Emotional Intelligence & the Senior Executive Service

As OKA’s Business Development Director, I am on the front lines with clients every day—trying both to help them discern their development and training goals as well as finding ways to best meet those needs. One of the needs I see consistently is the challenge of designing and delivering training and development programs for leaders and teams.  A favorite OKA approach is one that marries organizational competencies with training programs to ensure initiatives are aligned across the HR spectrum. In this series, I’ll share how Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) can be used to support training and development for aspiring members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) – or those currently serving that would like to sharpen their skills.

OPM Guide to SES ECQs

Executive Core Qualifications and Competencies1

I’ll start by reviewing the Five Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) that describe the leadership skills needed to succeed within the Senior Executive Service. They are:

  • Leading Change
  • Leading People
  • Results Driven
  • Business Acumen
  • Building Coalitions

 The most successful executives are skilled in all five ECQs and the underlying competencies that include:

 Leading Change

  • Creativity & Innovation
  • External Awareness
  • Flexibility
  • Resilience
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Vision
  1. Leading People
  • Conflict Management
  • Leveraging Diversity
  • Developing Others
  • Team Building
  1. Results Driven
  • Accountability
  • Customer Service
  • Decisiveness
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Problem Solving
  1. Business Acumen
  • Financial Management
  • Human Capital Management
  • Technology Management
  1. Building Coalitions
  • Partnering
  • Political Savvy
  • Influencing/Negotiating

 The SES Emotional Intelligence Connection

I’m likely a bit biased, but it’s hard for me to look at this list of SES ECQs and not see the direct connection to Emotional Intelligence. EI directly or indirectly supports most of these competencies – making it a great cornerstone in almost any SES development program. There are several Emotional Intelligence frameworks or models that can work, but we prefer the EQ-i2.0 model because of its underpinning science and direct access to a broad set of 15 distinct behaviors.

EQi model

These 15 emotional intelligence behaviors marry nicely with the SES ECQ competencies – making the EQ-i 2.0 a great model for assessing, training and developing the Senior Executive Service.  A list of  the 14 SES ECQ competencies and 3 of the fundamental competencies supported by this framework are shared below. Some EQ-i 2.0 elements that support these ECQs are also noted in parenthesis.

  • Flexibility (Flexibility)
  • Resilience (Self-Regard, Interpersonal Relationships, Optimism)
  • Conflict Management (Empathy, Assertiveness)
  • Developing Others (Empathy, Social Responsibility)
  • Team Building (Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy)
  • Accountability (Self-Actualization, Reality Testing)
  • Customer Service (Empathy)
  • Decisiveness (Assertiveness, Independence)
  • Entrepreneurship (Optimism, Independence)
  • Problem Solving (Problem Solving, Reatlity Testing)
  • Human Capital Management (Developing EI in the workforce)
  • Partnering (Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy)
  • Political Savvy (Emotional Self-Awareness, Impulse Control)
  • Influencing/Negotiating’ (Assertiveness, Empathy)
  • Interpersonal Skills (Interpersonal Relationships)
  • Continual Learning (Emotional Self-Awareness)
  • Public Service Motivation (Social Responsibility)

SES  Development In Action – An EQ Approach

Cross-walking SES competencies with Emotional Intelligence behaviors supports an approach that leverages the power of Emotional Intelligence in a focused and relevant manner. SES development can be done in group workshops or as part of an individual development plan with executive coaching or focused training. The approach can also be tailored to provide a deep dive into any of these competencies or a broader approach that helps improve Emotional Intelligence awareness and development within the framework of this set of competencies. At OKA, we like an approach that leverages the power of group learning in a workshop, the EQ-i or EQ360  assessment to gain self-awareness insights, and individual executive coaching to support focused personal development.

developing emotional intelligence


In my next post, I’ll take a closer look at examples of how the EQ-i framework can be used to develop specific ECQ competencies.

Food for Thought

How is your Emotional Intelligence and that of your team?

If you are aspiring to join the Senior Executive Service or already serving in this challenging role, could you benefit from taking some time to assess and develop your Emotional Intelligence?

If you are responsible for developing and leading our Nation’s leaders, could an Emotional Intelligence approach benefit your next cadre of SESers?

Do you have a success story you’d like to share?

If you would you like to learn more about OKA’s SES development programs or our competency model development approach, we would be excited to hear from you. Contact Aaron Sanders at asanders@oka-online.com, and stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post.


  1. United States Office of Personnel Management, Guide to Senior Executive Service Qualifications; June, 2010

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