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Ideas for Leaders #724

Why Emotional Intelligence in Business Is Difficult

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Key Concept

A five-year in-depth evaluation of a new measuring tool for emotional intelligence (EI) called the Emotional Capital Report (ECR) proves the validity of the tool for measuring the emotional and social components of EI, while revealing some interesting nuances.

Idea Summary

Although the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) is widely accepted, there is no single accepted way to define EI and measure it in people. One recent metric that has emerged is the Emotional Capital Report (ECR), which examines a series of emotional and social competencies related to EI. Because the ECR includes both personality traits and abilities, it is called a ‘mixed’ model (as opposed to ‘ability-based model’ that only looks at EI as a type of intelligence or aptitude).

The ECR consists of 77 self-reported items that cover all emotional and social competencies. Each item is a first-person singular sentence (e.g. ‘It is difficult for me to communicate my ideas to others’), and the respondents agree or disagree with the sentence using a five-point scale: 1 = very seldom true of me, 2 = seldom true of me, 3 = sometimes true of me, 4 = often true of me, and 5 = very often true of me. 

The 77 responses are then grouped based on similarity and likeness into 10 ECR scales: self-knowing; self-confidence; self-reliance; straightforwardness; self-actualisation (e.g. maintaining effective work/life balance); relationship skills; empathy; adaptability; self-control; and optimism.

A team of researchers recently conducted a five-year study involving nearly 7,000 people in 11 different geographic regions to test the validity of the ECR scales. In addition, four groups of senior leaders, totalling 145 leaders in all, also participated in the study. 

In addition to completing the ECR survey, the respondents also completed five other personality tests (or ‘inventories’): 

  • Revised Neo Personality Inventory (NEOPI-R), which measures Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience.
  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II), which measures depression.
  • Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), which measures a broader range of psychological distress, including depression, anxiety, hostility, obsessive-compulsion, and others.
  • Self-Liking/Self-Competence Scale (SLCS), which measures self-esteem.
  • Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i), which is another mixed EI measure, also using 10 scales.

The relationship between personality and EI is complex, and this complexity was borne out in this study. As expected, the researchers found that high scores of EI correlated positively with measures of positive social and emotional well-being and negatively to measures of negative social and emotional well-begin. However, these correlations were weaker than in previous studies. These weaker results can be understood if the ECR is measuring professional domain competencies rather than emotional and social competencies in general. For example, on the NEOPI scale of Neuroticism, the correlation between emotional intelligence as measured by the ECR and Neuroticism was weaker than in past tests. In a professional environment, this weaker correlation can make some sense, if neuroticism translates into greater vigilance in a threatening business environment, for example. In this sense, more neuroticism is not necessarily negative. 

Other results from the study included the following:

  • The combined scores of the four leadership groups were higher than the mean of the other respondents.
  • Respondents who held high emotional labour jobs scored significantly higher than those with low emotional labour jobs.
  • Men scored higher on self-reliance, self-actualisation and adaptability, while women scored higher on empathy. 
  • Older respondents scored higher than younger respondents, especially on straightforwardness.

Business Application

As a measure of emotional intelligence, the study, which included factor analyses and other statistical analyses measuring consistency and reliability, confirms that the ECR is a valuable tool for measuring emotional intelligence. However, the study also highlights the complexity of emotional intelligence, which is sometimes oversimplified. Business leaders must recognize, for example, that in a business setting, high empathy may not correlate exactly with high emotional intelligence and for a good reason: the emotional intelligence demands of a business setting may be different than in more personal settings. (The weaker correlation of neuroticism and EI described above is another example.)

In this way, the ECR may be particularly valuable as it highlights some of the nuances of emotional intelligence for business leaders.

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Authors

Institutions

Source

Idea conceived

  • January 2015

Idea posted

  • January 2019

DOI number

10.13007/724

Subject

Real Time Analytics