Emotional Intelligence (EI) in Leadership

Emotional Intelligence may be defined as the ability, capacity, and skill to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself and of others.

Daniel Goleman (1998) is a writer who popularized the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI). However, it was Matthews, Zeidner, and Roberts (2002) who developed the concept of EI, and who Goleman does NOT acknowledge in his writings. They define it as an array of competencies and skills that drive leadership performance through the use of meta-factors or constructs.

Recent research has shown that Emotional Intelligence can be a strong predictor of job performance, thus it is of interest to those striving to become leaders and leaders who must manage performance in the workplace (O'Boyle, Humphrey, Pollack, Hawver, Story, 2010).

Lane Mills' (2009) meta-analysis found that there is a moderately strong relationship between emotional intelligence and effective leadership. The author noted that, “Skillful handling of situations and people, reflective of leaders aware of the importance of emotional intelligence should be given the same attention and importance as the more traditional leadership tasks of budget, finance, and operational skills."

Thomas Sy (2010) performed a five-phase study involving hundreds of workplace leaders. He identified six concepts that leaders categorize their employees:

These conceptions often affect what leaders do, thus they may determine their leadership style and their treatment of followers. In addition, research has demonstrated that followers tend to fulfill the perceptions leaders have of them. Thus, the differences in performance between followers may largely result from their leaders’ perceptions of them.

This means that leaders may easily recognize potential in their followers that fit their implicit concepts of good followership and in turn, may not recognize potential in equally capable followers who fit their concept of bad followership

“This is particularly relevant in multicultural environments. For example, among other traits, Western leaders may recognize the potential of followers who show enthusiasm, and label and treat these individuals as ‘high potentials.’ However, Western leaders may overlook the same potential in equally capable followers who may not exhibit enthusiasm because their cultural values may inhibit expression of emotions (e.g. Eastern cultures such as Japan and China). This bias may also occur for gender.” - Thomas Sy (2011)

The negative and positive conceptions of followers are similar to McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y.

The negative and positive conceptions of followers fit in two of the four meta-factors of Emotional Intelligence: Social Awareness and Relationship Management. The four meta-factors of Emotional Intelligence are:

Next Steps

For more information, see Emotional Intelligence and Performance

Go to the next chapter, After Action Review

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Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition; Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. New York: Bantam Books.

Lane, R.D., Schwartz, G. E. (1987). Levels of emotional awareness: A cognitive-developmental theory and its application to psychopathology. The American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 144(2), 133-143.

Matthews, G., Zeidner, M., Roberts, R. (2002). Emotional Intelligence: Science & Myth. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Mills, L.B. (2009). A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leadership. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, 3(2), 22-38.

O'Boyle, E.H., Humphrey, R.H., Pollack, J.M., Hawver, T.H., Story, P.A. (2010). The relation between emotional intelligence and job performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32 (5), 788-818.

Sy, T. (2010). What do you think of followers? Examining the content, structure, and consequences of implicit followership theories. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 113 (2): 73-84.

Sy, T. (2011). Leader Beliefs about Followers Impact Company Success. Retreived from http://newsroom.ucr.edu/2614