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Emotional Intelligence in Project Management

Published By Team AdaptiveWork

The making of a good project manager can be a complex task in the field of Emotional Intelligence. While older schools of thought would place the emphasis solely on the abilities to organize workflows, meet deadlines and supply projected deliverables, modern theory on the role of the project manager has a much broader scope.

emotional intelligence in project management

Chief among the inclusions in what leadership skills are necessary to be a successful project manager is the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI). This is a theory that was first introduced in the early 1990s by John Mayer and Peter Salovey, before being delivered as a theoretical foundation through Daniel Goleman’s book, “Emotional Intelligence” in 1995.

What is Emotional Intelligence Definition:

Emotional intelligence was defined by Salovey as the “ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”. When one considers that meaning it is easy to see how important it would be to project managers in their daily work.

Areas where Emotional Intelligence is important for PMs:

  • Building relationships, both with and between team members
  • Ensuring successful cooperating on tasks
  • Negotiating and finding points of compromise within the team and with external stakeholders
  • Creating collaborative efficiencies to the advantage of the project
  • Resolving disputes and managing personal differences
  • Developing contacts with contractors and suppliers

To understand better how Emotional Intelligence works and how you can make it work for you we’ll take a look at the five major elements that comprise EI according to Goleman.


Being honest with yourself and aware of your flaws or areas you want to work on is a key sign of Emotional Intelligence. Without the ability to reflect on yourself objectively you will forever be in danger of laying all the blame on others or failing to see your own contribution to situations.

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We all feel emotions, without them we wouldn’t be human. These can be positive or negative and vary in intensity. The problem for project managers is when emotions get in the way of progress or cloud their judgement of situations. As well as having the self-awareness to recognize your emotions in a situation it is also important to be able to hold them in check or channel their energy into creating positive outcomes for the project.


It can be very easy to go through life lost in one’s own emotions and expectations, never noticing how others are feeling unless they broach the subject directly. For a project manager however it is vital to be able to have one’s finger constantly on the emotional pulse of your team. This is achieved through empathy, taking an interest in those around you and the possible emotions they could be feeling. By constantly noting people’s mood you’ll be able to recognize any sudden fluctuations which could be warning signs.

Social Skills

Not everyone is a natural communicator and some people prefer brevity both for reasons of clarity and expediency. If you feel that communication is not one of your strong points be aware of it and note that it’s an area you should make an extra effort in for the sake of your project. Improving your social skills can have a very positive impact on many areas of your management responsibilities.


There are many reasons to be motivated to do the work in front of you or to develop your leadership skills. The primary ones which are presented in a professional situation is the promise of bonuses, wage increases or a more senior title. It is also very useful however, to have a deeper motivation for what you are doing, such as it being a step upon your life-path or improving your understanding and enjoyment of a particular field.

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Written by Team AdaptiveWork