The role of Emotional Intelligence in Project Management

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Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the capability to understand and manage not only your own emotions but also those of the people around you. [1] Further, emotions can be used as a source of energy, motivation, connection and influence and for this reason EI plays a crucial role in Project Management (PM), and more specifically for Project managers. Nowadays, EI is a topic of concern for many project managers. More companies are looking for better soft skills in their project managers. With the existing competitive global business environment, projects in organizations consist of cross-functional teams that are formed to utilize individual expertise. A project manager, whose primary responsibility is to achieve project goals, deals with these individuals. Since the rational and emotional aspects of a project can be proved quite complex, the role of the project manager is essential for the project success. Emotional competences are a benchmark for project managers and leaders. Successful leadership requires both cognitive and emotional competencies and cannot be relied just on technical competencies. Emotional intelligence is the skill that differentiates the top performers. Especially in the current business environment, project managers need not only to manage global, virtual, and multicultural projects, but also to establish a direction and align with the organization’s vision. This article primarily explains the importance of EI in project management and underlines the key areas involved in emotional intelligence for project managers and subsequently leaders.


Emotional Intelligence (EI) first appeared in the early 1920s, in the bigger concept of "social intelligence" identified by E.L. Thorndike.[2] The term "Emotional Intelligence" first appeared in 1964 in a paper, written by Michael Beldoch. [3] Many articles followed, which tried to introduce different types of intelligence, other than IQ, when in 1989 Stanley Greenspan created a model to describe EI, which developed furher and subsequently published by Peter Salovey and John Mayer. [4] However, the term EI, became widely known by Daniel Goleman through his book: Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ, published in (1995) and his own position on describing EI in a broader perpsective. [2] [4]

The Importance of EI in PM

Emotional intelligence is one of the most important factors in project management as it plays a crucial role in creating a positive working environment where the project lead, can remove obstacles and help the people on the team to deliver the project successfully. Aspects of emotional and social awareness include strong connected leadership, the ability to handle problems gracefully and being able to create and support effective teams using principles from the world of social and emotional intelligence translated into project management tools and techniques.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Emotional intelligence is directly connected to the leadership. It is

Characteristics of EI

According to Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee there are four dimensions of emotional intelligence: [5]

  • self-awareness
  • self-management
  • social awareness
  • relationship management

Even if there was used to be five domains, after statistical analysis, the authors ended up to four, as the fifth domain, which was motivation, it was assessed to be included into self-management. [5]
However, PMI introduces a fifth factor which is the Team Leadership. [1] Each term is analyzed further below:
It is the ability to sense, identify and understand emotions. [1] It is an essential soft skill for project managers as by recognizing your own feelings, it can easier to make decisions or take actions, by being fully conscious.
It is the skill of keeping yourself in control and thinking before any reaction. It is a step further of self-awareness and essential skill as well.[1] Working environments are busy and constantly changing, so having a leader who is aware of his feelings and can control them, makes a positive difference to the team.
Social awareness
It is the ability to understand the emotions of the others. [1] Project managers interact with many people, as a result they have to demonstrate strong social skills and empathy. They should be able to put themselves in someone's else place and understand how this person feels. This is an essential skill which can also help, in a project environment, to unserstand not only the team and colleagues but also stakeholders' expectations.
Relationship management
It is close related to social awareness as it has mostly to do with the stakeholders relationships. A project manager has to manage both the project team and the stakeholders, keep a balance to all these interactions and get the best out of them. [6]
Team Leadership
It is the ability to create and communicate vision and passion to assist individuals and organizations in optimizing their potential.[1] In order to succeed in that leaders should communicate effectively, manage conflicts, motivate, enagage and inspire the team to develop further both professionally and personally [6]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Casper, C. M. (2002). Using emotional intelligence to improve project performance. Paper presented at Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium, San Antonio, TX. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Shazia Nauman,Zeeshan Ahmed Bhatti, Maliha Elahi, Umair Khalid (2006) Role of Emotional Intelligence in Virtual Project Management, 2006 IEEE International Conference on Management of Innovation and Technology
  3. Project Management: A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide), 6th Edition (2017)
  4. 4.0 4.1
  5. 5.0 5.1 Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee (2002) reviewed by Deanne Bryce
  6. 6.0 6.1
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