Emotional Intelligence in Organizational Behavior


In the contemporary business world, emotional intelligence (EI) may be frequently regarded as a highly essential ability along with professional knowledge and skills. A considerable number of companies currently pay particular attention to hiring emotionally intelligent people as employees who may understand, manage, and control their own and others’ emotions are more stress-resistant, flexible, and efficient in communication. Thus, regardless of a person’s competency in his sphere, a lack of his emotional intelligence may lead to poor performance and the absence of interactions with colleagues.

In general, EI may be regarded as an individual’s ability to understand, interpret, evaluate, use, manage, and control his own emotions and the emotions of other people. There are various models of EI, however, all of them presuppose the existence of several domains that include both individual and social competencies. As previously mentioned, EI is highly beneficial in the workplace as it helps improve both employee performance and leadership. The significance of EI for leadership is determined by the correspondence of their competencies and qualities. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to examine the concept of EI and identify how it may be applied in organizational behavior in order to enhance effective leadership.

History of EI

On the basis of its name, it is obvious that emotional intelligence (EI) that is also called an emotional quotient (EQ), is inextricably connected with people’s emotions. Serrat defines it as “an ability, capacity, skill, or self-perceived ability to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups” (329). In other words, emotionally intelligent individuals are able to understand, interpret, evaluate, use, manage, and control their own emotions and the emotions of other people. Due to EI, they build strong relationships, achieve personal goals, and succeed at work as a connection with feeling and emotions helps make informed decisions and turn intentions and plans into actions.

The modern understanding of EI was substantially influenced by early studies that focused on defining, describing, and assessing social intelligence as socially competent behavior. In their attempts to perceive social intelligence, theorists Gardner and Sternberg proposed more inclusive and comprehensive approaches to the examination of general intelligence (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 24). Thus, Gardner has elaborated the concepts of interpersonal intelligence as the ability to understand the intentions and emotions of other individuals and intrapersonal intelligence as the ability to perceive one’s emotions (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 24). Both concepts helped develop later models where EI was introduced as an intrinsic part of social intelligence. The prehistory of EI also involved research dedicated to the examination of the ability to identify and interpret facial expressions and emotions and the investigation of whether social intelligence was related to alexithymia. The latter refers to a clinical construct associated with difficulties in understanding, recognizing, and describing emotions.

EI was popularized several decades ago through materials that rapidly attracted public attention. For instance, in the 1990s, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, a best-selling book written by Daniel Goleman, and other popular works were dedicated to the significance of EI (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 24). However, at that time, empirical evidence that could support the authors’ statements concerning the importance and benefits of EI in understanding individual differences and human behavior was substantially limited. That is why studies prompted numerous critiques and the concept’s further investigation. Thus, multiple psychological factors, including intelligence, personality, temperament, emotional self-regulation, and information processing, have been considered. This led to the general understanding of EI as a multifaceted concept that should be examined from various perspectives.

In the present day, EQ is studied with the use of two different approaches – the ability and the trait one. The ability approach defines EI “as a cognitive ability based on the processing of emotion information and assesses it with performance tests” (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 24). In turn, the trait approach refers to EQ as dispositional tendencies, including self-efficacy beliefs or personality traits. In the literature, this approach frequently contains mixed models that consider EI not as a personality but as a mixture of competencies, traits, and abilities.

Models of EI

Four-Branch Ability Model

In general, there is no one commonly accepted model of EI – instead, there are several ones that identify the domains and competencies within this concept. For instance, the ability approach has its four-branch model introduced by Salovey and Mayer – it is regarded as a foundation for other models’ development (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 25). In this model, cognitive processing relates to general intelligence and implicates emotions. That is why it should be measured through respondents’ requirements to solve specific problems and perform discrete tasks. For the four-branch model, EI is a mental ability that allows one to appraise, express, and regulate emotions. Subsequently, emotion processes may be integrated processes with cognitive processes for the promotion of personal growth and goal achievement. According to its name, this model incorporates four hierarchically linked branches or ability areas:

  • Perceiving emotions. This branch refers to the person’s ability to identify emotional processes through the detection, attendance, and deciphering of various emotional signals in voices, faces, and pictures. At the same time, this ability “involves identifying emotions in one’s own physical and psychological states, as well as an awareness of, and sensitivity to, the emotions of others” (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 25);
  • Understanding emotions. This ability implies the comprehension of various emotions and how they connect with each other and change with time and in different situations. This area includes the knowledge and utilization of emotion language to identify emotion variations and describe the combinations of feelings (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 26). Those individuals who are strong in this area understand the complex relationships between emotions and may predict others’ expressions on the basis of previous experiences. For instance, in the workplace, the understanding of a colleague’s frustration through changes in face expression or voice tone may lead to the improvement of communication and both professional and personal performances.
  • Facilitating thought with the use of emotions. Emotions’ integration in order to enable thought occurs through the reflection on, attendance to, or analysis of emotional information that impacts cognitive activities, including problem-solving, reasoning, decision-making, and perspective evaluation (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 25). Thus, according to the model, emotionally intelligent individuals select cognitive activities, prioritize, and change them depending on the situation to foster contextual adaptation and achieve desired goals.
  • Managing emotions. This branch refers to the successful regulation of emotions and entails the capacity to shift, maintain, and cater to both positive and negative emotional responses (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 26). This area may be reflected in mood maintenance – for instance, emotionally intelligent people create a positive mood when a crucial decision should be made, encourage and motivate friends and colleagues, and recover quickly from frustration or anger.

All four branches are theoretically organized – emotion understanding and management that involve strategic cognitive processes are built on emotion perception and facilitation that, in turn, involve emotion information experiential processing. At the same time, there are contradictions in the distinction and hierarchy of these branches. First of all, according to developmental evidence, EI domains’ abilities are acquired simultaneously rather than sequentially. The development implies a complex learning process that involves multiple environmental and biological influences (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 27). Despite the fact that this conceptualization supports the claim that lower-level competencies contribute to more sophisticated skills’ development, it identifies ways of EI branches’ simultaneous development as well. In other words, the abilities to facilitate, understand, perceive, and manage emotions may occur at the same time and improve in the future.

Mixed Models

Regardless of the fact that trait and ability approaches that dominate in the studies of EI may be regarded as equal, in the literature, there are attempts to integrate both of them. As a result, such models as the tripartite model and the multi-level developmental investment model were developed. The former suggests the existence of three levels of EQ: knowledge about emotions, a person’s ability to apply this knowledge in various real-life situations, and “traits reflecting the propensity to behave in a certain way in emotional situations (typical behavior)” (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 25). The tripartite model’s research and applications are currently underway, and more research is currently required to understand how different approaches to EI are connected with each other. However, all theoretical frameworks related to EU conceptualization are united by the same notion – EI is divided from personality and traditional IQ (Fiori and Vesely-Maillefer 25). Thus, its examination has the potential for the assessment and prediction of various real-life outcomes.

EI Model: The Most Generic Framework

It goes without saying that individuals have different wants, needs, personalities, and ways of emotional expression. In order to succeed in life, it is essential to accept the existence of individual differences and navigate through them with shrewdness and tact. To facilitate this, the most generic model includes the following five domains of EI that cover both personal and social competencies (Serrat 331):


  • Emotional awareness. Emotionally aware individuals know their emotions and why they are feeling them, realize how their feelings are connected with what they say, think, and do, and recognize the impact of their emotions on their performance, goals, and values.
  • Self-confidence. Confident people are decisive, may voice unpopular views regardless of pressures and uncertainties, have a presence, and “present themselves with self-assurance” (Serrat 333).
  • Accurate self-assessment. With this competence, individuals are reflective, with a sense of humor, and learn from experience (Serrat 333). They are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, open to new perspectives, candid feedback, and continuous self-development.


  • Self-control. Individuals efficiently manage their distressing emotions and impulsive feelings, stay positive, composed, and unflappable in challenging situations, and stay focused, thinking clearly under pressure.
  • Conscientiousness. Individuals keep promises and meet commitments and are careful and organized, especially in the workplace.
  • Trustworthiness. These individuals act ethically, build trust through authenticity and reliability, confront others’ unethical actions, admit their own mistakes, and take even unpopular though principled stands.
  • Adaptability. People with a high level of adaptability are flexible and tactful; they smoothly handle shifting priorities, multiple demands, and rapid change.
  • Innovativeness. With this competence, individuals seek out and generate new ideas, entertain problems and original solutions, and take risks and fresh perspectives.


  • Achievement drive. Individuals with achievement drive are result-oriented, self-learning, motivated, and ambitious. They aim to meet their standards and objectives, take calculated risks, set challenging goals, and constantly pursue information to improve their performances (Serrat 333).
  • Initiative. Initiative individuals pursue goals beyond expected or required ones, seize opportunities, bend the rules if necessary to complete a mission, and mobilize others.
  • Commitment. Individuals readily make group or personal sacrifices in order to meet larger organizational goals, find purpose in challenging missions, and use the group’s values in clarifying choices and making decisions.
  • Optimism. Optimists aim to seek goals despite setbacks and obstacles and operate from hope and the possibility of success rather than failure.

Social Awareness

  • Empathy. People with developed empathy are attentive to others’ emotions, show sensitivity, listen carefully, and understand others’ perspectives.
  • Developing others. People identify others’ needs, offer useful feedback for development, give timely coaching, mentor, and acknowledge others’ strengths and accomplishments.
  • Service orientation. In the workplace, service-oriented individuals understand clients’ needs and expectations to match them to suitable products and services. They offer appropriate assistance and constantly seek methods to increase customers’ loyalty and satisfaction.
  • Leveraging diversity. With this competency, individuals respect all people regardless of their backgrounds and confront intolerance and bias. They are sensitive to diverse worldviews and group differences, seeing diversity as an opportunity for goal achievement.
  • Political awareness. With political awareness, people detect virtual social networks, assess key power relationships and external or organizational realities, and understand what forces impact clients’ views and actions.

Social Skills

  • Influence. Influential individuals are professional in persuasion, using complex strategies to appeal to the audience, make a point, and build support and consensus (Serrat 335).
  • Communication. People with communication skills deal with challenges straightforwardly, register emotional cues in their messages, seek mutual understanding, listen well, welcome information sharing, and foster open communication.
  • Change catalyst. With this ability, individuals are ready to remove barriers, recognize the necessity for change, model expected change, and champion it enlisting others “in its pursuit” (Serrat 335).
  • Leadership. Leaders hold followers accountable, guide their performances, motivate and inspire, and serve as role models.
  • Building bonds. People seek out mutually beneficial relationships, cultivate extensive informal networks, and maintain personal friendships for productive performance and goal achievement.
  • Collaboration and cooperation. Individuals share information, plans, and resources, balance between solid relationships and attention to task, nurture collaboration, and promote a cooperative climate.
  • Conflict management. These individuals may handle tense situations and difficult people with tact and diplomacy – they spot potential conflict and help deescalate them. At the same time, they orchestrate win-win solutions encouraging open discussion.
  • Team capabilities. With these capabilities, individuals build team identity and commitment, protect the group’s reputation, involve group members in enthusiastic participation, and model helpfulness, respect, and cooperation.

Twelve-Competency EI Model

This model is similar to the most generic EI model – it presupposes the existence of four domains of EI that, in turn, include twelve individual and social competencies (Goleman and Boyatzis 3):

  • Self-Awareness: Emotional self-awareness;
  • Self-Management: Adaptability, emotional self-control, positive outlook, and achievement orientation;
  • Social Awareness: Organization awareness, and empathy;
  • Relationship Management: Influence, conflict management, coach and mentor, inspirational leadership, and teamwork.

Effective Leadership

At first sight, leadership may be regarded as an ability to lead a team or an organization. However, effective leadership presupposes executing, improving, and redefining the company’s vision, setting organizational culture and tone, creating and planning processes, securing resources, and improving mistakes. In addition, competent leaders motivate people serving as role models and consider their ideas, needs, and demands for successful goal achievement. Moreover, leadership differs from management – while the latter presupposes attention to organization processes, such as budgeting, logistics, human resources, and many others, leadership focuses on motivation, respect for employees, decision-making, communication, and conflict management. In general, according to the Center for Creative Leadership, efficient leadership implies ten essential qualities: integrity, ability to delegate, self-awareness, gratitude, communication, learning agility, empathy, influence, respect, and courage (What Are the Characteristics of a Good Leader? par. 4). As a social process, leadership may be developed, and EI plays a vital role in this process.

Benefits of EI for Effective Leadership

The advantages of the application of EI to enhance leadership is impossible to deny as the majority of qualities essential for leaders correspond with EI competencies. Self-awareness may be regarded as the basis of EI – the ability to understand one’s own emotions and their potential impact on professional relationships and on-the-job performance is necessary for leadership. In turn, self-management refers to a person’s ability to manage behavior, especially organizational behavior, maintain self-control in difficult situations, and adapt in the case of unexpected circumstances. Social awareness presupposes efficient reading people’s feelings and emotions to meet their standards, needs, and concerns. Finally, relationship management defines a leader’s potential to inspire, lead, and influence others, maintain conflict, and build relationships.

As a matter of fact, an emotionally intelligent company may be regarded as a productive workplace where employees freely collaborate, trust one another, and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, speaking up, and taking action. Similar to this organization, an emotionally competent leader is a person who may relate to followers and colleagues, motivate individuals and teams, inspire others, skillfully resolve conflict, and consider people’s concerns. The greater level of EQ a leader possesses, the great his potential to lead individuals efficiently, bringing them together to achieve common corporate goals, solve hard problems, and accomplish shared tasks. At the same time, dealing with clients requires EI as well to be attuned to their needs and expectations and come up with the most appropriate business solutions.

A high level of EI implies several considerable benefits for leaders, including internal awareness, self-regulation, collaborative communication, increased empathy, and reduced stress. Leaders who know their strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and how their feelings may affect productivity, attitudes, and judgment frequently make more sound decisions in comparison with less emotionally intelligent people. At the same time, internal awareness allows emotions to work along with rationality instead of eliminating them from the decision-making process. Self-regulation is essential for authority and reputation as leaders who fail to control themselves and make impulsive decisions lose their subordinates’ respect.

Emotionally competent leaders who perceive their own emotions are traditionally more accurate in assessing others’ emotions as well. For business leaders, making more deliberate and thoughtful decisions requires placing themselves in their workers’ shoes. Moreover, understanding others’ emotions and feelings help regulate the tone of the whole conversation and speak with sincerity to mitigate unresolved tension or inspire people. Finally, emotionally intelligent people are more successful in coping with stress, even if it is unavoidable in the workplace. In addition, leaders do not contribute to the development of others’ stress by taking negative feelings and emotions out on them. They enjoy a more elaborated balance between work and private life.


The competencies of EI may be developed, and this process is highly essential for leaders who want to be efficient. First of all, the review of EI competence is necessary prior to development to evaluate what competencies require particular attention. There are several techniques of assessment – assessment tools that frequently go together with EI models, self-assessment through personality tests, and commercially available products (Goleman and Boyatzis 4). The example of the latter is the MSCEIT, a test created by Peter Salovey, a Yale University president, and his colleagues – it correlated with IQ higher than other EQ tests (Goleman and Boyatzis 4). In addition, complex self-assessment should include both self-ratings and external feedback provided by familiar people – family members, friends, or colleagues.

For the improvement of EI in the workplace, training for leaders to strengthen their abilities is recommended. As previously mentioned, it is impossible to motivate employees, create a friendly working atmosphere, resolve conflicts efficiently, manage stress, and build strong relationships if a leader cannot understand his own emotions, control behaviors, and assess the emotions of his subordinates (Goleman and Boyatzis 4). Training may include several webinars, records, audio and video materials, and short tests or written tasks after every lecture to drive individual learning and consolidate theory.


EI is an individual’s ability to understand, interpret, evaluate, use, manage, and control his own emotions and the emotions of other people. It is associated with multiple advantages in all spheres of life. Emotionally intelligent people build strong relationships, achieve personal goals, and succeed at work as a connection with feeling and emotions helps make informed decisions and turn intentions and plans into actions. EI has already become an intrinsic component of efficient leadership -, regardless of a person’s IQ and competency in his sphere, a lack of his EI may lead to poor performance, the absence of interactions with colleagues, wrong decision-making, inability to motivate others, and loss of authority and reputation.

There are various models of EI, however, all of them presuppose the existence of several domains that include both individual and social competencies: self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, social awareness, and social skills for relationship management. For efficient leadership, several qualities, such as integrity, ability to delegate, self-awareness, gratitude, communication, learning agility, empathy, influence, respect, and courage, are required. Thus, as the majority of qualities essential for leaders correspond with EI competencies, the advantages of the application of EI to enhance leadership are impossible to deny. Leaders with a high level of EI control their emotions, understand others’ feelings to make appropriate decisions, cope with stress more efficiently, and balance work and private life. They listen to their subordinates and colleagues attentively, serve as a role model, define the company’s vision and set goals, motivate others, and create a friendly working atmosphere.

Works Cited

Fiori, Marina, and Ashley K. Vesely-Maillefer. “Emotional Intelligence as an Ability: Theory, Challenges, and New Directions.” Emotional Intelligence in Education, edited by Kateryna V. Keefer, James D. A. Parker and Donald H. Saklofske, Springer, 2018, pp. 23-47.

Goleman, Daniel, and Richard E. Boyatzis. “Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements. Which Do You Need to Work On?” Harvard Business Review, 2017, Web.

Serrat, Olivier. “Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence.” Knowledge Solutions, edited by Olivier Serrat, Springer, 2017, pp. 329-339.

“What Are the Characteristics of a Good Leader?” Center for Creative Leadership, 2021, Web.

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