The concept of effective leadership is gaining momentum in organizational research and decision making. Leaders want to be effective, productive and influential. They are eager to go an extra mile to motivate the followers to pursue the most ambitious goals. Despite the diversity of styles and approaches used by leaders to accomplish their mission, one thing is clear: emotions represent an essential feature of an effective leader. An agreement is emerging that emotional intelligence is the basic precondition for creating charismatic, visionary leaders. Such leaders can use their emotions to reach to the deeper emotional states and concerns of their followers. They are also better positioned to develop emotional self-awareness. Organizations can use a variety of strategies to enhance emotional intelligence in their leaders and followers and translate emotions into a solid source of sustained competition advantage.
Emotional intelligence is not a new concept. Since the beginning of the 1930s, researchers in psychology and organizational science have been looking for an in-depth understanding of social intelligence as the human ability to connect with and maintain effective links with other people (Naidu, 2014). Today, emotional intelligence enjoys increased popularity among scholars and practitioners, even though a single definition of EI has yet to be validated. According to Naidu (2014), EI is “the subset of social intelligence that 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 actions” (p. 727). To put it simply, emotional intelligence entails a leader’s ability to determine, evaluate, and monitor his or her emotions, as well as the emotions of others, while using them for the development of closer relationships with followers in the best interests of all organization stakeholders. Ovans (2015) confirms that, from a scientific perspective, an emotionally intelligent leader is that, who can identify and perceive his or her emotions, understand the emotional signals coming from others, and manage them effectively. In the 21st century, EI has come to be recognized as one of the fundamental features of an effective leader.
Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient is not the same as intellectual quotient, or IQ. Emotional intelligence is inherently interpersonal and relationship-oriented (Batool, 2013). It is different from general intelligence (IQ), which is typically associated with the logical, mathematical aspect of a leader’s personality (Batool, 2013). Stone (2009) writes that the intellectual quotient encompasses human cognitive abilities, whereas the emotional quotient incorporates the elements of thinking and motivation. Still, it is wrong to believe that EI and IQ are not related. In reality, they are complementary. Emotions sharpen leaders’ cognitive and intellectual capabilities and expand their organizational and human relationship frontiers. They empower leaders to combine their cognitive and emotional skills to develop a more holistic picture of follower needs and leverage resources needed to have these needs satisfied. Ideally, the emotional and intellectual quotients will operate as a single entity, providing a strong leadership edge and resulting in the development of more cohesive leader-follower relationships. What today’s leaders need to know is that being emotionally intelligent is a must to make organizations more competitive in the long run.
Leaders need emotional intelligence for two reasons. First, it lays out an easy path toward developing enhanced emotional self-awareness (Ovans, 2015). Simply stated, leaders with high levels of EI have the skills and intuition needed to recognize and manage their emotions more effectively. Second, emotionally intelligent leaders are more sensitive to the emotions of their followers. They display empathy for others and possess advanced social skills, which lead to better relationship and network building results (Ovans, 2015). Ultimately, EI turns leaders into an attractive role model for followers. Moreover, it facilitates the creation of more effective organizations. Apparently, leaders can never accomplish their challenging mission without engaging others in productive teamwork and maintaining quality relationships with followers. It is through EI that leaders can collaborate and coordinate complex organizational tasks more effectively. It is also with the help of EI that such leaders/can build a culture based on sensitivity to the needs of others, empathy, openness, trust, and teamwork. This being said, a leader who does not possess emotional intelligence will fail to (a) build quality relationships with followers, (2) understand and manage his emotions and the emotions of others, (3) confront the emotional challenges facing organizational members, and (4) develop a productive team of followers based on trust, empathy, and sensitivity to everyone’s needs.
To increase their effectiveness, leaders should be aware of the components of emotional intelligence. These include self-awareness, motivation, empathy, emotional self-regulation, and social skills (Ovans, 2015). Self-awareness and self-regulation are probably the most valuable ones, since they imply that leaders are aware of their emotions and can regulate them to achieve the best organizational outcomes. In this manner, leaders can also present an example of effective self-regulation to their followers. Still, it is better if the organization has a well-developed strategy for refining leaders’ emotional intelligence skills. A training course including theory and practice workshops could give leaders a unique opportunity to practice and renew their EI capacity. The example of French Sanofi-Aventis confirms that such training workshops increase leaders’ productivity (Garris, 2013). Leaders who expose themselves to such programs display more frequent emotionally intelligent behaviors and have better chances to build stronger social ties within and outside of the organization, reducing follower turnover, raising their motivation, and creating an atmosphere of passion and learning within the organization.
To conclude, effective leadership in the 21st century is impossible without emotional intelligence. The latter implies that leaders are aware of their emotional strengths and weaknesses and are sensitive to the emotional needs of followers. Organizations should develop comprehensive strategies to refine leaders’ emotional intelligence skills. Ultimately, it will create better conditions for achieving and sustaining a strong organizational advantage.
- Batool, B.F. (2013). Emotional intelligence and effective leadership. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 4(3), 1-12.
- Garris, L. (2013). Emotional intelligence: Can companies really feel their way to success? UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Retrieved from http://www.kenan- flagler.unc.edu/~/media/files/documents/executive-development/emotional- intelligence-white-paper.
- Naidu, N.G. (2014). Emotional intelligence in leadership. International Journal of Entrepreneurship & Business Environment Perspectives, 3(1), 727-730.
- Ovans, A. (2015). How emotional intelligence became a key leadership skill. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/04/how-emotional-intelligence- became-a-key-leadership-skill.
- Stone, C. (2009). Emotional intelligence: EQ vs. IQ. Value Analysis & Standardization, June, 1-4.