Emotional Intelligence and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analysis

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study is to evaluate claims that emotional intelligence is significantly related to transformational and other leadership behaviors. Results (based on 62 independent samples) indicated a validity estimate of .59 when ratings of both emotional intelligence and leadership behaviors were provided by the same source (self, subordinates, peers, or superiors). However, when ratings of the constructs were derived from different sources, the validity estimate was .12. Lower validity estimates were found for transactional and laissez-faire leadership behaviors. Separate analyses were performed for each measure of emotional intelligence. Trait measures of emotional intelligence tended to show higher validities than ability-based measures of emotional intelligence. Agreement across ratings sources for the same construct was low for both transformational leadership (.14) and emotional intelligence (.16).


transformational, leadership, emotional intelligence


Research into the relationship between emotional intelligence (EI) and transformational leadership is filled with bold claims as to the relationship between these constructs. Noted experts in the field of EI argue that elements of EI such as empathy, self-confidence, and self-awareness are the core underpinnings of visionary or transformational leadership (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002). An information package distributed by Multi-Health Systems, the leading distributor of EI assessment tools, claims that "emotional intelligence is synonymous with good leadership." Some have claimed that "for those in leadership positions, emotional intelligence skills account for close to 90 percent of what distinguishes outstanding leaders from those judged as average" (Kemper, 1999, p. 16). Others have noted the disappointing results of intelligence and personality models in the prediction of exceptional leadership and have argued that EI may represent an elusive "X" factor for predicting transformational leadership (Brown & Moshavi, 2005).

Since Goleman (1995) popularized the concept of EI, there has been no shortage of studies investigating the relationship between EI and positive outcomes. Two recent meta-analyses have found positive associations for El with school and work performance outcomes (Van Rooy & Viswesvaran, 2004) as well as mental and physical health (Schutte, Malouff, Thorsteinsson, Bhullar, & Rooke, 2007). Research into the relationship between EI and leadership outcomes has seen similar, if not more, levels of interest in recent years. The relationship with transformational leadership has received particular attention in these studies, which can be attributed to both its popularity in the leadership literature and specific elements of transformational leadership theory that seem relevant to EI. Yet, there has been widespread skepticism of the link between El and leadership outcomes (Antonakis, Ashkanasy, & Dasborough, 2009; Landy, 2005; Locke, 2005) and many studies have failed to find significant relationships between EI and transformational leadership in particular (e.g., Brown, Bryant, & Reilly, 2006; Moss, Ritossa, & Ngu, 2006; Sosik & Megarian, 1999; Weinberger, 2004). A review of the relationship between EI and leadership outcomes described the ongoing debate between the proponents and critics of El as one that "thrives on hyperbolic claims on one hand, and empirical evidence to the contrary on the other" (Lindebaum, 2009, p. 227). Furthermore, in a recently published debate (Antonakis et al., 2009) between major figures in each camp, Ashkanasy and Dasborough argued that a meta-analysis was needed to establish whether or not the claims of the EI proponents had merit. To address the issues raised in prior research and the current debate, this study will use a meta-analytic approach to establish whether or not EI is related to transformational and transactional leadership behaviors and under what circumstances. …