In the mid-1980s, as a young manger, I took my first DISC Behavioral Style Analysis profile and I credit it with changing the course of my career. While the term “Emotional Intelligence” was already being used in academic circles at that time, it would be almost 10 years before Daniel Goleman popularized the term with his book: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ and even longer before I associated the benefits I gained from taking the DISC profile with the concept of Emotional Intelligence or EQ.

The DISC profile gave me insight into the strengths and weaknesses of my style and it highlighted blind spots that were tripping up my relationships with colleagues and hurting my credibility as a leader. It also introduced me to the fact that not everyone else sees the world as I do and that to be an effective leader requires the ability to see the world from the perspective of those you wish to lead. As it turns out, the DISC profile introduced me to two of the pillars of emotional intelligence: self-awareness and social awareness.

In the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 authors Bradberry and Greaves identify emotional intelligence as one of three essential components of the “whole” person with the other two being IQ and personality. They further identify four core skills that make up emotional intelligence: self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; and relationship management. Self-awareness and self-management are intrapersonal skills while social awareness and relationship management are interpersonal skills.

The research on the role of emotional intelligence is contradictory. In his research at nearly 200 large, global companies, Goleman found that while the qualities traditionally associated with leadership—such as intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision—are required for success, they are insufficient. Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. When he calculated the ratio of technical skills, IQ, and emotional intelligence as ingredients of excellent performance, emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important as the others for jobs at all levels.

Research done by Bradberry and Greaves found that 90% of the top performers studied were also high in emotional intelligence while only 20% of bottom performers were high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, other researchers claim that the predictive ability of emotional intelligence is unsubstantiated.

Regardless of the academic debate, I have seen significant benefits accrue personally, as well as to my clients who have made the effort to enhance their emotional intelligence related skills.

So how do you increase emotional intelligence?

It starts with self-awareness. There are a number of assessments that can assist you in this area. I use Everything DiSC® profiles including the 8 Dimensions of Leadership Map (request your free 8 Dimensions of Leadership map) with my clients. Other options include Strengths Finder, and VIA Character Strengths (take a free VIA Character Strengths assessment). Bradberry and Greaves book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 includes a code to take their EI Appraisal assessment.

The second step is to begin to see the world through the eyes of others – to understand what motivates others. You can start by asking questions and then truly listening to the answers. Ask questions like:

  • What is important to you?
  • What do you value?
  • What are your goals?
  • What outcome do you want to achieve?
  • Help me understand what led you to make that decision.

To more fully understand how others perceive the world though you need a model that describes the various perspectives or “world views” – a model that depicts the various filters that individuals use in perceiving reality. The Everything DiSC® behavioral style model can be helpful in understanding others as well as understanding yourself.

Still questioning whether emotional intelligence is fact or fiction?

Try this simple exercise and decide for yourself.

Think about the best leader you ever worked for. What traits made that leader great? What did he or she do that makes you consider them an exceptional leader? Write your answers down.

Now think about the worst person you ever worked for. What did this person do that caused you to identify him or her in this category? Write down your responses.

Which category do your responses fall into? Would you categorize your responses as intellectual, cognitive or technical traits or would you categorize them as having to do with intrapersonal and interpersonal skills associated with emotional intelligence?