Motivation and emotion/Book/2018/Emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness

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Emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness:
What is the role of emotional intelligence in leadership effectiveness?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. "Inside Out" (2015), a film educating children on emotional intelligence.

This chapter examines the role of emotional intelligence in leadership effectiveness. Emotional intelligence has become a popularised mainstream concept. It has been explored widely within and outside of the realm of the scientific field of psychology. The rise of pop psychology and the self-help movement has popularised interest in developing emotional intelligence and harnessing its potential for individuals to realise the best version of themselves. In the corporate world, emotional intelligence has become a popularised phrase bandied about in mainstream training, that promises participants a skill set to unlock the secrets of effective leadership. There remains significant academic debate on what emotional intelligence is, and how it can be taught, learnt and practised.

Numerous factors are believed to increase the efficacy of an individual as a leader. The big five personality traits have been used to predict leadership efficacy, depending on the degree to which the individual is extraverted, open to experience, conscientious, neurotic, and agreeable (Hadley, 2003). Furthermore, the theory of multiple intelligence suggests that there are several types of intelligence, each which might impact on leadership efficacy (Sultan et al., 2017). The score of an individual's intelligence quotient has also been correlated with leadership efficacy (Simonton, 2002)[Rewrite to improve clarity]. It is theorised that emotional intelligence also impacts leadership efficacy (Boyatzis & Ratti, 2009; Caniëls et al., 2018; Cerasoli et al., 2014; Dabke, 2016; De Zulueta, 2016; Dugan et al., 2014; Goleman, 2000; Joseph et al., 2015; Mayer, 2008; Srivastava et al., 2013; Steinmann et al., 2016; Urvashi, 2018).

This chapter examines the role of emotional intelligence in effective leadership, in particular the intersection of emotional intelligence with situational leadership, the relevance of strong moral identity to effective leadership and the role of implicit motives on the efficacy of an emotionally intelligent individual's leadership. The chapter will also examine the impact of high emotional intelligence on leadership outcomes and practical emotional intelligence tools that can be utilised to achieve more effective leadership.

What is leadership effectiveness?[edit | edit source]

Leadership efficacy is determined by, and can be predicted by several concepts and factors. Effective leadership can be measured by financial outcomes, motivation of direct reports, ability to gather and utilise information and resources, manage change and overcome crises (Goleman, 2000). The parameters of effective leadership are evolving (Lord et al., 2017). In the late 20th century hierarchical leadership styles were in vogue (Reeve, 2018). This style involves rigid centralisation of power in management, decreased job satisfaction and low morale in employees. The leadership styles currently on trend take an employee-centred focus to achieve outcomes, rather than a direct focus on outcomes. The leadership styles that incorporate emotional intelligence to achieve effective leadership include servant leadership, authentic leadership and relationship-oriented (social-emotional) leadership.

What is emotional intelligence?[edit | edit source]

Payne's revolutionary dissertation introduced the language and framework academics and psychologists now use to describe the concept of emotional intelligence (Payne, 1985). Payne's framework was built on by Howard Gardner, Peter Salovey and John Mayer (Kannaiah & Shanthi, 2015; Salovey & Mayer, 1990). The concept became mainstream after release of Daniel Goleman’s best-selling book, "Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ" (Goleman, 1995).

The study of emotional intelligence is still evolving. Theorists compartmentalise the components of emotional intelligence differently. The most widely accepted framework is Goleman's model of emotional intelligence, however even in this framework there are minor inconsistencies. These inconsistencies include the number of components, and what those components are. Goleman's recent work references a four component model (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2017), other pieces of recent work reference a five component model (Carmody-Bubb et al, 2015; Carson et al., 2016; Goleman, 2017; Serrat, 2017). The four component model comprises of self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship management (Goleman, 1995, 2000).

Figure 2. Daniel Goleman, an academic who specialises in emotional intelligence in leadership.

The five component model of emotional intelligence

The five component model appears to be the more contemporary model, referenced in literature and used in leadership training (Goleman, 2017). There is significant support that those five components of emotional intelligence enable leaders to maximise their performance and the performance of employees. The components are:

  1. self-awareness, the degree to which an individual understands their own strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and impact on others;
  2. self-regulation, the degree an individual controls and redirects their own disruptive impulses and moods;
  3. motivation, the degree an individual relishes in achievement for its own sake;
  4. empathy, the degree an individual understands the emotional makeup of others; and
  5. social skill, the degree an individual is able to build rapport with others to move them in a desired direction.

Emotional intelligence in leadership[edit | edit source]

A large body of research indicates that emotional intelligence plays a role in effective leadership. In particular, leaders with outstanding efficacy are more competent in emotional intelligence than leaders who score average on efficacy (Boyatzis & Ratti, 2009; Caniëls et al., 2018; Cerasoli et al., 2014; Dabke, 2016; De Zulueta, 2016; Dugan et al., 2014; Goleman, 2000; Joseph et al., 2015; Mayer, 2008; Srivastava et al., 2013; Steinmann et al., 2016; Urvashi, 2018). [which?]Theory proposes that the efficacy of a leader is dependent upon their ability to apply emotional intelligence in situational leadership, the strength of their moral identity and implicit motives.

Situational leadership[edit | edit source]

It is theorised by Goleman that there are six leadership styles. A highly effective leader will be competent at each of the six styles, seamlessly applying alternate leadership styles to cater for different situations. It is believed that no single leadership style is more effective than another, however appropriate application of each style is particular to select situations. Emotional intelligence impacts a leader's ability to recognise a requirement to adopt an alternate style and efficiently transition to that alternate style to conform with situational demands. An effective leader will exercise the components of emotional intelligence to determine which style to adopt in the situation, and how.

The six leadership styles are:

  1. the coercive style, which demands compliance. This style is effective with difficult employees, or in times of crisis where timeframes are short. The overall impact of this style is negative.
  2. the authoritative style, which instils vision amongst direct reports. This style is effective when employees require clear direction, particularly following organisational change. This style has the most positive impact overall.
  3. the affiliative style, which values emotional bonds and utilises team harmony to achieve outcomes. This style is effective when unifying employees or motivating stressed or emotional employees. The overall impact of this style is positive.
  4. the democratic style, which builds group participation to achieve consensus in decision making and unified implementation of those decisions. This style is effective when building consensus amongst employees with high subject matter expertise. The overall impact of this style is positive.
  5. the pacesetting style, which sets an expectation for self-directed excellence in employees. This style is effective when quick results are required from highly motivated and highly competent employees. The overall impact of this style is negative.
  6. the coaching style, which focuses on development employees to achieve results. This style is effective in developing strengths and improving performance of employees showing low competence and low commitment. The overall impact of this style is positive.

Strength of moral identity[edit | edit source]

Moral identity relates to the first element of emotional intelligence, self-awareness. Moral identity refers to the significance of one's morality as an element of their self-identity (Zhu et al., 2011). The strength of moral identity impacts efficient cognitive processing of socially relevant information (Sun, 2013). An examination of effective leadership found that leaders interact with employees differently based on the strength of their moral identity (DeCelles et al., 2012). Leaders with a weak moral identity perform in their own self-interest, whilst leaders with a strong moral identity perform with a strong sense of responsibility toward others (DeCelles et al., 2012). An emotionally intelligent leader high in self-awareness and self-regulation is able to minimise impact on their team of a weak moral identity (DeCelles et al., 2012).

Implicit motives[edit | edit source]

Implicit motives relate to the third element of emotional intelligence, motivation. Implicit motives have been studied extensively for their ability to predict effective leadership (Steinmann, 2016). The act of striving to fulfil unconscious needs might motivate an individual to become a leader. Those needs might include achievement, affiliation, and power (Reeve, 2018). Two types of leadership styles examine how implicit motives can predict and impact the efficacy of a leader.

Leadership motive pattern

The leadership motive pattern articulates a traditional leadership style, where the focus is to "get work done". The leadership motive pattern is a tripartite variant of the need for power which consists of a high need for power, low need for affiliation, and high inhibition (McClelland, 1982). Individuals that fit within this pattern have a desire to exercise influence, and are self-disciplined, but are not concerned by their level of likeability. The three elements were significantly associated with leadership success (McClelland, 1982), however it is argued that affiliative leaders are more successful (Urvashi, 2018).

Compassionate leadership style

The contemporary model is the compassionate leadership style, where the focus is to support employees to perform at their best. This style builds on the three elements of the leadership motivate pattern, substituting the focus on low affiliation to placing value on high affiliation (Steinmann et al., 2015). High affiliation forms a strong leader–follower connection, a connection used to motivate high performance from employees through communicating appreciation, concern, respect, and support.

Coaching and mentoring play an important role in empowering employees to develop skills, uncover resources, and achieve job satisfaction. This approach attributes workplace productivity to the degree employees are willing and skilled to perform (Steinmann, 2016).

Impact of high emotional intelligence on leadership outcomes[edit | edit source]

A symptom of a leader with strong emotional intelligence capability is a high performing team. Studies have examined the impact of this symptom on work-based outcomes, some of the impacts and their relevance to emotionally intelligent leadership are itemised in Table 1[grammar?].

Table 1

Impact of high emotional intelligence on leadership outcomes

Impact Relevance to emotionally intelligent leadership
Staff retention
  • Empathy can assist with staff retention. Employee disengagement can be overcome with open and supportive communication channels (Kouzes & Posner, 2003).
  • Motivation can inspire employees to passionately engage with their work, facilitating retention (Caniëls et al., 2018).
Effective workload management
  • Social skill can be used to build alliances within a team, as well as reliable working relationships with internal and external stakeholders. Strong relationships assist in achievement of business objectives (Dingfelder, 2004).
  • Self-regulation can facilitate the clear direction and effective communication required to deliver business outcomes (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2017).
  • Empathy can create psychological safety for employees to engage with risk (Bluth & Neff, 2018).
Increased team performance
  • Motivation can inspire employees to strive for high performance and engagement with professional development opportunities, at both the individual and team level (Dweck, 2012).
  • Empathetic leaders can identify targeted ways to inspire low performing employees (Cerasoli et al., 2014).
  • Self-aware leaders can identify areas of fault, and rectify any flaws to their leadership style through self-regulation to increase personal and team performance (Hammerly et al., 2014).
Increased team collegiality and moral
  • Self-regulation minimises the negative impact of emotional contagion (Prochazkova & Kret, 2017).
  • Self-awareness and social skill contribute to effective conflict resolution (Doucette, 2017).
Highly productive relationships with internal and external stakeholders
  • Social skill can build trust and rapport with internal and external stakeholders (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2017).
Psychological safety in the workplace
  • Empathetic leaders provide employees the space to engage with measured risks in a psychologically safe environment. It is important that direct reports have leadership’s support to maintain psychological wellbeing (Scott‐Ladd & Chan, 2004).
  • Socially skilled leaders can increase team cohesiveness and optimise psychological safety in the workplace (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2017).

Tools to achieve more effective leadership[edit | edit source]

It is important that leaders who seek to improve their efficacy are able to harness tools of emotional intelligence to become more effective leaders (Kouzes & Posner, 2003). There are many self-help books, and smartphone applications freely available to practise emotional intelligence (Poonamallee et al., 2018). There are a number of tools founded in emotional intelligence to improve leadership efficacy, some of those tools are detailed below at Table 2.

Table 2

Tools to achieve effective leadership through strengthening emotional intelligence

Component of emotional intelligence Tools

Practise self-compassion

Practise the three elements of self-compassion to control extreme emotion, engage in "self-kindness", recognise "common humanity", engage in "mindfulness". Self-soothing practises increase prevalence of reward hormones and relax the autonomic nervous system to facilitate clear thinking (Bluth & Neff, 2018). Covert soothing strategies include cupping one hand over a fist and holding both hands close to the centre of the chest, stroking one hand with the thumb of the other hand, resting a hand on one's cheek, and crossing one's arms focusing on the sensation of a hug (Seppälä et al., 2017).

Complete a values inventory

Complete a values inventory[for example?] to understand personal values and drivers, and consider the role that those values and drivers play in variations of that individual's leadership style (Roccas et al., 2002).

Seek feedback

Seek and consider 360° feedback[add link to help explain] to confirm strengths, identify and develop areas of weakness, and improve efficacy of leadership (Church, 2018; Hammerly et al., 2014).

Understand authentic leadership

Develop an authentic leadership style based on purpose, compassion, values, self-discipline and a strong network (George, 2010; Shamir & Eilam-Shamir, 2018).


Engage in mindfulness

Disruptive moods or impulses can be redirected through practising mindfulness, by purposefully focusing attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental way (Sauer & Kohls, 2011).

Implement the third space

Implementing the third space to transition between different emotionally charged situations with ease, applying the three phases: reflect, rest, and reset. The tripartite model guides the transition from one space the "first space", to another space - the "second space" (Fraser, 2012; Schuck et al., 2017).

Present your "big self"

When reactive emotions or behaviours present, recognise the presence of the "little self", and overcome this by presenting the "big self". The big self is creative, the little self is reactive. It is important to recognise and regulate reactive behaviour, acknowledging each response persona can assist with self-regulation (Berger, 2012; Gordon, 1985).

Control emotional contagion

It is believed that emotions are capable of infecting others through the brain's Mirror Neuron System. This phenomenon is called emotional contagion. An effective leader is able to project appropriate emotions to control emotional contagion. Emotional contagion can be regulated by visualising or projecting an appropriate emotion (Prochazkova & Kret, 2017).


Journal emotions, drivers, experiences, and behaviours

Journaling is a powerful reflection and thought consolidation tool. A leader could use journaling to withdraw and develop thoughts from the subconscious, for personal and team development (Green, 2002).

Experience coaching

Coaching is a powerful tool for motivating leaders and employees. An effective leader will be able to take a situationally dependent approach to decide when to direct, mentor and coach employees. The GROW coaching model proposes a methodology to assisting individuals to create effective and sustainable change (Obolensky, 2017; Whitmore, 2009).

Adopt a growth mindset

Adopt a growth mindset to skills, achievements, challenges, feedback and setbacks. A fixed mindset is less adaptive to challenge, a leader with a growth mindset will be more likely to overcome challenges (Caniëls et al., 2018; Dweck, 2012).

Harness motivation

A leader who understands their intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, and the motivators of their staff is able to target incentives to achieve high performance at the personal and team level (Cerasoli et al., 2014).


Consider different perspectives

Practise examining situations from different perspectives - the perspective of yourself, the other party, and an observer. The multiple perspective approach can assist leaders to understand the position of employees, adapting with an appropriate leadership style or empathetic response (Dugan et al., 2014).

Emulate kindness

Practise the act of looking at others with genuine kindness. The intent of wanting peace for another is portrayed through body language and will impact a leader’s ability to communicate empathy (Tan, 2012).

Social skill

Communicate with clean language

Practise clear communication using clean language with situational adjustments to syntax, question phrasing, tone, and non-verbal cues (Grove & Panzer, 1989).

Apply the “SBI feedback model"

Apply the "SBI feedback model" to optimise efficacy of constructive feedback by describing the situation, identifying behaviour and impact of that behaviour (Doucette, 2017).

Quiz questions[edit | edit source]

Choose an answer and click "Submit":

1 What is the role of emotional intelligence in leadership effectiveness? Emotional intelligence:

plays no role in leadership effectiveness
is the primary determinant of leadership effectiveness
is one of a suite of factors that impact leadership effectiveness

2 What can an individual do to improve their leadership effectiveness?

Develop their emotional intelligence and adopt a growth mindset
Decrease their emotional intelligence
Develop their emotional intelligence and adopt a fixed mindset

3 An impact of high emotional intelligence in effective leadership is:

Low staff retention
Ineffective workload management
Decreased team collegiality and moral
Psychological safety
Stakeholder disengagement

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Emotional intelligence is a powerful skill set that plays an important role in the efficacy of an individual's performance as a leader. However, emotional intelligence is not the only prerequisite of leadership effectiveness. Many other factors outside the scope of this chapter have been correlated with effective leadership. An emotionally intelligent leader is able to better regulate the self to perform effectively, but also use the skills of emotional intelligence to tactfully marshal employees and stakeholders in a manner that will optimise performance and meet objectives. Leaders should continue to develop their emotional intelligence to build their capability as an effective leader. However, leaders could also consider the relevance of other factors such as development of corporate knowledge and job specific skills, in addition to the impact of a growth mindset, the big five personality traits, and general intelligence.

See also[edit | edit source]

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External links[edit | edit source]