Since Emotional Intelligence seems to be slowly gaining momentum these days, I thought it would make sense to carry on some posts through leadership with a series on Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Cultural Intelligence (CQ). If you’re not sure what it’s all about, you might find yourself as seduced by the concepts as I’ve become.

Firstly, have you ever heard of EI? Of CQ? You probably know about IQ (the traditional measure of how smart humans are), and maybe you even know yours (good on you) but let’s first rephrase what ‘intelligence’ is about. Maybe it is because in French, the word means ‘being smart’ and wrongly used in this sense that I feel the need to give a definition, yet it may also help you to conceptualize what they are all about.

So, does ‘intelligence’ means being ‘clever’? Do Intelligence Agencies regroup all who are clever under one organisation? I’ll spare you my personal views on that, and I’m sure you have your own. So intelligence is about gathering information, data, and making use of it in a smart way. Of course you’ll tell me. But, I was coaching a colleague recently, and I found out she was indeed gathering information, a lot of it … too much, far too much and her mind got so polluted. She would get her ‘head in a twist’ and make nothing out of it. She would not tell you what she had learnt a minute before, let alone a few days. Was she being stupid? Certainly not, but her mind wasn’t formatted to accommodate all the data, and she wanted to get as much quantity as possible, without considering quality (the value to her); so she let a lot of unnecessary information in, and froze like a rabbit caught in headlights! So, no intelligence.

Now, what about Emotional Intelligence (EI). Since Daniel Goleman introduced it to the world in 1995 (Goleman, 1995), it is finally (maybe?) being understood, especially in all the positive aspects it could bring to my and your performance at work and in our lives. Sometimes, the concept is introduced in its ‘chemical’ form. “Quo vadis”, you burst out! Indeed, something along the lines of good and bad chemicals in your brain that either makes you a happy bunny at work, or a sad sod (maybe even bitter)! I prefer the more generic idea of: know yourself and you’ll better understand others. Simple, non? Learn to identify all these feelings, gut reactions, instincts … and understand where they come from, the mechanism of them. Then only, you’ll be better off to face others and whatever baggage they come with. Of course I don’t mean that everyone feel, act or react like you, but understanding what makes you tick on and off will surely help you to see where others are coming from. To start with, you should become a lot more relaxed about yourself (somewhat more secure?), which in turn should leave you more time, perspective and energy to focus on others.

Now, why would we combine EI and Cultural Intelligence (CQ)? Don’t you see me coming? In a much globalizing world, how many cultures are you currently working with? And in ‘culture’, please consider mixed host and home cultures, dual, religious, that of sexual orientations … so it would be a good thing to manage your emotions well, but if you have no knowledge of the other’s culture(s), you’ll be left in the dark! So why not starting by you? Knowing where you’re coming from, the effect of your home cultural dimensions (Hofstede, 1967-2009)(subject of a future post), that of your host (if you’re leaving abroad) and if they have started to merge, overlap or fight one another … Where’s home, by the way?

Now, do you start to get me? I truly don’t believe that EI could work in today’s world without a good inkling of CQ, because cultural differences are still very strong (luckily) and they define who we are and impact how we behave. I had this very interesting exchange with Chris, a very clever consultant, who could not figure out how I could be born in France and not ‘be French’. Maybe I should have said, not ‘feeling French’, because there are many French cultural dimensions that I reject, or they never have really been mine at all from the onset. So here you go, how could you figure this out?

So, mutually exclusive or complementary? Most definitely complementary and essential to one another but, should you not be convinced yet, well … the debate is on! I shall look forward to your views yet in the meantime and as I always say:


Articles you might like to refer to:

Earley, P.C. & Mosakowski, E. (2004). Cultural intelligence. Harvard Business Review, (82)10. pp.139-149. Retrieved from EBSCO Database.
Emmerling, R.J. & Goleman, D. (2005). Leading with Emotion – Is EI a better predictor of leadership success. Leadership Excellence, (22)7, pp.9-10. Retrieved from EBSCO Database.

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence. The Ultimate Business Library, Wiley.
Hofstede, G. (1967-2009). Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions. Retrieved Septembre 1st, 2011, from ITIM International:

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Glion Institute of Higher Education
Glion Institute of Higher Education is a private Swiss institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality, luxury and event management to an international student body across three campuses in Switzerland and London, UK.
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