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Applying emotional intelligence (EQ-I) in the workplace: vital to global business success.


Global businesses operate in a unique environment. Its influence spans across national and cultural borders on a daily basis. As a result, the success of organizational leadership in these global operations presents extra challenges that may not be found when competing in a local environment.

Good leadership requires a mix of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA's). However, global business leaders need a special mix of KSA's. Knowledge can be acquired. It generally focuses on the content of the business and related markets or environments it operates in and with. Skills as a business leader are also learned. Skills are usually based on experience and the application of lessons learned. Abilities may be both innate and learned. They relate to the use of one's understanding of people, environments and personality.

Success should be more than a short-term line item for global operations. Global business should then perceive success as a long-term investment in personnel, resources, and commitment. While capital investments are important, it is the human factor that will ultimately underscore and sustain longevity for global business. Therefore, the ongoing development of emotional intelligence (EQ) is the foundation to achieving global business success.


Why is it that not all intelligent people succeed? Moreover, what accounts for the instances wherein people of average intelligence succeed when their more intelligent counterparts fall short? The answer comes in the form of emotional intelligence.

In the last two decades there has been a compelling shift in the understanding of what makes for success. Organizational researchers have come to recognize an overwhelming need for, and the importance of understanding the human facet of the organization; most especially in global operations. Moreover, before a leader can understand and effectively lead others, the leader must first understand and be comfortable with him or herself.

Depending on the source reviewed, emotional intelligence is also denoted as EQ or EI. In this paper, we refer to emotional intelligence primarily as EQ. EQ-i is used when the emotional intelligence tool is referred to. Regardless though of how it is referred to, emotional intelligence (EQ) is concerned with understanding oneself and others, relating to people, and adapting to and coping with the immediate surroundings to be more successful in dealing with environmental demands. EQ is a dynamic tool which continues changing with time, perspective, individual or environment.

Exercising emotional intelligence is then the effective management of self and the propensity for being socially adept. Simply put, EQ looks at how well one effectuates action in any given immediate situation. To measure an individual's EQ is tantamount to the gauging a person's common sense. Fundamentally, EQ helps to identify and explain how well one navigates the people element of the world.

In the 1920s, Thorndike introduced the concept of "social intelligence." This was explored less rigorously than IQ or Personality Type until the 1980's when Gardner wrote about the possibility of "multiple intelligences" and the propensity for "personal intelligence." Around the same time, Bar-On contributed with the "emotional quotient" or "EQ" by developing the theoretical framework for an "Emotional Quotient Inventory" (EQ-i) which, for the first time, allowed for the quantitative measurement of EQ scales. In 1990, Salovey and Mayer coined the phrase "emotional intelligence" which was the first conceptualized of the idea itself. Then, the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was popularized largely by Goleman (1995) in his publication of the same name.

It was Daniel Goleman who established the link between EQ and leadership. He first described this relationship with his Primal Leadership Model (2002). According to the theory of Primal Leadership leaders undeniably play a primordial emotional role in the lives of others. Thus, the primal job of leadership is rooted in being intelligent emotionally. In leader-follower relationships, the leader is an "emotional guide" who navigates the course of uncertainty, threat, clarity, assurance and work. It is also the fundamental task of leaders to create resonance; resonance being "a reservoir of positivity that frees the best in people" (Goleman, 2002, p. ix). To practice emotional intelligence is to assert a conscious effort of awareness and control of one's self and how he or she relates to others.


Mayer, Salovey, Caruso & Stiarenios (2001) say that research demonstrates that EQ is a central predictor of "significant outcomes" (p.240). The work of Web (2009) looks at a range of literature on emotional intelligence. He concludes that his broad literature survey acknowledges that EQ has "more predictive integrity" than IQ when it comes to performance (p.32).

Bar-On and Parker (2007) speak of a U.S. Department of Labor survey that was conducted in the mid-1980s. The national survey looked at what employers were looking for in entry level positions. The results showed that the list was dominated by emotional intelligence factors. This seems to go hand in hand with Goleman's (1998) view that EQ skills are those that keep us employable. Here it would follow that EQ is critical to job performance. It would be a sound deduction to also propose that the skills that are important in hiring and keeping one employable would be the same skills that are needed to bolster job performance.

Some very interesting numbers come from Bradberry and Grieves' (2009) research using their version of an EQ indicator, known as the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal Test that has tested over 500,000 people over the last decade. Their finding calculates that EQ "accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs" (p.20) and is "the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence" (p.21). They also account that people with the highest IQs outperform those with average ones "just 20% of the time" (p.8). Conversely, those with average IQ tend to outperform their higher IQ counterparts "70% of the time" (p.8). Additionally, "90% of high performers are also high in EQ" while "20% of low performers are high in EQ" (p.21).

Other significant numbers comes from Stein and Book (2006), who report using the EQ-i. The EQ-i is documented as having tested "more than 500,000 people from over 45 countries" (p.244). It is important to note here that that EQ-i is a psychological instrument that is "empirically constructed" and has measures that account for reliability, validity and correlation factors designed to adjust for bias (Bar-On, 2004, p.4). While he has a good amount of evidence, for EQ and success, or performance; the following are just a few examples.

One of the highlights comes from a large study done with the U.S. Air Force that was cited in a report to a U.S. Congressional Sub-committee. This study pegged recruiters' scores to actual job performance. It was found that those with high EQ scores were "2.7 times more likely to succeed" and "95% percent met or exceeded their quotas" (p.245). As a result of further use of the EQ-i, retention rates "increased by 92% worldwide; at a cost savings to the Air Force of an estimated $2.7 million" (p.247).

Stein and Book (2006) reference other significant findings. In 1997, the EQ-i was administered to the one hundred front line workers in the Philippines' fifth largest financial institution. In addition, these workers also took an IQ test and their managers submitted work appraisals. Upon review, "the IQ tests results accounted for less than 1 percent of their work appraisal scores, but their EQ scores could be linked to 27 percent of their success" (p.255). In another instance that dealt with a company that sells to internationally wealthy clients the findings showed that high EQ was correlated to "71 percent" of sales waiting to be closed (p.256).

Still another example comes from data from people who work in insurance sales for a firm in New York. Here, in addition to EQ tests, personality and IQ tests were both given. The researchers concluded that success was not predicted with the traditional measures such as IQ. Rather, salespeople who scored high on certain EQ facets "sold 33% more insurance than those who scored low" (p.257). After a two-year follow up they found that those same people who scored high on certain EQ facets "were more than 50 percent more likely than their lower-scoring peers to be thriving on the job" (257).

Emotional intelligence is not only linked to individual performance. Druskat and Wolff (2001) present research that implies that EQ has a team application as well. They found that individual EQ has a "group analog" that, when developed, leads to an increase in performance (p.82). Their study shows that emotionally intelligent teams are among the most effective of teams. Furthermore, any team can grow in emotional intelligence because EQ skills can be learned.


The three dimensions (IQ, Personality type, and EQ) form the cornerstones of superior leadership. It is apparent that leadership cannot rely on only one dimension. Like a three-legged stool a suitable balance must be struck. This balance leads to stability and increased performance.

Cognitive Intelligence

Cognitive Intelligence is measured as the intelligence quotient or IQ. IQ is well known and has been used for a used for over a century. It is the basic toolkit that most leaders seem to be expected to possess. However, after the age of fifteen or so, IQ changes little over the course of a lifetime. This means that one's IQ is the relatively the same at age fifteen, as it is at fifty (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009; Goleman, 1995).

IQ is a measure of intelligence in comparison to others in the population. The scientific study of IQ started with Binet in 1905 (Martin, 1997). Since then, IQ has been the standard by which success was gauged. Those few gifted individuals with the highest IQ scores have been privileged by society to be called genius.

The world over, those with high IQ scores have been traditionally expected to perform at the top echelons of achievement in all areas and across all disciplines, including business leadership. In this view of intelligence, high IQ and achievement were synonymous. One's capacity for cognitive aptitude was considered by many to be an assurance of success. However, there was a problem with this notion. A simple scan of any social group or organizational setting paints a different picture. The fact is that not all who people who have a high IQ are successful. Similarly, not all those who are successful have high IQ's.

Personality Type

The perception that good leadership stems from specific personalities or personality types has also been explored. While a number of possible approaches have been proposed, we will limit this discussion to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in this paper.

Based on Jungian theory, Briggs and Myers developed the initial tool for inventorying personality based on four dichotomies of preferences. The initial tool was developed in 1917 and revised into its current format by the late 1950's.

An individual's preferences are explored for each of the four dichotomies in a self-administered questionnaire. The results are (or should be) interpreted and explained by a trained administrator.

The preferences are examined and categorized into a set of psychological personality types. Due to the nature of the MBTI, the personality of the individual may be grouped and described. According to Jung a person's personality type does not change and is fixed. It is important to always explore a person's "best-fit" when using the MBTI.

Some interpretations of the MBTI include the use of type to identify potential career or employment field suitability. However, administrators generally hasten to explain that while particular Types may be more common among those in certain professions, field or careers, there is nothing to support directing career or employment choices or assignments based on Type.


The EQ-i tool provides the global business leader with the means to understand herself/himself better. Using this understanding of self, the global leader can employ it to better guide diverse global operations, workforces and cultural entities for the achievement of common strategic and business operation goals. This self understanding will be extremely useful as global business leaders are integral to the success of their individual businesses as well as to those who work for them.

Bar-On, in the 1990's, developed and tested the EQ-i tool that enables the leader (and others) to come to a realistic and healthy understanding of self. As a bona fide assessment tool, it has been validated for reliability and validity across gender, age and culture. The EQ-i tool allows for the quantifying of a person's emotional behaviors and attitudes, which could then be compared to a norm group.

The EQ-i tool measures fifteen elements of emotional well being. These are grouped into five major composites as noted below (Bar-On, 1997, Bar-On, Maree, and Elias, 2007; Stein & Book, 2006).

1. Intrapersonal Composite

a. Self-Regard

b. Emotional Self-Awareness

c. Assertiveness

d. Independence

e. Self-Actualization

2. Interpersonal Composite

a. Empathy

b. Social Responsibility

c. Interpersonal Relationship

3. Stress Management Composite

a. Stress Tolerance

b. Impulse Control

4. Adaptability Composite

a. Reality Testing

b. Flexibility

c. Problem Solving

5. General Mood Composite

a. Optimism

b. Happiness


Emotional intelligence is arguably a noteworthy competitive advantage. Brooks and Nafukho (2006), citing Appleby and Mavin (2000), suggest that people are the "single most sustainable source of competitive advantage" (p.124). If this is so, would not be reasonable to assert that organizations are always innovating toward the improvement of their human capital? The answer is no. This is not always the case. Emotional intelligence then is key because of its correlation to performance. Brooks and Nafukho's (2006) strongly support this connection. Their literature review points to evidence of a "highly integrated" relationship among human resource development, emotional intelligence, social capital, and organizational productivity (p.117).

According to Gregersen, Morrison, & Black, "global leaders are born, then made" (1999, p.48). They contend that not everyone is predisposed to becoming a global leader. For each person then, while potential may exist, that potentiality may still be left wanting without legitimate realization and actualization of certain skills. It is through awareness, opportunity and training that the manifestation for such leadership evolves.

Cognitive intelligence (IQ) does not change with age or experience. However, with EQ, this is not the case. Emotional competencies are learned and can be taught. The mastery of EQ skills evolve over a lifelong growth. The growth of one's emotional intelligence can be seen as becoming more mature with age, experience and the willingness to change.

It is true that some are born with a genetically advantageous hand. However, the fact that EQ can be learned means that anyone has the potentiality to manifest their capacity for emotional intelligence. Goleman (1998) said:
   ... the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They
   all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional
   Intelligence. It's not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant.
   They do matter, but mainly as "threshold capabilities"; that is,
   they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But
   my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that
   emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without
   it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive,
   analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still
   won't make a great leader. (p. 93)


Notwithstanding EQ's long list of proponents there are those who would question the evidence to support EQ. Roberts, Ziedner, and Matthews (2008) affirms that EQ is still an evolving field and, as such, may have some overstated claims made in "popular works" (p.64). The work of Law, Wong Huang and Li (2007), who studied the effect of EQ on job performance among Chinese R&D scientists, also acknowledges that "scientifically rigorous studies for the validation of the construct are still far from satisfactory" (p.65). Their findings conclude that General Mental Ability (GMA) is still a better predictor of job performance. However, they do also say that task-based tests may not particularly translate well when used in other cultures. This point may have contributed to the findings of predictive validity.


For a good part of the twentieth century, the business environment was driven by a desire for hard scientific data, rational decision making, and technological advancement. This was because finance, accounting and bottom-line hard tools were considered the only "real" way to achieve and record success in the business environment. Anything else was often considered too "touchy-feely" or "warm and fuzzy" for successful business professionals.

Global business leadership depends on more than just business savvy and knowledge of systematic business techniques. The KSA's of successful global business leaders include a balanced set of tools that generally includes an appropriate intelligence quotient (IQ), a suitable personality, and a developed emotional intelligence (EQ).

Expertise in the basics of the business is imperative in good global business leaders. This links in with the leader's IQ as well as knowledge training.

We need to remember that global business leaders are operating in an environment that offers some very unique and unusual challenges. Personality will also determine how effective the leader is in a global business environment. Global leaders need to become aware of and be able to manage a diverse team of subordinates in a mixed business environment. The challenge for effective global business leadership extends beyond the basic personality that the leader possesses to include capability to grow, develop and adapt.

True global leadership inspires the unrealized potential in followers and subordinates. Leaders take us to places we may not normally go and ignite the critical mass of human potential. Within subordinates and organizations there exists the intrinsic potential for greatness. The capacity to take in existing potential and capitalize on it to realize success as a business operation, especially in a global business environment, should be the goal of global business leaders. Great business leaders will stir the human spirit as well as drive business operations. With this comes the realization of the best that each subordinate has to offer and the contribution that she/he brings to the business operation.

Imperative among these challenges facing today's global business leaders has to be the differences in cultural environments and among their subordinates. The global business leader deals with these changing dynamics on a regular and ongoing basis. The direction or strategy of a global business operation, too, is lost without consideration of the diverse human elements that will be part of the global business operation. Even the best conceived and most comprehensive of plans can be hindered by the lack of awareness that people and relationships matter. Thus, global business leaders must be comfortable with cultural differences, be sensitive to localized needs, be at ease with ambiguity and uncertainty in the daily workplace, be ready to bridge the chasms between home and local office operations, and have a good sense of self.


Whether an opponent or supporter of EQ, it has become an accepted concept. It has become the recognized third leg of the stool that leaders and others rely on to be well-rounded in their business and other roles. Thus the understanding of what is needed to be a superior leader, especially in global organizations, has to include a new set of expectations and standards.

Leaders in today's global arena are being held to a new standard which requires them to perform as organizational leaders. While performance is essential it should not come at the expense of the organization's greatest and primary resource: its people. The paradigms of yesterday are constantly being reshaped by the innovations of today and the potential of tomorrow. In this fast paced and dynamic environment, one needs not look too far to find the measure of such leaders; one needs only to look within. Global organizational leaders must increase their capacity to utilizing innate abilities, developing skills and applying them to the positions of responsibility that they hold.

Thus, global business leaders should learn as much about themselves as possible. They should constantly assess and reassess their basic capabilities, their personalities and their knowledge bases. Moreover, they must ensure that they have a cohesive understanding of the business itself and the market that it services. Effective global leaders have a developed emotional intelligence (EQ). Their EQ awareness will allow them the ability to maintain the balances needed for better global leadership in the business world of today and tomorrow.


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(1) CATALYST Consortium is a USAID-funded family planning and reproductive health activity focused on working in Asia and the Near East, Europe and Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

(2) The most important CSR standards are: SA 8000 for the workplace of factories, WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production), responsibility in the American textile & garment and footwear industry, or ISO 14000, the environment management system in the companies, and OHSAS 1800 for health safety.

(3) APCO Worldwide (2004): A survey conducted by APCO Worldwide in 2004 in 10 countries revealed that positive CSR information has led 72% of the respondents to purchase a company's product or services and 61% to recommend the company to others. Conversely, negative CSR news has led 60% to a boycott a company's products and services.

Richard S. Colfax, University of Guam

John J. Rivera, Archdiocesan Development Group (ADG), Agana, Guam

Karri T. Perez, University of Guam
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Author:Colfax, Richard S.; Rivera, John J.; Perez, Karri T.
Publication:Journal of International Business Research
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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