Where a growing circle of business leaders comes to share, learn, and inspire organizations to put people first

Whirling Chief

An Interview on Emotional Intelligence

Today, we are sharing with you an interview recently conducted with a dear colleague and one of our contributors, Vendula Pavlikova, founder of Authentic Achievers.

Vendula specializes in positive psychology and we talked with her about a significant topic, that’s not highlighted enough in the business world – emotional intelligence. Emotional agility is often seen as a ‘soft’ skill in business and yet it drives so much of the individual and collective behaviors in the workplace. An organization’s productivity, health and joy depends on it critically. We do hope you enjoy and share with us your own observations and experiences in return. 🙂

Whirling Chief: There is so much chatter about EI lately. Can you start by telling us what EQ is and how it differs from IQ?

Vendula Pavlikova: IQ and EQ are distinct qualities we all possess. Emotional Intelligence is our ability to recognize and understand our emotions and those around us, and to use this awareness to manage our behavior and relationships.

Cognitive intelligence (IQ) measures our general intelligence purely in terms of logical ability (e.g., maths, reasoning, memory).

While our cognitive intelligence peaks around the age of 17 years old and remains stable over adulthood, our emotional intelligence is a flexible skill that can be developed.

WC: How – if at all – is EQ related to Positive Psychology?

Vendula: One of our emotional intelligence skills is optimism, and the emotional intelligence assessment contains an independent indicator – happiness (our ability to feel satisfied with life and to enjoy ourselves and others). I like to integrate positive psychology tools and exercises in my coaching practice. For example, former Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan also combined emotional intelligence and mindfulness in his training for Google employees.

WC: You work with a number of leaders on developing their skills and capacity. How do you see EQ play a role in leadership development?

Vendula: Thinking and acting logically is still an asset, but being a great leader requires the ability to work with people, be self-aware, manage emotions, and communicate effectively.  Clients are often pleasantly surprised at how emotional intelligence feeds many leadership activities, even those thought to be strictly “logical,” from problem solving to reasoning and decision making. Emotional intelligence is one of the key building blocks of modern leadership.

WC: EQ was conceived in the 1990s and is now being taught in many major management schools. How has it not made its way into mainstream management practices?

Vendula: With over 15 years in my corporate career in different industries, I’ve observed “soft’’ skills and happiness are often overlooked. Usually, when we think of leadership, we think of performance, productivity, and profits. But these are the results of great leadership, not the cause of it. I believe sustained success comes via leaders who are in touch with their personal “why’’ and are able to inspire others and create an emotional connection with their people; leaders who can provide a clear vision and value their people and help them to grow.

Slowly, the old form of command and control leadership is changing, and companies like Google and other like-minded companies welcome new approaches. They have a vision that goes beyond “making a lot of money’’ to bring meaning and purpose to the whole business and invest in emotional intelligence training and coaching to develop people’s soft skills and unlock their human potential.

WC: Sometimes, when we consult with CEOs and big name clients, the topics of EQ or Positive Psychology feel ‘soft’ to them. What kind of impact does having a focus (or non-focus) have on an organization regarding these topics?

Vendula: Emotional Intelligence is often underestimated as “something’’ a bit intangible. But decades of research point to EQ as a critical factor for modern leadership. We know from neuroscience that emotions play a critical role in influencing and guiding our thinking and behavior. And intelligent use of emotions is a cornerstone of peak performance. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: “In the long run EQ trumps IQ. Without being a source of energy for others very little can be accomplished.’’

Developing Emotional Intelligence is important at all levels, but particularly in higher levels of power, where the most damage can be done if EQ is missing.

WC: At Whirling Chief, we care to help organizations bridge the gap between human needs and human practices. How do you see EQ playing a role in the future of work and people practices?

Vendula: EQ will play a key role in the future of work. In this digital age, where everything that can be automated has been or will be automated, where everyone is constantly connected, where the burnout rate and depression dramatically increase, employees often feel disengaged. I truly believe what will distinguish the successful leaders in coming years is their capacity to understand what makes their people engaged, build an emotional connection with them, invest in developing their strengths, and be a positive example.

WC: Let’s talk about leadership. Traditionally, we gave ‘leadership’ seats to professionals on top of the hierarchy or C-suite. With the democratization of work, leadership is becoming more available to anyone. How does that resonate for a positive psychologist like you?

Vendula: We are living in a period when we often hear a message that everyone can do anything. This digital age, with the power of online social media, has allowed many people to become “leaders.’’ More than ever, it offers more possibilities to any of us, but there are a lot of smart leaders with excellent industry knowledge, but who have never taken time to look within themselves to discover who they truly are. I consider self-awareness as the foundation and key element of leadership, because self-awareness means having a realistic assessment of our abilities, knowing our “why,” and being aware of our emotions. Self-awareness is one of the five key emotional intelligence scales. I hope the school system will integrate emotional intelligence skills (especially self-awareness, emotional mastery, and stress management) in the school program to prepare the future leadership generation.

WC: Why is it so important for working professionals to be self-aware and authentic?

Vendula: The need for self-awareness has never been greater. People with high self-awareness are clear in understanding what they do well, what is their “why,” their values, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, and they are in control of their emotions. And it’s only through self-awareness we can discover and reach our full potential and true authenticity.

WC: You are developing an EQ curriculum for professional development. Can you tell us a little bit about this work and when it may be available?

Vendula: I’m developing a new leadership training (available this June), where I will share a strategy on how to achieve better mental and emotional balance, with practical emotional intelligence exercises focused on how to take better care of emotional health. CEOs and leaders often share with me similar stories: Their positions demand handling deadlines and stress, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and tired with increased irritability. Despite having a great technical knowledge and education, they overlook a vital point – taking care of their emotional health and renewable of energy. The objective of my new program will be to share practical EQ strategies, preventing them from finding themselves suffering from exhaustion or burn out. 

WC:  Are there any key recommendations, tips for professionals who want to develop their emotional intelligence?

Vendula: I recommend anyone who wishes to develop their emotional intelligence to start by taking an EQ assessment. The assessment provokes self-reflection about the general level of EQ and offers a possibility to evaluate where the person stands. I recommend the three well-researched and validated tools: EQ-i2.0, EQ360, and MSCEIT (Mayer-Salovey-Caruso EI test).

If a person is struggling with a specific skill (e.g., control of emotions in stressful situations), then I would highly recommend a 1-on-1 coaching, where a coach and a client work together on improving an EQ skill.

And as the last tip, I encourage anyone to take a moment and cultivate self-awareness and ask for feedback, as it’s only through self-awareness that we can discover our true authenticity.


  • 22 March 2017
Vendula Pavlikova

By Vendula Pavlikova

Vendula is the founder of Authentic Achievers. She brings together her 12 years’ professional experience in the corporate world across a wide range of industries and her passion for Emotional Intelligence and Positive Psychology. She works with leaders and teams around the world helping them use emotional intelligence to get...


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