional Intelligence.

Today, there are three leading thinkers on Emotional Intelligence:

An array of non-cognitive capabilities, competencies, and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures.
— Reuven Bar-On
A form of 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.
— John Mayer and Peter Salovey
Emotional Intelligence refers to the capacity for recongnising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.
— Daniel Goleman

With our work in this field, we would define EI as: “The ability to sense, understand and effectively apply emotions to facilitate higher levels of collaboration and productivity.”

We subscribe to the 5 competencies set out by Daniel Goleman, as we find this to be the most business friendly model:

1. Self Awareness - The ability to recognise and understand your own moods, emotions and drives as well as their effects on others.

2. Self Regulation - The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods. This includes the propensity to suspend judgment and to think before acting.

3. Motivation - A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status and to pursue your goals with energy and persistence.

4. Empathy - The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people and the skill to treat people according to their emotional reactions.

5. Social Skills - Proficiency in managing relationships, building networks and the ability to find common ground to build rapport.

At the end of the day, EI is all about being aware of our own internal state, the way others are reacting, and how we can facilitate the best possible outcome for all involved.

At Vargo + Lewis our goal is to increase team effectiveness, creating high performing teams. The TTI set of tools provide a way to understand different behaviour styles, key drivers/motivators and ways to grow emotional intelligence.  Individuals and teams are supported to fulfil their potential by learning how to adapt to each other's tendencies and strengths, getting the absolute best outcomes for the organisation. Building emotional intelligence is one of the best investments of a team's time as it is the foundation for success as an individual, team and at business level. 

If you're looking to measure and build emotional intelligence for whatever reason, get in touch with one of us; we welcome a chat.   We want to know how we can support you achieve the outcomes you're looking for. Our approach will  always be customised  to meet your needs, whether you are an  individual, a team or a small or large business. 

This post is reprinted with permission from the DTS International Blog