How might an understanding of the 12 elements of Emotional Intelligence (EI) help organisations grow successful leaders?

The 12 elements

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) divides EI into four different domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Within these four domains, there are 12 competencies (view in the figure below):

HBR states that these 12 competencies are both learned and learnable. Employees can “develop a balance of strengths across the suite of EI competencies”. 

However, the first step is recognising that 12 competencies make up EI. 

HBR suggests that organisations define EI too narrowly, focusing primarily on likeability and sociability. They in fact miss out on competencies of EI that make an employee a stronger leader such as influence and conflict management.

In order to succeed and progress in their careers, employees need to cultivate a balance of strengths across the suite of EI competencies.

Assessment of Emotional Intelligence

Furthermore, HBR suggests that completing a 360-degree assessment of one’s EI is critical to instigating change. This can include:

  • A self-rating of one’s EI competencies. There are a number of formal models and assessment tools to choose from.
  • External feedback from colleagues. Systematic anonymous observations from people you work with are useful in assessing your EI competencies. The higher the number of people you ask “the better a picture you get”. EI assessments can be conducted using HBR’s model: the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI 360). Research finds that external ratings are better predictors of leaders’ effectiveness, business performance, engagement and job satisfaction. 
  • Comparison of internal and external feedback. “The larger the gap between a leader’s self-ratings and how others see them, research finds, the fewer EI strengths the leader actually shows, and the poorer the business results”.

Developing Emotional Intelligence competencies

HBR discusses that coaching is an effective method of developing areas of EI deficit. Expert support facilitates an employee who is practising operating in a new way. Even those with leadership strengths should identify and address areas where there is room to grow.


Overall, to develop successful leaders organisations need to promote the understanding of, assessment of and development of employees’ 12 EI competencies.