Can the Successful Entrepreneur Ignore Emotional Intelligence? Probably Not

Emily Lyons is a Toronto entrepreneur acclaimed as a “Woman of Influence.” She is the CEO and founder of Femme Fatale Media Group. In this brief piece, Emily presents her views on the significance of emotional intelligence in an entrepreneur.

Dogged persistence. An unbeatable work ethic. An inspiring vision.

These are traits, we are told, brandished by the most successful entrepreneurs.

And there’s no doubt about it – these are indeed essential ingredients to the recipe of entrepreneurial success.

But equally important – and less often mentioned (in my experience) – is something vital to the long-term achievement of an entrepreneur: emotional intelligence.

Now, an entrepreneur without emotional intelligence might see some progress in the business realm, but in the long run? Not a chance that such progress will be sustainable (as made evident in cinematic form in The Wolf of Wall Street).

In short, absent the trait of emotional intelligence, an entrepreneur won’t make it up to the highest rung of the ladder of business excellence.

Yet, despite the high-impact relevance of this trait to entrepreneurial performance, it’s a trait that’s frequently overlooked; instead, business students, managers, and leaders sometimes find themselves pressured – by the media they consume, the company culture, and more – to prioritize profits over good business ethics. And naturally, it’d be quite difficult for an entrepreneur lacking this trait to build a company culture which is rich in emotional intelligence.

As a result, so-called “corporate psychopaths” find it easy to move up in these organizations, and what ensues is often disastrous (consider the case of Enron).

So there is a definite, decisive argument to be made that any up-and-coming entrepreneurs should devote time towards developing emotional intelligence at the very roots of their mental makeup.

But what is emotional intelligence, exactly?

According to the classic 1990 work by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer: “We define emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions.”

Some of the hallmark characteristics of a well-developed emotional intelligence include the following:

  • The capacity to identify and comprehend one’s emotions
  • The ability to manage one’s emotions
  • The ability to understand emotions in others – and experience empathy for others
  • The ability to effectively manage interpersonal relationships

And as I’ve noted above, a high degree of emotional intelligence is a powerful force in determining the success of an entrepreneur.

This I have learned from personal experience, but there’s plenty of evidence to support my position.

To begin, entrepreneurs with a more completely developed emotional intelligence witness better growth for their ventures compared to those who are less emotionally intelligent.

Furthermore, emotionally intelligent entrepreneurs are more innovative than their less-emotionally-mature counterparts, another argument in favor of the entrepreneur placing a high priority on developing emotional intelligence.

Finally, while emotional intelligence has always been of importance to business and enterprise, it isn’t something that can be neglected for long by the 21st century entrepreneur. That’s because in this digital era, word travels fast – and since the well-known maxim that we do business with people “we know, like, and trust” is very true, entrepreneurs without much emotional intelligence won’t make it very far in this day and age.