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January 16, 2019

Emotional Intelligence Key In Marketing Leaders

There are still many people, especially at board level, who regard marketing as a career for those of us who are not ‘serious’. 

Traditional career choices have favoured people high in intelligence quotient , but low in emotional quotient which is the measure of a person’s emotional intelligence; an ability distinct from academic intelligence. Peter Salovey of Yale defines it thus: “Emotional intelligence is being able to monitor and regulate one’s own and others’ feelings to guide thought and action” 

In a traditional career choice, EQ is rarely demanded. Many traditional careerists talk proudly about how this makes them objective, and makes their hard decisions easier.

But not if you are trying to grow a branded business. Not if you are trying to sell a person something. And certainly not, if your success demands that you empathise with customer needs.

My friends at the Image Excellence Group in South Africa, foremost on this continent in helping political and business leaders develop their personal branding, tell me that there are five key emotional competences that our new generation of EQ careerists must master:

  • Self-awareness: Knowing what we are feeling in the moment, and using those preferences to guide our decision making; having a realistic assessment of our own abilities and a well-grounded sense of self-confidence.
  • Self-regulation: Handling our emotions so that they facilitate rather than interfere with the task at hand; delaying gratification to pursue goals; recovering well from emotional distress.
  • Motivation: Using our deepest preferences to guide us toward our goals; to help us take initiative and to persevere in the face of setbacks.
  • Empathy: Sensing what other people are feeling, being able to take their perspective. Cultivating rapport with a broad diversity of people.
  • Social Skills: Handling emotions in relationships well; accurately reading social situations; interacting smoothly; using these skills to persuade and lead, negotiate and settle disputes.


Let me pick on just two of those that are crucial to successful marketing.

The first is empathy - and on a large scale if you are a mass-marketer.  This is the ability to read market research, and particularly qualitative research, to get under the skin of your target consumer. To picture him or her as a real person, with emotional as well as practical wants and needs. Some of the best marketers I have known have a picture board in their office, with images from their core consumer’s life, work, family and shopping basket. They meet their target consumers frequently to stay relevant.

The second is self-regulation, or not taking business too personally. This is vital in being able to respond in a balanced way to competitive threats. It is also an essential skill in making objective decisions about your marketing messages because sometimes what you want your brand to say is not what consumers need to hear!

A recent study conducted by Hay/McBer in Boston on competency levels in forty companies proved that 53 per cent of the star performers showed greater strengths in EQ as opposed to 27 per cent in IQ.

So, marketers take heart. If you have innate EQ and you work to build on it, you could be part of the next generation of business leaders.

Chris Harrison has 30 years experience of marketing and advertising. Most of it in African markets.

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Copyright Chris Harrison. PO Box 15756 Nairobi 00509 Kenya

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