Diagram of the Brain, 14th Century
Ideas for Leaders #023

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Behaviour

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Key Concept

Emotional intelligence is our ability to control our emotions, understand the emotions of others and use this information to guide thinking and action – and it can have a huge impact on leadership effectiveness. In relation to the collaborative aspects of leadership in particular, emotional intelligence has been found to have a significant effect.

Idea Summary

Emotional intelligence (EI) has been conceptualized as a key predictor for success at work and job performance in a number of studies. Salovey and Mayer’s definition describes EI as an individual’s capacity to appropriately regulate his/her emotions, which involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.

Here we examine the effects of EI on leadership effectiveness, dividing the latter into two categories:

  1. Getting along behaviours: feeling liked and supported, and the critical ability to work well in teams. This also involves empowering others.
  2. Getting ahead behaviours: gaining power and control of resources, related to the directive and inspirational side of leadership.

This is the first research to examine how, specifically, EI translates into the two broad categories of ‘work behaviours’ above.

The research cited collected data from 929 managers enrolled in executive education programs at an elite European business school, and examined the mediating effects of collaborative behaviours at work between EI and inspirational leadership behaviours.

The findings were that EI influences getting along behaviours in particular, which subsequently impact other behaviours at work related to the inspirational side of leadership. Furthermore, getting along behaviours fully mediated the relationship between EI and getting ahead leadership behaviours.

Business Application

These findings have big practical implications for the design of leadership development interventions in particular, which have been shown to primarily raise self-awareness among the participants. Once back in the office their co-workers’ perception of their leaders’ inspirational leadership skills will not change if the leaders do not demonstrate this capacity in the service of effective team building.

On the importance of collaboration it is useful to highlight that awareness and regulation of emotions need to crystallize in group processes in order to be effective. Emotional awareness needs to reverberate in teamwork if it is to impact others’ perceptions of inspirational leadership behaviours.

Therefore, it is essential to spend time with others and work cooperatively to impact followers’ perceptions of the inspirational side of leadership.

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Idea conceived

  • 2011

Idea posted

  • February 2013

DOI number



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