Emotional intelligence is not the cure-all elixir for spotting who will succeed in work and life, but it is more than a useless fad, says Carolyn MacCann.
Personality jigsaw: emotional intelligence refers to the capacity to perceive emotions, assimilate emotion-related feelings, understand the information of those emotions, and manage them
Popular interest in emotional intelligence began with a 1995 self-help book called Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, written by psychologist Daniel Goleman.
Goleman proposed that IQ is not the only road to success, and that emotional skills are more important in many areas of life. He packed the book with references to research by high-calibre academics, supporting the credibility of his ideas.
The book sold like hot cakes, and the concept took off. Suddenly emotional intelligence was everywhere: on the Oprah Winfrey show, on the cover of TIME Magazine, voted the most useful new word by the American Dialect Society, and enthusiastically used by business and HR professionals for selection, training and evaluation.
The suddenness and the extent of this popularity lent emotional intelligence an air of faddishness. The cartoon Dilbert lampooned emotional intelligence as a meaningless executive buzzword with one character telling another: "You have to consider my 'emotional intelligence', which is defined in a book I haven't read".