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Lead Your Team Personal Growth

What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why Does It Matter?

emotional intelligence
Credit: Crafter/ShutterStock

Most people agree that having a strong work ethic, dedication and skill makes a successful employee. However, a new study finds that high emotional intelligence also plays a key role in career success.

In an article published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, Joseph C. Rode, professor of management at Farmer School of Business at Miami University of Ohio, and his co-authors found emotional intelligence is linked to bigger salaries and higher job satisfaction.

While high emotional intelligence alone won't make you successful, it will probably make you happier and more successful in your career. Business News Daily talked to Rode and other experts about what emotional intelligence is and how you can use it to advance your career.

According to Liz Bentley, founder of Liz Bentley Associates, "emotional intelligence in its simplest form is our ability to get along with people." Bentley said people with high emotional intelligence have self-awareness and social awareness, and can manage themselves and others. 

Similarly, Rode describes emotional intelligence as the ability to recognize and manage emotional information.

"It represents the intersection of emotions and general mental ability – sometimes referred to as IQ," he said. "It can also be thought of as the extent to which one actively thinks about emotion, or uses emotions as important information in a manner similar to other information such as facts and opinions."

Bentley added that people with high emotional intelligence typically drive good outcomes and results, align people with the mission, hold people accountable, coach their subordinates and colleagues when they're stuck, and create a collaborative and cohesive work environment.

Emotional intelligence and its associated people skills are important because people are an important part of any business.

"People are our most valuable and critical commodity," Bentley told Business News Daily. "We are all in the people business – people are our bosses, subordinates, team members, colleagues, clients, vendors and consumers."

Emotions, said Rode, are important pieces of information that must be considered in decision-making – even if that means learning to tune them out.

"While emotional intelligence includes the ability to use emotions to increase motivation and focus, it also includes the ability to detach from very powerful short-term emotions when needed to better focus on the tasks at hand," he said.

Rode's study found that people with high emotional intelligence typically have higher salaries than people who don't. To measure emotional intelligence, Rode and his co-authors required participants to solve multiple emotional problems that had right and wrong answers like an IQ test. For example, participants had to identify emotions in faces or artwork, and identify the best response to different scenarios. Higher emotional intelligence has shown to be related to several measures of leadership effectiveness.

"Following this research, we argued that emotional intelligence should be more relevant to success – and salary – at higher organizational levels, where leadership becomes a relatively more important part of one's job," said Rode.

But what is the connection between high emotional intelligence and high salary? Brad Flowers, partner of boutique branding agency Bullhorn Creative, says this important quality helps you to read the situation and time your request just right.

"The most difficult part of getting a bigger salary is asking for it," Flowers said. "Emotional intelligence – combined with a smart case – equips you with the tools to recognize the perfect moment to ask, how to ask appropriate for your audience, and how to deal with any answer you receive." 

Jennifer Hancock, founder of Humanist Learning Systems, said people with emotional intelligence also typically have high salaries because they tend to be more productive.

"People who are good at working with other people and getting other people to work with them tend to get more work done," she told Business News Daily. "They have good reputations since people like working with them."

Saige Driver

Saige Driver graduated from Ball State University in 2015 with a degree in journalism. She started her career at a radio station in Indiana, and is currently the social media strategist at Business News Daily. She loves reading and her beagle mix, Millie. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.