Emotional Intelligence and the MBA

Emotional Intelligence and the MBA


Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), is one of Europe’s leading business schools and offers a portfolio of top-ranked programmes.

Brandon Kirby, Director of MBA Marketing & Admissions at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, explains what role Emotional Intelligence plays concerning the MBA. 

Take a moment and think about the leaders you’d like to work for - what are the characteristics you most admire in them and why? I have asked this question several hundred times a year during the interviews I conduct with MBA candidates around the world. How would you answer this question? What are the qualities that turn a good leader into a great leader?

The answers I receive typically have nothing to do with technical capabilities or even business smarts. Candidates point to the way their manager handled stressful situations or difficult employees.

The words "soft skills" are often used to describe the qualities they most admire. Soft skills are like the black box of essential leadership qualities - you know the box exists, but can’t exactly name what’s inside of it. One of the key components of an MBA is helping candidates to open the box and peer inside to understand the characteristics required to become a successful leader.

Emotional Intelligence

The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI), or the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others, has increasingly become a core part of MBA programmes around the world, including Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).

The concept revolves around the following five main pillars:

1. Self-awareness

Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how to act accordingly.

2. Self-regulation

Ability to restrain and to control your feelings and emotions appropriately for different situations.

3. Self-Motivation

A passion for working for internal reasons that go beyond money and status.

4. Empathy

Capacity to understand the emotional makeup of other people.

5. Social skills

Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks.

Emotional Intelligence and RSM's candidate selection

It might surprise you to learn that of the 20 core skills that employers seek in MBA graduates today, 17 are soft or interpersonal skills.

For this reason, we devote a significant amount of time in the programme to help candidates develop the skills needed for successfully leading teams. From reflection essays to personal coaching, we designed our programme to provide the candidates with multiple opportunities to grow and explore as an individual and a leader.

When we evaluate candidates for our MBA programmes, we consider academic records, work experience and test scores, but we also heavily consider their level of emotional intelligence. Can they reflect on their actions? Identify areas of personal growth? Are they able to show empathy towards their colleagues? We ask ourselves these questions during the evaluation process and the answers weigh heavily in candidate selection.

Leading people

It’s important to remember that when you are a leader, you are leading people, each of whom has hopes, vulnerabilities and aspirations. Your job should be to draw out the best in each person of your team and yourself. But before you can bring out the best in others, you must work on bringing out the best in yourself.

By taking the time to focus on yourself during an MBA programme, you are setting yourself up for a successful future in a leadership position.

Best of luck in your MBA journey! ~ Brandon Kirby


If you’re thinking about improving yourself and learn, why not visit the MBA open day and discover the benefits of the RSM MBA and career services that will help you realise your goals.

RSM's team of experts is also on hand at all times to review your CV, and discuss the best options available to you. 

Interested in more information? Contact Brandon Kirby, Director of MBA Admissions and Marketing:
RSM official website
Tel: +31 (0)1 040 82 222
Address: Burgemeester Oudlaan 50 - Bayle building, 3062 PA Rotterdam



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