The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

How can you relate to people whose backgrounds and motivations are different from your own? How can you creatively tap into and channel others’ motivations for recognition and accomplishments beyond paying them more money? As a finance professional, should you primarily focus on numbers or people? How can you develop a reputation for being approachable and collaborative?

Developing emotional intelligence can help us become mentally active to recognize, analyze, understand, and manage intense feelings — whether our own (intrapersonal) feelings or the feelings of those around us (interpersonal).

Social and leadership skills can be developed over time, and they tend to become more important as a finance professional moves to higher levels within an organization. Technical skills and cognitive ability are vital, but don’t neglect emotional intelligence. Customers, employees, coworkers, and investors are among the groups with whom aspiring CFOs must learn to build relationships, channel motivation, manage conflicts, and develop win-win solutions.

I recently completed a Continuing Professional Education (CPE) self-study course on the difference between IQ and EQ (Emotional Quotient). The course helped me understand basic concepts and models of emotional intelligence.

Here is an outline of fifteen components of EQ organized under five major categories:

Intrapersonal Skills:

1) Self regard
2) Emotional self awareness
3) Assertiveness
4) Independence
5) Self actualization

Interpersonal Skills:

6) Empathy
7) Social responsibility
8) Interpersonal relationships

Stress Management:

9) Stress tolerance
10) Impulse control


11) Reality testing
12) Flexibility
13) Problem solving

General Mood:

14) Optimism
15) Happiness

Daniel Goleman, author of Working with Emotional Intelligence, divides EQ between personal and social competencies:


  • Self awareness – emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence
  • Self regulation – self control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, and innovation
  • Self motivation – achievement drive, commitment, initiative, and optimism


  • Social awareness – empathy, service orientation, developing others, leveraging diversity, and political awareness
  • Social skills – influence, communication, leadership, change, conflict management, building bonds, collaboration and cooperation, and team capabilities

What are signs of a high EQ for a financial professional to recognize and develop? The course suggests several:

  • Express feelings with three-word sentences beginning with “I feel …”
  • Do not disguise thoughts as feeling by using “I feel …”
  • Do not be afraid to express feelings
  • Do not be dominated by negative emotions
  • Effectively read non-verbal communications
  • Let feelings lead to healthy choices and happiness
  • Balance feelings with reason, logic, and reality
  • Act out of desire, not duty, guilt, force, or obligation
  • Be independent, self-reliant, and morally autonomous

Among negative behaviors to avoid, the course lists blaming others rather than taking responsibility for one’s feelings, analyzing others when they express their feelings, trying to make others feel guilty, lying about feelings (or exaggerating/minimizing them), letting things build up, reacting strongly to minor issues, being unforgiving, acting on feelings rather than talking about them, and playing games and being evasive rather than direct.

Assess yourself based on the following questions that apply Goleman’s model from Working with Emotional Intelligence:

  • Do you understand both your strengths and your weaknesses?
  • Can you be depended on to take care of every detail?
  • Are you comfortable with change and open to novel ideas?
  • Are you motivated by the satisfaction of meeting your own standards of excellence?
  • Do you stay optimistic when things go wrong?
  • Can you see things from another person’s point of view and sense what matters most to him or her?
  • Do you let clients’ needs determine how you serve them?
  • Do you enjoy helping colleagues develop their skills?
  • Can you read office politics accurately?
  • Are you able to find “win-win” solutions in negotiations and conflicts?
  • Are you the kind of person other people want on a team?
  • Are you usually persuasive?

In summary, to develop EQ, the course suggests knowing your own emotions, motivating yourself, recognizing emotions in others, managing your emotions, and effectively handling relationships.