Strategic Comms, Part 31: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

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(This is the 31st in a continuing series on strategic communications. Click here for earlier segments)

By Owen Eagan, The Saint Consulting Group

According Daniel Goleman, “emotional intelligence – the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively – consists of four fundamental capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill.”[1]

So important is emotional intelligence that many scholars believe it is a core competence of managerial leaders.  In fact, James Kouzes and Barry Posner assert that without the requisite personal and social skills, senior executives would be more likely to fail than succeed even if they attended the best business schools, were extremely intelligent and had all of the relevant experience.[2]

For example, in a recent article by Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project, entitled “Why Appreciation Matters So Much” (see, he cites a study which found that high-performing teams had a positive to negative feedback ratio of 5.6 to 1, compared to low-performing teams of .36 to 1.  In light of this impact, demonstrating appreciation for people should become a business practice at all levels of the organization as it would strengthen teams and increase productivity.

Understanding this aspect of human behavior has relevance in our personal lives as well.  For instance, Social Exchange Theory, developed by Meredith Daniels and LaTasha Evans, argues that people think about relationships in economic terms.  That is, people evaluate relationships based on their rewards, or those elements that have positive value, and their costs, or those elements that have negative value.  Therefore, those relationships whose positive value outweighs its negative value are likely to be sustained and those whose negative value outweighs its positive value are likely to be terminated.

When it comes to land use, your representatives in the community should have a high level of emotional intelligence.  They should know how to treat people and show appreciation for stakeholders’ input and feedback.  As simple as this may sound, there are many people who don’t possess this ability.  I’ve actually witnessed many interactions that have gone awry due to arrogant and condescending behavior.

So, although emotion intelligence may not come easy to some, it is clearly a skill worth developing as it will benefit your employees, customers and business.

Owen Eagan is a Senior Consultant for Saint Consulting, an international management consulting firm specializing in land use politics.  He is also an adjunct faculty member at Emerson College, the nation’s only four-year institution dedicated exclusively to communications and the performing arts. Email

[1] Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, “Challenge is the Opportunity for Greatness,” Leader to Leader 2, ed. Frances Hesselbein and Alan Shrader (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008).

[2] Ibid.

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