What is Emotional Intelligence?

If you have read Daniel Goleman’s (1995) groundbreaking work Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ and/or Travis Bradberry’s and Jean Greaves’ (2009) work titled Emotional Intelligence 2.0, you are likely well aware of the concept of Emotional Intelligence.  In case you have not read either or both of these books, I would like to briefly discuss what constitutes Emotional Intelligence.  Many of us have been engaging in the practical applications of Emotional Intelligence for quite some time, without having realized that there is an overarching name for and theory about that which we have been doing naturally.

Emotional Intelligence can be explained as one’s ability to use and/or control emotion in a manner that does not interfere with one’s ability to think rationally or make rational decisions. This is not to suggest that one is able to or should attempt to make rational decisions while in a highly-charged emotional state; it is meant to suggest that one has mastered awareness and management of one’s emotions in order to change one’s impact on others and on situations. It is knowing that being emotionally upset inhibits one’s ability to think straight and make good decisions. It is a skill that needs to be developed and maintained with practice.

With time and practice, Emotionally Intelligent people are able to develop what is known as mindfulness. Mindfulness is an awareness of what one is feeling and how those feelings (emotions) are affecting others. I also like to think of mindfulness as ‘being/living in the moment’, which plays an important role in our respective abilities to be authentic and genuine with others. If we are not mindful and tuned in to others, they can tell. Mindfulness is an important factor in building resonant relationships, which is, amongst others, a topic of discussion for the near future.

The concept of Emotional Intelligence is exciting, because it means that with some work, we can greatly improve our relationships, our and others’ quality of life, and our productivity.

What are your thoughts? If you have a question or would like to add something, please feel free.

Dr. Mark

About the Author:

Emotional Intelligence and Organizational Change Leader Mark gained his leadership experience by serving over 20 years as a member of the US Army. He served in a variety of executive leadership positions within multiple Department of Defense organizations, assessing employee performance, advancing positive social change, and using his knowledge of emotional intelligence to build resonant relationships with all members of the organization. Mark holds a Doctorate in Management-Leadership and Organizational Change from Walden University.


  1. Alex  February 15, 2016

    It’s true, and frankly to the point that it’s rather a truism–I don’t think anyone non-autistic or non-sociopathic would really disagree with the phrase that being able to connect with people is a necessity to be a leader. The difficulty is in coaching this and there’s only so much you can get from a book. I have friends who work for an extremely financially successful men’s dating advice company. What’s more effective, give your students a stack of books, or actually take them and make them talk to girls? They decided on the latter, and that’s why they are so successful. Likewise in business, I see people who I can tell have had some kind of networking training, but they just suck. You can tell. Little unusual tics, like saying the person’s name over and over (“Hey Alex! What do you think about this Alex? Alex, Alex…” dude just stop) because once upon a time Dale Carnegie said that people like hearing their name. Sure that may be true, but you’re missing the point, and without actual field experience, you won’t understand the nuances.

    So I am curious on your take on how to coach up this kind of emotional intelligence. I come from the mindset that field experience is king. Put them in a front line sales or client relationship management role for 2-3 years. They will have no choice but to develop emotional intelligence, or otherwise they won’t survive. I can tell you that after about 4 years working in a very intense private wealth management sales culture, I am a more effective leader than people 10, 20 years older than me, just because they never went through that kind of grind. Not trying to be politically correct here. If you are in a pure analyst type job, like a quant, accountant, engineer, programmer, or similar, you are not necessarily in a position where you are forced to engage in serious, high pressure social interactions, UNLESS you are an official managerial position. Debating your friends about sports and politics doesn’t count. I am talking about serious interpersonal interactions where money is on the line and the conversation is uncomfortable by nature–maybe you have to fire or discipline an employee, maybe you need to squeeze more out of limited resources but still keep people motivated during the grind, or maybe you have to push back against your superiors when you know you are right and they are wrong. Some jobs don’t necessarily have that kind of exposure and hence you have to take the responsibility on your own to cultivate that skill set. Sales, on the other hand, every entry level person is forced to make those kind of split second decisions and bear the responsibility if it goes wrong. Also, because there is “skin in the game”, sales forces people to endure the emotional pain of cultivating those skills. If you don’t hit your quota, you are fired. So, you better learn. I would say a major hindrance to people cultivating those kind of emotional skills, whether it be for improving their social life, dating, or business networking, is that they are not willing to endure that initial emotional pain of doing something outside of their comfort zone.

    Moreover, you straight up cannot lead others if you first are not leading yourself. As one of my personal mentors said, most people walk through life in a walking daze. They have no ideas about what their core values truly are and just go along with social conditioning or what their peers are doing. Accordingly, of course you have no emotional intelligence on others, since you don’t even have it on yourself first. I wrote a lengthy article on this here: http://www.howtobeananalyst.com/2015/05/real-talk-going-for-what-you-want/


    • Mark  February 15, 2016


      Thank you for your reply!! I appreciate a seasoned professional such as yourself sharing your experiences.

      I completely agree that emotional intelligence is a skill that needs to be coached. Even in a “business” such as the military, where lives could ultimately be at stake if leaders fail to develop trusting and resonant relationships with the members of their units (seniors, peers, and subordinates alike), I have seen many leaders fail to develop emotional intelligence. I do not necessarily have the benefit of marketing theory to be able to argue/discuss whether putting someone in a front line sales or client management role for 2-3 years will suffice for developing one’s emotional intelligence skills, but I could certainly agree that without them (the EI skills), one may not do as well as others who have them. Based on what I have seen and experienced over the past 20+ years, unless people are coached by others, who have developed their respective EI skills and now how to provide coaching and mentorship of the same, they either stay caught in the rut of the consequences of uncontrolled emotions and less-than-ideal decision making or, as you stated, they don’t survive. As I am sure you will agree, the development of EI is purposive, and while there may be some career fields that have less tolerance for those who haven’t developed or who have refused/failed to develop, one cannot be expected to develop EI and survive without being coached. EI is not [strictly] for the benefit of the person developing it, so placing someone in a “do or die” position, with respect to one’s job being on the line for failing to develop EI, is not enough. It is coaching someone the importance and necessity of leading with compassion, listening, and recognizing that leadership is about the relationship between the leader and the led. It is about caring enough about the other person that one becomes ‘in-tune’ with him and that one genuinely wants to help him. Organizations improve when their employees improve, and leaders, who have developed EI and who can coach the organization’s future leaders on how to be emotionally intelligent leaders, will do more to ensure organizational success and simply putting them in ‘do or die’ situations.

      I am eagerly looking forward to future discussions!


      • Alex  February 17, 2016

        Within the military, I am curious if such training was given to Officers and senior NCOs, and if you have any thoughts on to the effectiveness of the training. I would imagine it would be particularly salient for Civil Affairs Officers. I have heard some defense analysts comment that in counterinsurgency roles, Infantry from the Reserve is sometimes more effective at connecting with local populations, given their civilian jobs. Thoughts?

        • Mark  February 18, 2016


          I appreciate your questions and the chance to engage in dialogue with you.
          I am not aware of any training, given to NCOs or to Officers, which is specifically directed at teaching emotional intelligence. There are aspects of leadership training, however, which touch upon some of the ideas of it [EI], but nothing that is directly related to the concept of emotional intelligence.
          Regarding reservists being able to more effectively connect with local populations, because of their civilian jobs, I cannot be sure. Although I could agree that it ‘sounds’ logical, I would need to see empirical data to be convinced–it sounds too much like a logical fallacy, but then, as I stated, I do not know for sure.


  2. Bob  February 13, 2016

    A key word in your article seems to be “mindfulness.” Being cognizant of emotional state, that is “mindful,” and emotional state’s impact provides additional depth to perspective. It is somewhat like being able to observe one’s self from outside of one’s self and then tap into the miraculous human ability to imagine consequence.

    Does EI apply only to self-awareness, or does the concept expand to include mindfulness of others’ emotional states?

    • Mark  February 15, 2016

      Thank you for your question. Mindfulness certainly extends to the emotional states of others–that is how one is able to see the effects of their personal, emotional states on others. It is being “in-tune” with others around you and having empathy. It is the developed ability to imagine consequence, as you stated.

  3. Kevin Jackson  February 10, 2016

    Good article – especially important to be in the moment so that you don’t miss opportunities to help others, to mentor, to learn/grow, and to pick up on signals you might otherwise miss. If you let your emotions rule your actions you might find yourself avoided or left out of important goings-on – in professional and/or private life.

    Thanks for this, Mark.

    • Mark  February 10, 2016


      I certainly appreciate you contributing to this forum; your nearly 30 years of leadership experience is an invaluable asset. Having had the opportunity to serve by your side, I can say that you are the epitome of an emotionally intelligent leader, and I was honored to have been able to learn from one of (if not ‘the’) best.

      My next post will be about the neuroscience behind why/how being in an emotionally charged or stressed state inhibits our ability to think rationally. I will also discuss how, by knowing and recognizing this, we can take action to calm ourselves and reclaim our ability to think rationally.

      Very respectfully,


    • Ron Karsten  February 15, 2016

      Thanks Kevin and Mark; I especially like the way you have addressed this important leadership communication skill. I am aware of others I encounter who express themselves with comfort and empathy. Deployment of EI sensitivity tends to soften situations dealing with problem solving or assisting with performance coaching. I notice that EI can help to open dialogue and build rapport quickly with others who are searching for answers, attempting to coach and mentor or in relationships where discovery needs facilitation.

      Thank you both for taking the time to comment here. I appreciate reading the ideas of other like minded leaders.


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