Robert Sternberg, well-known psychologist formerly of Yale and now Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University (Medford MA), has defined intelligence as “mental self-management.” I understand this to mean that the more intelligent one is, the more effectively they manage their array of mental resources. Today, what is “mental” covers a broader range of abilities and tendencies than at any other time. The mind/brain, which is the seat of mental activity, is responsible for memory, calculations, language, athleticism, decision-making, and, yes, emotions. More intelligent people are better at managing their memory, their calculations, language, athleticism, decisions, and, yes, their emotions. Hence, a person can be mathematically intelligent, athletically intelligent, and, yes, emotionally intelligent. One who is intelligent in general should, hypothetically, be effective at managing all of these areas. In my humble opinion, people have their own strengths, and those effective at managing one kind of mental resource are not necessarily effective at measuring all of the other kinds of mental resources.
Emotional Intelligence, or EQ as it is often called, is not distinct from mental intelligence—it is an aspect of mental intelligence, just as language ability is an aspect of mental intelligence. Some ardent proponents of EQ assert that it is to be contrasted with mental intelligence as something separate. That is not true. It is separate only in the sense that certain brain processes and areas concentrate more on the emotions (e.g., the amygdala), and certain brain processes and areas concentrate more on language (e.g., Broca’s area). These processes/areas are highly interconnected, such that effective activity in one area of the brain can enhance, or retard, activity in another area. For example, one might be effective at keeping one’s temper under control due to the nature of their amygdala and its surrounding processes, while an idiosyncrasy in their Broca’s area might impede their ability to phrase their speech in a tactful manner that shows awareness of their speech on others’ feelings. As a result, a strength in the amygdala/emotional center is essentially voided by a deficiency in Broca’s/the language area. Hence, emotional “intelligence,” just like the other kinds of intelligence, or self-management, is a complex interaction of feelings, language, and other mental resources.
In the world of work, we call such an array of mental resources a “competency”—an arena in which individuals compete (from the Latin “competere”) with one another. If you are familiar with the so-called 360° feedback survey, then you will understand that they measure one’s degree of proficiency in various competencies. Most such surveys include a handful of competencies that deal explicitly, or implicitly, with aspects of emotional self-management, such as “Self-Control,” “Stress Management,” “Optimism,” and “Diplomacy.” These four competencies, for example, can be found as topics in the various commercially available EQ surveys. For my money, that is a waste. Why? Inasmuch as EQ is comprised of a variety of competencies, there is no need for an additional survey in order to assess one’s EQ—one only needs to include the “EQ” competencies of interest in their organization’s 360° survey, along with other competencies dealing with finances, planning, and the like. “Stress Management” does not require a separate assessment any more than does “Presentation Skills.” Both may be satisfactorily included in the multirater 360° survey.
I am interested in efficient use of organizational resources, and so I encourage people to eliminate unnecessary, redundant, and costly assessments. More testing is not better. Know what you want, and limit yourself to that. Make sure your 360° surveys include all relevant performance competencies, and don’t worry about using separate performance assessments for difference aspects of one’s performance. You don’t need a financial assessment, an emotional assessment, a leadership assessment, and so on. Design your 360° survey to cover all relevant aspects of a person’s performance.