“We cannot check our emotions at the door because emotion and thought are linked—they cannot, and should not, be separated.” – David Caruso


What is emotional intelligence (EI)?

Emotions are linked to our body and brain. They are quick and occur automatically and usually without conscious thought. They can impact and influence attention, thought and behaviour. Emotions give us data about ourselves and our environment.

While there are several definitions, EI, as coined by Jack Mayer and Peter Salovey in 1990, “is the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.”

In other words, EI is the intelligent use of emotions.

When the pre-frontal cortex (the logical, intelligent system) is not talking to the limbic system (the instinctual, emotional centre) effectively we may behave emotionally without the intelligence, or we may be logically accurate without considering the emotional or people aspects. EI is all about harnessing these two systems to ensure we are managing our own emotions, rather than letting our emotions manage us.


Why is EI Important?

We are working in increasingly complex and competitive environments. Organisations and the people in them are trying to achieve more with fewer resources and greater pressure. Raising productivity, integrating new approaches and succeeding in global markets demands greater flexibility, cultural sensitivity and collaboration.

Smart use of emotions can improve our capacity to work well with others, engage with our jobs, manage stress, handle conflict and make fast and effective decisions – essential skills in today’s fast-paced and increasingly disconnected world.

Two decades of scientific and business research shows the overwhelming value of EI for leaders, sales people and anyone whose job involves influencing and engaging people; it is a critical tool in business. EI has twice the power of IQ to predict high performance. 1

The Future of Jobs Report produced by the World Economic Forum, places EI in the top ten necessary skills in the workplace in 2020, as per the below list:


  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgement and decision making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

What’s more, reviewing the other skills in the list and knowing how emotions influence the brain and our cognitive processes, all ten skills are in fact linked to emotional intelligence.

“Emotional intelligence isn’t a luxury you can dispense with in tough times. It’s a basic tool that, deployed with finesse, is the key to professional success.” 2  – Harvard Business Review

EI is the foundation of effective leadership and can have a profound impact outside the confines of the office. It enables people to instill confidence and belonging in others, engage and influence people across boundaries, and respond with sensitivity and care even when challenged.


Can You Develop EI?

Some people can appear more emotionally intelligent than others — they seem to naturally connect and empathise with people, show greater self-awareness and resilience, and manage emotions skilfully in themselves and others. This may be through their early learning as a child, or examples they have been set along the way.

Yet while some people naturally tune into what others feel and put them at ease, the good news is that like any skill, EI can be taught and developed.

It helps to understand that emotions are data and they are not in themselves good or bad. Emotions provide us with the information we need to make decisions on how to respond and behave. For example, micro expressions on our face (fleeting expressions that are automatically generated and out of our control) provide data about how we feel. As a leader if we can get better at perceiving these micro expressions, we will have more data about how people around us feel. This in turn gives us more choices about how and when to respond. If you don’t see these expressions, or you are inaccurate in your perception of them, you will have less data and fewer choices.

If someone applies discipline and practice over time, they can develop their EI to improve individual performance, collaboration, productivity and engagement, which  results in improved individual and business performance.


How can we measure EI? 

While EI was once thought to be an intangible determinant in success, today it can be accurately measured.  The emotional intelligence framework developed by Peter Salovey, Jack Mayer and David Caruso, (originators in the field of emotional intelligence), is a useful framework to understand and fine-tune our emotional intelligence abilities.

The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) directly measures the fundamental capacity of emotional intelligence. The MSCEIT is the original abilities-based emotional intelligence test, and is like an IQ test for emotional reasoning.  It assesses actual emotional ability in the same way that an IQ test measures cognitive ability.

Where an IQ test asks you to wrangle with cognitive problems, the MSCEIT asks you to solve emotional problems. It doesn’t at any point ask your opinion or perception of yourself or others. The MSCEIT test is useful in any situation where you want an accurate and objective assessment of emotional intelligence. It is ideal for situations where people may want to create a positive impression or ‘fake good’ and challenges them with information about themselves they rarely get from other sources.

The MSCEIT is designed to assess and develop emotional intelligence ability in four key areas:

  • Perceiving emotions: the ability to correctly identify how yourself and others are feeling.
  • Using emotions: the ability to create emotions and integrate your feelings into the way you think.
  • Understanding emotions: the ability to understand the causes and complexity of emotions.
  • Managing emotions: the ability to figure out strategies that use your emotions to help you achieve a goal.

Improving EI abilities enables people to use this information strategically and intelligently to communicate more effectively, increase personal resilience and achieve goals.

The MSCEIT assessment tool provides unprecedented insights into people’s real emotional intelligence abilities to help predict and enhance their success and improve business outcomes.


Why use an EI Tool to develop people?

 When EI assessment results are discussed with a coach or other qualified professionals and integrated into development plans, individuals and teams can gain dramatic self-awareness and tangible strategies that can be used in work and daily life.

Emotional intelligence testing often produces startling information and unexpected insights not revealed by standard forms of assessment. This makes people pay attention and commit more fully to changing behaviour.

“Leaders who use their emotional resources to foster engagement deliver significant bottom-line results.” 3 – Joshua Freedman

Senior leaders who rarely receive direct feedback can find their results particularly revealing and often resolve to focus far more on the people side of things after their EI is assessed. They start attending to their emotional impact at work, which allows them to get more from their team. Some leaders work hard on their emotional perception, learning the cues to emotions so they can better read reactions in meetings and negotiations. Others focus on using their emotions to facilitate cognitive tasks more effectively and expand these skills to generate positive emotions to increase performance in their teams.


Want to learn more?

To learn more about EI and the MSCEIT tool, you can download our MSCEIT accreditation course guide here.

If you would like to discuss running emotional intelligence training within your organisation, please contact us.




  1. Mount, G. (2006). The role of emotional intelligence in developing international business capability: EI provides traction. In V. Druskat, F. Sala & G. Mount (Eds), Linking Emotional Intelligence and performance at work. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Elbaum Associates, 97-124.
  2. Harvard Business Review (2003). Breakthrough ideas for tomorrow’s business agenda April.
  3. Freedman, J. (2010).