Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Development

Why Emotional Intelligence is Key to Successful Leadership

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Skills

    Do you think it is possible to be a successful leader with a high IQ but no emotional intelligence? Let's see why emotional intelligence is important to be a successful leader and how emotional intelligence will help us to develop our leadership skills. At the end of this article, on the involvement of emotional intelligence in leadership, we will answer the above question.

    Although different definitions of leadership abound in the literature, the term, broadly defined, refers to the mobilization of resources toward the attainment of organizational goals. Accordingly, leadership involves choosing organizational objectives; planning and organizing work activities in order to accomplish group objectives; motivating others to achieve the objectives; maintaining cooperative interpersonal relationships and teamwork; and enlisting support from people outside the group or organization to promote organizational goals. 

    Over the past two decades or so, social and emotional competencies have become integral to any discussion of effective leadership. Leadership is frequently viewed as an emotion-laden process, both from the perspective of the leader and the follower. In their book "Primal Leadership," Goleman et al. (2002) argue that, in essence, the major component of leadership is emotional. In fact, great leaders move us emotionally, ignite our passions, and inspire the best in us. Thus, at its roots, the fundamental task of leaders is to instill good feelings in their followers. Emotional competencies, it has been argued, can be important at every stage of the process linking effective leadership and work group outcomes. The link between leadership and EI has not always been apparent. Personal resources, intelligence, and cognate abilities have traditionally been regarded as the primary factors in effective leadership. According to this view, to be a successful leader, one should be smarter than others. However, while there is some empirical support for the notion that good leaders are smart, the actual relationship between general mental ability and leadership effectiveness is quite weak. Thus, cognitive intelligence, particularly under highly stressful conditions, has not been shown to be a good predictor of leadership, as leaders need to be flexible, inspirational, and oriented toward the future. 

    In fact, a recent meta-analysis found that 

the relationship between intelligence and leadership is considerably lower than previously thought,"

     with a corrected correlation coefficient of only 0.27 (Judge, Colbert, and Ilies 2004, p. 542). This finding suggests that IQ accounts for only about 8 percent of the variability in leadership effectiveness, with the remainder partly accounted for by social, emotional skills, and motivational variables. While some authors (e.g., George 2000) have written compellingly about the logical relationship between EI and leadership the hard evidence is difficult to come by. Whereas leaders were once seen to plan, monitor, and control the overall running of an organization, in today’s more service oriented industries, leadership roles entail motivating and inspiring others to foster positive attitudes toward work and create a sense of commitment among employees. These contemporary demands have changed the way we view and assess leadership. They have also placed new demands on leadership training programs to develop these skills in evolving leaders and on organizations involved in leadership selection to identify them in potential candidates. Transformational leadership is characterized by the following attributes:

  1. Charisma and the Articulation of a vision of the future—the leader transmits a sense of mission that is effectively articulated, instills pride, faith, and respect, and has a gift of seeing what is really important;
  2. Intellectually Stimulating—arouses followers to think in new ways and emphasizes problem solving and the use of reasoning before taking action;
  3. Individualized Consideration—the leader pays attention to individual differences among peers and subordinates, delegated projects to stimulate learning experiences, provided coaching and teaching, and treated each follower as a respected individual.

    Transformational leaders excel because they develop clear and compelling visions. They also inspire their followers to work toward those visions through their use of language, storytelling, and other communication devices. The ability to communicate in ways that evoke the desired emotional response requires emotional intelligence. EI is viewed as a prerequisite for successful transformational leadership for a number of reasons. Indeed, it has been claimed that EI is a foundational element of charisma, vision, and careful attention to the personal needs and qualities of the individual follower. Transformational leaders, it is claimed, will use charismatic authority and transformational influence and induce collective motivation in team members in order to improve team performance. Transformational leaders are further said to be in touch with their own and their followers' feelings and "lead from the heart." Whether it is charting a grand vision for the future, mediating among diverse stakeholders, or providing corrective feedback to a struggling subordinate, leaders must draw on the abilities associated with emotional intelligence. Ashkanasy and Tse (2000) attribute this power to the charismatic leader exercising control over his or her own emotions as well as controlling other members' emotions.

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