According to the good people at psychology.about.com:
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while others claim it is an inborn characteristic.
The best people I’ve had the pleasure of working with demonstrate a certain level of empathy, which I think comes from being emotionally intelligent. However, those people are few and far between. Perhaps it’s the world of high tech that I’m immersed in, but too often, it feels like people are lacking in empathy and the ability to read others. For me, this is critical to both leading and working in a team. If you can’t relate to someone and understand what motivates (or demotivates) them, how can you expect to get the best out of them? That doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with what motivates them or how they think, but it does help you to see the world through their lens – and that is a very powerful thing.
It seems to me that truly successful leaders are not just smart, they are also emotionally intelligent. Keld Jensen goes one step further over on Forbes.com by adding moral and body intelligence to the mix:
Moral intelligence deals with your integrity, responsibility, sympathy, and forgiveness… Keeping commitments, maintaining your integrity, and being honest are crucial to moral intelligence.
Body intelligence reflects what you know about your body, how you feel about it, and take care of it… It may seem like these matters are unrelated to business performance, but your body intelligence absolutely affects your work because it largely determines your feelings, thoughts, self-confidence, state of mind, and energy level.
Body intelligence can be learnt, and to an extent perhaps moral intelligence can be too. But emotional intelligence? I’m not so sure. Maybe there are actions you can take to hone your emotional intelligence, but it feels like something that cannot be taught. It’s more of a quality, intrinsic in nature. And a very powerful one at that.