Emotional Intelligence: What does it Really Mean?

By Annie McKee  |  Posted 2002-02-04 Print this article Print

The authors of Primal Leadership define the important yet elusive principles of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence in a business leader is one of those qualities that's easy to recognize but hard to define. This may be because it's not so much a single quality as a facility for motivating people and effecting change within an organization. Following are 18 competencies that comprise emotional intelligence, as laid out in Primal Leadership, a book to be published in March 2002. PERSONAL COMPETENCE—How we manage ourselves


  • Emotional Self-awareness: reading one's own emotions and recognizing their impact; using "gut sense" to guide decisions
  • Accurate Self-assessment: knowing one's strengths and limits
  • Self-confidence: a sound sense of one's self-worth and capabilities


  • Emotional Self-control: keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under control
  • Transparency: displaying honesty and integrity; trustworthiness
  • Adaptability: flexibility in adapting to changing situations or overcoming obstacles
  • Achievement: the drive to improve performance to meet inner standards of excellence.
  • Initiative: readiness to act and seize opportunities

    SOCIAL COMPETENCE—How we manage relationships


  • Empathy: sensing others' emotions, understanding their perspective, and taking active interest in their concerns
  • Organizational Awareness: reading the currents, decision networks, and politics at the organizational level
  • Service: recognizing and meeting follower, client, or customer needs


  • Inspirational Leadership: guiding and motivating with a compelling vision
  • Influence: wielding a range of tactics for persuasion
  • Developing Others: bolstering others' abilities through feedback and guidance
  • Change Catalyst: initiating, managing and leading a new direction
  • Conflict Management: de-escalating disagreements and orchestrating resolutions
  • Building Bonds: cultivating and maintaining a web of relationships
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: cooperation and team-building

    From Primal Leadership, scheduled for publication by Harvard Business School Press in March 2002. Authors: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee.


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