Is ‘emotional intelligence’ important for being a successful entrepreneur?

by Ines Marques De Sa

How often do you overreact to a relatively calm situation? If the answer is often, it could be a sign of low emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional reasoning abilities, composed of knowing and managing one’s own emotional state and recognising the emotional state of others. It has been long thought that intelligence is primarily based on IQ. However, if this were the case, individuals with the same IQ would progress to the same level in the workplace. Yet, 70% of the time, individuals with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs in the workplace. Here is the key: emotional intelligence. While intelligence is your ability to learn and is independent of age, emotional intelligence is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practise and experience.


TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other workplace skills and found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining 58% of success in all job roles. There are a number of reasons why emotional intelligence can lead to occupational success. One key reason is that individuals with high emotional intelligence have heightened social skills that enable them to easily build relationships, maintaining a friendly and approachable attitude. If an individual has high emotional intelligence, they are likely to be able to keep their emotions under control –the ability to remain calm in the face of stress and refrain from making rash decisions is especially important in a working environment.


Emotional intelligence is a vital part of being a successful entrepreneur. Mastering the people skills to network is argued to be one of the best skills of an entrepreneur, second to their business idea. The increased self-awareness enables you to objectively evaluate your company’s progress and, in turn, make rational decisions based on strategic research and feedback received from experts. This calm and structured working style is bound to reflect on your management skills and the office environment. High emotional intelligence will allow you to recognise how your management might need to adapt, due to the diverse personalities of your employees. This sensitivity should build positive relationships, increase motivation and, subsequently, boost productivity.


Let us consider Michael Acton Smith’s story of developing higher emotional intelligence. Smith is the creator of Moshi Monsters, a website which children can use to play puzzles and interact with peers online. Managing Moshi Monsters created severe stress for Smith, causing him lack of sleep, constant distraction from electronic devices, and loss of focus on important tasks. Smith then took a holiday and, while on his time off, he studied “mindfulness” – the practice of being in the present moment and increased awareness of your surroundings and emotions. Finding it difficult to maintain the concentration needed to practice mindfulness, Smith incorporated meditation into his routine. His results were astounding; Smith could sleep through the night and had a much sharper focus, improving his overall wellbeing. In 2012, Smith co-founded a meditation platform,, encouraging users to practice meditation and mindfulness everyday.


Smith’s practice of mindfulness and meditation increased his awareness, enabling him to react rationally to situations, rather than his previous ‘in the moment’ reactions. Practicing mindfulness enables individuals to think clearly and manage emotions effectively. Although mindfulness and meditation are not synonymous with emotional intelligence, these can be used as development techniques. Remember, emotional intelligence attributes to remaining calm; emotional intelligence itself is not calmness, happiness, or optimism. Emotional intelligence is the insight into how your emotions can positively, or negatively, impact your life and capacity through your behavioural skills.



Are you unsure about your level of emotional intelligence? Take a preliminary test here. To provide the most accurate results, answer the questions as truthfully as possible. If your score comes out low, try these methods to develop your emotional intelligence.


1- Reflect on your own emotions.

By first identifying your own emotions and reactions, you become more mindful and can start the process of building control.

2- Ask others for perspective.

We are often unaware that other people view us differently to how we view ourselves. Understand how these perceptions differ and then you can use this knowledge to adapt the way you interact with others.

3- Be observant.

This newly acquired knowledge will enable you to become more observant and learn how to react, based on controlling your emotions.

4- Use “the pause”.

“The pause” is as simple as taking a moment to stop and think before we act or speak. It is easy in theory, but can be difficult in practise. I you work on perfecting “the pause”, you can create a positive habit of thinking first.

5- Explore the “why”.

Demonstrating qualities such as empathy and compassion means that we try our best to see a situation through another person’s eyes. In some cases, it is necessary to dig deeper, rather than just relating to our own experiences; showing true empathy means exploring why people are expressing themselves, based on their individual personality traits.

6- When criticized, don’t take offense. Instead, ask, ‘What can I learn?’

Criticism is never easy to take on board. When you receive negative feedback, you have two choices: You can put your feelings aside and try to learn from the situation, or you can get angry and let your emotion get the best of you. We’ll leave you to decide what option someone with high emotional intelligence would take.

7- Practise, practise, practise.

Practise makes perfect.