Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Emotional Intelligence: The Link to Success and Failure of Leadership

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Emotional Intelligence: The Link to Success and Failure of Leadership

Article excerpt


"Everyone knows that high IQ is no guarantee of success, happiness, or virtue, but until Emotional Intelligence, we could only guess why"

--Daniel Goleman

Emotional intelligence (EI) was introduced in the 1990s and has been gaining a lot of attention in the Psychological, Human Resource, Management and Consultancy fields. The rise in popularity has been attributed to the role of emotional intelligence in success and failure of leadership rather than experience, knowledge and competency (Williams, 2013). If so, then what is Emotional intelligence? Research refers to EI as the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, as well as the ability to effectively manage our feelings as we interact with others. At base, there are variations in definitions and components; emotional intelligence is usually assessed on four dimensions: Self-awareness, Self-management, Social awareness and Relationship management.

EI is confirmed as a key component for effective leadership and leaders with high EI competencies are able to identify, assess, predict as well as take control of their own emotions as well as that of their team members (Goleman 1995, Mayer & Salovey, 1997, Davies, Stankov, & Roberts, 1998). What happens then to leaders who are clueless on these ideologies? Do these leaders last long in their leadership positions?

Therefore, this article focuses on clarifying the concept of Emotional Intelligence and synthesizing the research to provide a review on the exchange of ideas pertaining to the link between EI and leadership success or failure, within the scope and context of organizations.


Emotional intelligence encompasses abilities such as being able to motivate one self and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one's moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope (Goleman, 1995, p. xii). Prior to the introduction of EI, the traditional concept of "intelligence quotient" (IQ) as the reason behind our cognitive ability prevailed. Increasingly, however, scholars assert that emotions do facilitate rational thinking and decision making. For example, Haidt (2001) questioned rationalist models and proposed that emotions and intuition drive judgment and reasoning. In addition, Hanoch (2002) agreed that emotion and reason are interconnected. The author suggested that emotions work together with rational thinking and thereby function as an additional source of bounded rationality.

EI has also been defined as "the capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions to enhance thinking. This 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" (Mayer, Salovey & Caruso, 2004, p.197). Therefore, EI is arguably a type of intellect that requires insight and cleverness.

Even though attention has been garnered towards EI as an alternative or even replacement of IQ, EI is not without criticism. The major criticisms leveled against EI are that the definition of EI is too broad and of little use (Locke, 2005, Hedlund & Sternberg, 2000). In addition, assessment of the concept is psychometrically weak (Davies, Stankov & Roberts, 1998). Locke (2005) was most forceful in calling EI a misinterpretation of what is constructed as intelligence. In effect, Locke (2005) asserted that EI is not another form of intelligence but rather the ability to grasp abstractions, only that in this case it is specific to emotions.

Furthermore, Locke called for relabeling of the concept because he wanted EI to be classified as a skill. The critics argue that EI has not undergone intense scrutiny in peer reviewed journals (Murphy, 2006). …

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