In the last 25 years, Emotional Intelligence (EI) has gained significant importance and is being used by leaders to achieve their organizational objectives. It has been identified that the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of the employees is not the only contributing factor to the high performance of the employees. There is something more than that and research shows that the identification, recognition, and management of the problems of the employees will help in solving problems and regulating behavior (Landry 2015). The right awareness and utilization of these emotions as described in the theory of EI are the key attributes in the development of a leader. Thus EI is believed to be the distinguishing factor between an average leader and a successful leader.
The concept of Emotional Intelligence was developed by Salovey and Mayer in 1990. It was a result of the various discussions about the mental and cognitive abilities of the employees other than IQ. However, in the year 1996, Goleman released a book titled, ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ?. This attracted the attention of researchers and also the common public. This concept was extended in his Harvard business review article, ‘What makes a Leader?’ On the other hand, Salovey and Mayer developed their thoughts for finding out a precise definition of the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ for the criteria of intelligence (Landry 2015).
Though many researchers have tried to define emotional intelligence, there is no single worldwide accepted definition as leadership cannot be restricted to a single definition and changes according to the circumstances. Due to the increasing competition institutions and organizations have the enormous responsibility to survive and successfully lead their organizations. As nobody likes to surrender their comforts, the change process undertaken by the leaders has to increasingly focus on emotional intelligence while managing the process of change (Landry 2015). Change disrupts the comfort zone of the individuals and creates anxiety and uncertainty among the employees. When such changes affect the values, beliefs, and assumptions, individuals can become reluctant to accept the proposed status. The creation of an environment where the employees enjoy the freedom of communication is vital for initiating a change (Ovans 2015).
Change leadership is about the vision, urgency, and empowerment of people to seize an opportunity. The goal is to encourage a process that accelerates efficiency and helps in large scale transformation. Implementing a change attracts challenge for a leader. One reason for the same is the lack of emotional intelligence to overcome the challenges (Ovans 2015). It influences the way the employees develop and express themselves and maintain social relationships amidst using emotional intelligence in the most meaningful manner. As it is an important skill, leaders are expected to have an appreciable level of this skill set.
In order to associate the change with higher performance, leaders are required to fully connect and engage with their followers. The organizational effectiveness can improve o a large extent if the leaders respond to their employees with empathy. A leader who has mastered the skill of emotional intelligence uses the skill sets and moods of his own self and of his employees to adapt and motivate towards a positive performance (Cote et al 2010). It helps the leaders in evaluating behaviors effectively and integrates both the mental and emotional processes to bring out appropriate behavior of the employees and manage situations.
Three models have been developed for emotional intelligence. The first one is the ‘ability model’ which focuses on the ability of the individual to process the information and use it in an appropriate manner in the work environment (Clarke 2010). The second model is the ‘trait model’ which focuses on the self-derived abilities of the employee and the perceived behavior as a result of those abilities. The third one is the ‘mixed-model’ which is a combination of both the models.
The trait model describes the ability of the employee to focus on emotional related situations and the mental ability models describe the application of the knowledge by the individual in emotional situations. Both the models agree on the fact that the cognitive ability of the individual is alone not sufficient for achieving success and the adaptability of the employee under emotionally related situations brings out their competencies. The ability model has been criticized as it focuses more on true intelligence rather than the ability. Thus it is a measurement of the knowledge of the individual and has been criticized for the same.
Though there is no set method to measure EI, over the years, different organizations have come up with different ideas and methodologies to measure EI. One such method is using the self-test report where the employees are given out a form to fill based on their self-analysis, the weakness and shortcomings they are facing, and the issues they have. Using 360-degree feedback is also seen as a measure of EI competency if it includes EL perspectives in it. Using personality tests as a proxy is also one of the tests of EI where an attempt is made to measure what the employees would do personally when they are faced with emotionally challenging situations (Gleeson 2019). Apart from this, the leaders need to get references about the employee’s behavior and talk with them with specific examples about how the employee treats others. Behavioral interviewing is a powerful way to learn about their competencies and how the same is demonstrated in the real-time work environment. Questions about an unfamiliar or unsuccessful situation can be asked to the employee to see and understand the response to the same.
The concept of Transformational Leadership was being followed until the introduction of Emotional Intelligence (Kumar 2014). Though there can be a few similarities between the two methodologies, EI can be rated to be more superior. As a result, EI has such traits that can influence the individual and motivate them to have a direct correlation with the organizational objectives. A leader is one who can monitor his own emotions and also the emotions of the team and discriminate and use these emotions as a guide to one’s thoughts and actions. Emotional intelligence for leadership comprises of five traits as below:
The transformational leadership traits possessed by great leaders have a definite link with their emotional intelligence and have encouraged their employees and followers to follow them for the achievement of goals. A brilliant leader is one who is able to encourage the team to handle frustrations and also get along well with other employees and team members. Leaders having better EI display better quality work performance. Such leaders are motivated to go beyond the call of their duty to help the organizations. It is a strong predictor of behavior and job performance. The first trait is to perceive the emotions in the organization. For this, there has to be effective communication and the leader should be able to bring out the communication from the employees in a fair and transparent manner (Srivastava 2013). If there is dissatisfaction among the employees then the leader should be able to get even and discuss the issues with the employees in a proper manner.
The second trait of self-management gains significance in times of crisis like the current Covid-19 crisis that the world is facing. It has the potential of bringing down the morale of the employees. Hence it is essential that the leader first remains motivated himself and then helps the employees to drive out the fears and build the strength for a positive work environment. Leaders who are not able to effectively implement this become isolated and might not help the organization succeed. The next trait is empathy. A winning coalition of the team members results in the creation of an enthusiastic, credible, and committed team while leading the change in the organization. Empathy is stepping into the shoes of the co-workers to get a fair idea of the emotions experienced by them and then helping them act appropriately in the work environment (Bennis 2009). Next comes the trait of relationship management. It is essential that the vision of the company is well embraced throughout the organization. For this, the leader and employees have to act as one big family. The company objectives have to percolate down to the lowest levels and for this, the leader has to work in consonance to sense the problems, opportunities, and the commitment of the employees (Gaubatz & Ensminger 2017). The team members need to be enthusiastic, committed and disclose credit information to ensure the success of the organization.
The next trait is effective communication. Whenever there is a change, it creates anxiety among the employees and hence this has to be effectively addressed. It is possible only when the leader is aware of such insecurity that has arisen in the organization and hence open communication has to be encouraged and seen as a tool for the implementation of a change process. There should be encouragement and motivation for open communication. Thus it becomes evident that if the leaders energetic and motivated then the same force will be passed on to their followers. There are different forms of leadership that can result in different outcomes. Though these five traits are listed down, there is no agreeability on the same in all organizations as the item or unit they are measuring is not the same across all organizations. Such leaders are able to apply the skill set in providing support and encouragement for the employees.
The concept of EI has been increasingly used in conflict resolution; employee motivation, employee development, effective advocacy, and personal drive. The one major drawback of the higher EI is that it is usually accompanied by lower levels of creativity and innovation among the individuals (Lipman 2019). Though leaders with high EI are good at relationship building and team building but might lack the ability to face unconventional challenges and crisis. A few researchers even argue that there is nothing like emotional intelligence quotient. It is also not a psychometrically valid and recognized concept yet. Another drawback is that emotional intelligence cannot be taught like any other talent. Though the leader makes conscious efforts towards motivating the employees, it is not easy for every employee to grasp this art and implement the same unless there is a complete willingness to surrender from the opposite end. In reality, it is impossible to measure subjective qualities as how can one person’s motivation be compared with another (Courtney & Ackerman 2019). Even if it is measured, it is arbitrary and subjective. It is possible to fake EI due to the inability of the measures to test and verify the results of the same.
It can be argued that someone with high EI is a sociable and nice person but whether the individual is capable of implementing the same in a real critical situation or not is the actual test for the validity of the same. Due to all these reasons, the concept of EI has been melted down to skepticism. It could be used to detect workplace sensitivity, diversity, inclusion, and unbiased training. Thus EI is far from a universally accepted concept. Leaders cannot expect change if they are themselves not willing to change.
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to manage the emotions and ability to cheer up the individuals and calm down a person. EI contributes to successful leadership roles and encourages the feasibility of training employees. It focuses on teaching objective skills and how to operate in specific situations. The introduction of this concept has encouraged the importance and development of soft skills in organizations. It is just a few decades old and has many criticisms and shortcomings. Above all, it cannot be generalized as different situations exist in different organizations, and hence the crucial leadership abilities and challenges vary according to the circumstances.
References for Emotional Intelligence in Leadership
Bennis, W. (2009). On becoming a leader: The leadership classic, New York, NY: Basic Books.
Clarke, N. (2010). The impact of a training programme designed to target the emotional intelligence abilities of project managers. International Journal of Project Management, 28(5), 461-468
Cote, S., Lopes, P.N., Salovey, P. and Miners, C.T.H. (2010). Emotional intelligence and leadership emergence in small groups, The Leadership Quarterly, 21(3), 496-508
Courtney, E, & Ackerman, Msc. (2019). 69 Exercises for leading with emotional Intelligence, Retrieved from: https://positivepsychology.com/emotional-intelligence-leadership-effectiveness/
Gaubatz, J. A., Ensminger, D. C. (2017). Department chairs as change agents: Leading change in resistant environments’, Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 45, 141-163.
Gleeson, B 2019, 5 Aspects of Emotional Intelligence Required for Effective Leadership, Retrieved from: https://www.inc.com/brent-gleeson/5-aspects-of-emotional-intelligence-required-for-effective-leadership.html Koehler , B. (2018). The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in a Leader. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/@BKpub/the-importance-of-emotional-intelligence-in-a-leader-d1ffc7fd753c
Kumar, S. (2014). Establishing linkages between emotional intelligence and transformational leadership, Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 23(1), 1-3
Landry, L. (2019). Why emotional intelligence is important in leadership. Retrieved from: https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/emotional-intelligence-in-leadership
Lipman, V. (2019). How Mindful Behavior Can Lead To Better Manager-Employee Relationships. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2019/01/08/how-mindful-behavior-can-lead-to-better-manager-employee-relationships/#1f2136442efd
Ovans, A 2015, How Emotional Intelligence Became a Key Leadership Skill. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2015/04/how-emotional-intelligence-became-a-key-leadership-skill Srivastava, K. (2013). Emotional intelligence and organizational effectiveness, Industrial Psychiatry Journal, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 97–99.
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