How Important Is Emotional Intelligence To Leaders And Teams?

NYC Mayor Eric Adams said emotional intelligence was the #1 skill he was looking to hire for. The No Stupid Questions podcast asked, “Is Emotional Intelligence Really So Important?”*

First, a definition: Emotional Intelligence is not the tendency, but the capacity to perceive, use, understand and manage emotions. 

Let’s break that down. 

First, we don’t tend to be emotionally intelligent so much as we have the capacity for it, and different people have different ranges. This is why you’re not like me, you’re not your parents, and your one friend is “weird.” 

We perceive emotions we and others are feeling. Think of it as self-awareness, and an almost (non-technical understanding here) other-awareness of how people are emoting. 

We use emotions to get our intentions across. Sometimes, we also misuse them. 

We understand emotions when we can differentiate them. See Brene Brown’s work. Some people know the difference between happy and sad. Others can tell if they’re despairing or grieving. 

We manage emotions when we help ourselves or others move from and to whatever we’re feeling. This can be encouraging or manipulative. 

If you’re hiring, is Emotional Intelligence the most important thing? 

Maybe. Do you need someone who can listen and understand feelings running operations? The answer isn’t clear. Is a general level of self-awareness and empathy good for a team, let alone a government? It’s hard to argue with that point. 

Bottom line, while perhaps an extreme sentiment to lead with for hiring, Emotional Intelligence is still about capacity. That means we can learn more about it, and possibly even improve our ability to use these tools. 

The perception, use, understanding, and management of emotions is, if nothing else, extremely handy in all of personal and professional life. Hiring or not, it’s worth thinking about. 

*I caught this story via the Freakanomics/No Stupid Questions podcast.

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