The Case for Emotional Intelligence

The Case for Emotional Intelligence

Leadership helps organizations move in the right direction.A few years ago I worked on a series of articles regarding leadership. Although many things have been written on this subject, there is rarely a shortage of perspectives from which one can consider this seminal aspect of the concept of organizational leadership. So often there is a desire to lead, however, I would submit that desire is but a starting point on the path of the leadership journey. To effectively lead an organization, one must look first into himself or herself. The image that peers back may surprise you.

Hidden, in plain view, is one of the essential first steps to successful leadership development.  Consideration of the influence of emotional intelligence (EI) on the overall effectiveness leadership development undertakings should be a foundational component of an effective transformational leadership plan.  Originally developed in the 1980s, emotional intelligence theory is an extension of earlier behavioral theories that implicitly implied that traditional notions of intelligence were too narrow in scope (Sternberg, 1985).  The phrase “emotional intelligence” is widely acknowledged as having been introduced by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in 1990 in the article “Emotional Intelligence” in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality.  For the emerging transformational leader, maturing ones emotional intelligence is relevant and timely as “emotional leadership is the spark that ignites a company’s performance, creating a bonfire of success or a landscape of ashes” (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee, 2002).

Associated Concepts of Emotional Intelligence

James Dozier (1981) describes emotional intelligence as “The ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in the self and others” (Mayer, Salovey & Caruso as cited by Cherniss and Goleman, 2001). Mayer and Salovey more specifically outlined the competencies emotional intelligence encompasses in 1997. They organized these competencies into four dimensions: (1) the ability to perceive, appraise, and express emotion accurately; (2) the ability to access and generate feelings when they facilitate cognition; (3) the ability to understand affect-laden information and make use of emotional knowledge; and (4) the ability to regulate emotions to promote growth and well-being (Sternberg, 2008).  Emotional intelligence influences organizational effectiveness in several functional areas including:

  1. Innovation
  2. Employee commitment, morale and health
  3. Efficiency
  4. Productivity
  5. Quality of service
  6. Outcome of client engagements

(Cherniss & Goleman, 2001)

Because the impact of emotional intelligence is far reaching, development of EI competencies at every level of the organization is essential to the sustained growth and development of the firm.  Before the benefits of EI can be realized, one must begin with a personal assessment of strengths and weaknesses.  To assess ones personal performance strengths and vulnerabilities Goleman has developed a Personal Competence Framework for evaluation.  An introspective tool, the Personal Competence Framework allows one to consider each of the five domains of emotional intelligence individually.

Five Domains of Emotional Intelligence

  1. Knowing one’s emotions
  2. Managing emotions
  3. Motivating oneself
  4. Recognizing emotions in others
  5. Handling relationships

(Goleman, 1995)

At the end of the day, what does all of this mean? Effective leaders are those who not only have a plan for the economic growth of the organization but also strive to promote the continued improvement of each member of the organization, beginning with him or her. The conscious development of emotional intelligence should be a cornerstone in the foundation of an organizational culture that encourages innovation.  Through innovation, an organization can develop and sustain competitive advantage in addition to cultivating and expanding industry expertise.


Cherniss, C. and Goleman, D. (2001). The emotionally intelligent workplace. New York: Jossey-Bass.

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York: Bantam Books.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. and McKee, A. (2002). Primal leadership: Learning to lead with emotional intelligence. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Handy, C. (1995). Gods of management: The changing work of organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mission Possible Website. (2008). Ten steps to improve emotional intelligence, Retrieve from

Salovey, P. and Mayer, J. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality 9, p. 185-211. Retrieved from the Questia database.

Sternberg, R. (1985). Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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