Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Development

Article excerpt

In an article on developing leadership capability, Conger states that the issue is not "whether leaders are born or made. They are born and made." (1) Many organizations are consciously focused on developing their leadership potential and programs aimed at leadership development continue to gain popularity among researchers and practitioners. Bersin suggests that while management represents a relatively small percentage of the workforce, about 21 percent of the training budget in corporate America is spent on leadership development and supervisory/management training. (2)

The concept of emotional intelligence has generated increasing interest during the past decade among those involved in leadership development and training. Proponents of emotional intelligence argue that it may be more important than intellectual intelligence (IQ) in determining leadership success. Critics of emotional intelligence argue that much of the interest in and extravagant claims about EI have been fueled by research published in books (e.g., Goleman's Emotional Intelligence published in 1995) as opposed to peer-reviewed journals and therefore, have not withstood adequate scrutiny) Despite the considerable debate and criticism surrounding the topic, at the conclusion of a book critiquing emotional intelligence, Murphy suggests that there "are some reasons for optimism about the future of emotional intelligence, but there is still a long way to go before this concept will come close to living up to the hype." (4)

This paper suggests that leadership development programs may be enhanced through a better understanding of the concept of emotional intelligence and the inclusion of practices that aim to develop participants' emotional intelligence. The purpose of this paper is to review the current literature on the concept of emotional intelligence and to make some recommendations about how to proceed in terms of incorporating emotional intelligence into leadership development programs. The paper is divided into four sections: first, I define and present the two most cited models of emotional intelligence. Second, I review research on the relationship between leadership and emotional intelligence. Third, I provide a synopsis of the arguments for and against emotional intelligence. Fourth, I look at how the components of emotional intelligence integrate with contemporary leadership development practices and suggest some methods for developing emotional intelligence competencies among managers and leaders.

Defining Emotional Intelligence (El)

Mayer, Salovey and Caruso define emotional intelligence (EI) as "the capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions to enhance thinking. It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth." (5) Their model, considered an ability model, has been more widely accepted by the academic community and contains four levels of emotional abilities. The most basic level is the ability to perceive emotion and includes skills such as recognizing facial expressions in others and interpreting what those expressions mean. The second level is the ability to use emotion to facilitate thought and includes skills such as weighing conflicting emotions against each other to determine how one should react. The third level, understanding emotion, involves labeling emotions and understanding the relationships associated with shifts in emotion. The fourth level is the ability to manage emotion, to effectively manage feelings within oneself and others, for example, calming down after being angry, or being able to alleviate the anxiety of another person. (6) This model is measured through the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). (7) Many leadership development programs require participants to complete self-report and 360-degree assessments prior to attending the program. …