What Does It All Mean? Emotional intelligence (EI)

What Does It All Mean?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability of an individual to recognize their own emotions as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence is a critical element of interpersonal skills. Individuals that lack interpersonal skills, especially emotional intelligence, are more apt to engage in negative exchanges thus disrupting organizational effectiveness.

Learning to lead begins with oneself. Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are critical tools to directing oneself. One must be able to lead the self before one can lead others. If a leader can’t lead or manage one person, he/she will not have the skills to lead a group and ultimately an organization. Managing oneself is the foundation of leading a group, which becomes a basis for leading an organization. Organizational leadership is the broadest form of leadership and thus takes many skills to be effective and successful, with EI being just one of those skills yet a vital skill for today’s organizational leaders.

Measuring EI

To measure emotional intelligence, Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso (2000) created the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). This is a written test consisting of 141 items designed to measure the test-taker’s abilities in each of the four skills—awareness, control, understanding, and management. The average person needs 30 to 45 minutes to complete the MSCEIT, which provides 15 scores, including a total EI score, two area scores, four branch scores, and eight task scores.

A higher EI score does seem to imply better attention to physical and mental processes. For example, when a person can detect variations in their heartbeat accurately, it has been shown they will also have a higher EI score, as heartbeat variation detection is an emotion related physiological response (Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, 2000). Further, those with a high EI are more precise in predicting how they will feel in response to an event, even if the experience is to occur in the future, such as a sports championship game. This is called affective forecasting.

EI Assessment and its Meaning

Unless you have zero interactions with other people, you will still encounter workplace relationships. Numerous studies have shown that a high EI correlates to having better relationships in business settings, such as with clients and colleagues. Managers that have high EI can build and maintain relationships with their team and with others. These tend to be the managers “everyone wants to work for.”

More organizations today are employing the use of teams, whether on-site, remote, or virtual. Employees that have high EI tend to have the ability to work in teams, be adaptable, and flexible. In looking at the five key personality traits for EI, if a person scores high it means:


Knows and understands own strengths and weaknesses, how actions affect others, can handle and learn from constructive criticism.


Is mature in revealing emotions, uses restraint when and as needed, restraint and control are key.


Is self-motivated, not motivated by money or title alone, resilient and optimistic, driven by inner ambition.


Compassion and understanding of human nature, can connect with others on an emotional level, provides excellent service to others, and is genuinely concerned for others.

People Skills

Able to build rapport and trust quickly, avoids power struggles and backstabbing, enjoys other people, has respect for those around them.

EI in the Workplace

Today’s employers are turning to EI when hiring and promoting, and many are valuing a high EQ over a high IQ. For instance, in one study conducted by Career Builder (Chignell, 2018), they found that 71% of hiring managers preferred and valued EQ over IQ. Further, 75% were more likely to promote an employee with high EI. When it comes to IQ versus EQ, 59% said they wouldn’t hire a candidate with a high IQ and low EQ.

Since employees who have a high EI are self-motivators, they usually don’t wait around for someone to delegate a task to them. High EI employees can work well with other high EI members in teams. Imagine a self-motivated team and what can be accomplished by each member having high EI. This also means that each person has people skills and each avoids power struggles. The team would be able to work together well and efficiently.

Additional Readings


Chignell, B. (2018, February 13). The importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace. CIPHR. Retrieved from https://www.ciphr.com/features/emotional-intelligence/

Mayer, J., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. (2000). Models of emotional intelligence. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of intelligence (pp. 396–420). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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