Application of Emotional Intelligence to Enhance Leadership


This paper examines the application of emotional intelligence (EI) in organizational leadership. The concept of EI entails managing emotions – personal and other people’s feelings – to achieve success in the workplace. EI is an important complement to the intelligence quotient that fosters collaboration, teamwork, and performance. Self-awareness, self-regulation, and intrinsic motivation are the key components of EI. The analysis reveals that EI impacts organizations and teams positively. It drives effective relationships and interactions in the office and enables employees to cope with workplace stress associated with disruptive change. EI also improves the psychological and physical wellbeing of staff, as it helps build resilience. Emotionally intelligent leaders exhibit self-awareness, emotional regulation, and self-motivation that are needed to effectively manage teams. EI is related to transformational and transactional leadership styles that are associated with higher organizational outcomes.


In today’s highly competitive environment, sustained performance growth is critical to organizational survival. To create a productive organization and increase value, leaders must inspire positive team behavior, attitudes, norms, interactions, and collaboration among employees. Followers should be influenced to behave or work towards a specific strategic direction and achieve better outcomes. Effective teams are highly motivated and inspired by leaders with a capacity to monitor and manage employees’ emotional states.

An emotionally intelligent manager correctly assesses the mood of the team and responds accordingly. On the other hand, low emotional intelligence (EI) may cause one to be insensitive to the emotions of employees, contributing to staff dissatisfaction and productivity decline. Performance is likely to improve when followers perceive that a team leader values them and is responsive to their needs. EI entails regulating feelings and their expression to foster collaboration that will help achieve common goals. A leader who feels positive, self-confident, creative, empathetic, and adaptable is likely to influence the same feelings in employees. These emotions contribute to better team performance and organizational effectiveness. This paper analyzes emotional intelligence as an important determinant of leadership effectiveness in organizations.


Effective leadership is a critical success factor in projects or organizations, especially in today’s competitive business environment. A leader is considered to be a reference person in a team with a capacity to influence others (Shao and Guo 1662). He or she inspires followers to behave or work for specific organizational goals. An effective leader promotes not only the interests of the organization but also those of each team member. Covey uses the P/PC relationship to illustrate effectiveness, with P denoting a focus on getting specific results and PC indicating caring for those generating a desirable outcome (61). The individual must also exhibit positive attributes, such as high energy, confidence, interpersonal skills, reliability, and EI. The last trait is useful for building interdependence and effective handling of relationships between employees.

EI, when expressed in organizational behavior, creates an environment conducive to change. Goleman defines the EI concept as the ability to manage personal feelings and those of others, motivate oneself, and maintain successful relationships (22). Negative emotions, including anxiety or stress, are regulated through training to achieve the emotional mastery needed to succeed in leadership. A basic EI framework includes two aspects: individual competence and social skills. The first component entails how people manage themselves (self-regulation or intrinsic motivation), while the second aspect encompasses the regulation of interpersonal relationships (Covey 71). Thus, EI is an important skill that may influence leadership behavior and effectiveness, as leaders must influence positive emotions and activities to achieve the desired outcome.


Emotions influence personal decisions and success in many different ways. EI describes the capacity to be sensitive to one’s own and others’ emotions, distinguish between emotional states, and rely on affective information to act or decide (Goleman 24). Certain traits differentiate effective leaders from low-performing managers and EI is one of these characteristics. They exhibit high energy, aptitude, foresight, and persuasiveness that are related to EI. This analysis examines the significance of EI to organizations and why it could influence leadership effectiveness by considering transformational and transactional styles.

Significance of Emotional Intelligence

EI is essential to organizations, as it ensures better relationship management and cooperation. An emotionally intelligent person quickly identifies negative personal emotions and manages them before they can impact others. He or she can also influence positive emotional states, such as motivation, in team members, contributing to productivity gains (Shao and Guo 1678). For leaders, EI determines their capacity to cope with work demands associated with leadership roles. Thus, higher EI levels are essential in building the resilience needed to lead during turbulent times.

The performance of leaders is dependent on personal characteristics and the management style employed. EI is a learned skill that enhances the sensitivity to the emotional needs of followers. EI usually leads to higher leadership scores in teamwork, cooperation, and quality output (Moon 71). The superior performance in these dimensions is attributed to the leaders’ ability to infuse feelings into tasks and projects. Thus, such managers are adept at working in teams and managing emotions.

Intelligence quotient (IQ) is not the only characteristic of high performers in organizational contexts. Social and emotional intelligence is needed to manage emotions so that conflicts or any other situations in an organization are solved effectively (Covey 42). High IQ does not necessarily imply enhanced effectiveness in dealing with stress or emotional demands. Leadership success requires both IQ and EI to promote teamwork and employee engagement so that organizational goals can be achieved. In particular, the capacity to control one’s emotions and recognize and influence others’ emotional states enables a person to lead and inspire others in teams.

In an organizational context, EI contributes to better overall physical and psychological health. Task demands and other stressors make the workplace a stressful environment. Learning how to manage stress and anxiety is important in developing EI since such negative emotions result in poor emotional, psychological, and physical outcomes, including hypertension, immune suppression, and cardiovascular disease (Shao and Guo 1662). Effective stress management also reduces the risk of depressive disorders. Emotionally competent persons generally experience less stress than those lacking this skill (Goleman 95). EI also impacts relationships – the ability to identify and manage personal emotional states will enhance the expression of positive emotions and sensitivity to others’ feelings.

In the workplace, EI is needed for better interpersonal communication and relationships. Goleman notes that learning in the emotional brain is different from that skill acquisition in the cognitive part (89). Therefore, individuals with high IQ but low EI may not be effective leaders, as leadership requires appropriate responses to emotional responses. A manager may be very talented and possess the technical skills needed for the job but without EI, he or she will not motivate team members to achieve organizational goals. The difference between great and ordinary leaders can be attributed to EI scores. Shao and Guo found that supervisors lacking the capacity to manage emotions, such as anger, decrease staff performance and cause turnover intention (1667). Conversely, eliciting positive emotions in a team increases productivity and admiration for a leader. The same emotional states are expressed by the followers who regard the manager as their role model.

EI promotes personal and professional behaviors that contribute to increased performance and productivity. Teams with emotionally intelligent members are likely to outperform those with low average EI. In theory, EI is a softer part of an individual’s aggregate intelligence that is needed for personal and professional success (Covey 47). It is essential for effective leadership, which is measured by company revenue and profitability. Goleman attributes one-third of productivity to professional skills and two-thirds to EI (21). Thus, companies that desire to grow their profits and incomes must focus on improving the EI skills of the managers.

Poor performance is often linked to managerial issues, especially when the external business environment is favorable. Executives lacking EI may find it difficult working together or leading change in the firm. As a result, workplace relationships suffer, and staff morale and productivity decline due to poor decisions and ineffective communication (Moon 72). Empathy is needed to build better social relationships when working on a task or project. EI allows leaders and their teams to be aware of personal feelings, develop solutions without negative emotions, and influence positive emotional states in colleagues. By effectively managing emotions, leaders increase employees’ job satisfaction and self-confidence and minimize depressive symptoms that affect physical and mental health.

Transformational Leadership

Leaders use different management styles, which affect their capacity to lead successful organizations. In a transformational leadership approach, the leader involves team members in identifying and implementing the desired change (Lancefield and Rangen). The individual crafts a vision for the transformation and directs and inspires others to achieve this goal through adequate involvement. Transformational leaders arouse the need for change in their followers by demonstrating its value to them (Kim and Kim 378). They also motivate team members to focus on the larger change objectives as opposed to prioritizing individual interests. Such leaders are highly effective because they build the trust and inspiration needed to achieve desired goals.

Emotional intelligence matches the ideal components of the classic transformational leadership theory. Under this model, leaders influence others to act for organizational objectives (Jensen et al. 5). This style of leadership aims at changing the behavior and attitudes of team members to rise above individual interests and focus on organizational or project goals. It comprises four aspects: “idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation” (Kim and Kim 384). Transformational leaders inspire the belief that desired goals are attainable, contributing to organizational effectiveness and performance. Thus, transformational leaders have high EI that is crucial in motivating others to execute their roles effectively within a group setting.

Some transformational leadership qualities reflect high levels of emotional intelligence. Charisma, which is a key trait of effective leaders, indicates advanced emotional and interpersonal skills (Kim and Kim 380). Charismatic leaders are not only good orators but also skilled in promoting positive emotions. An important ability displayed by transformational managers is emotional expressiveness, which is the capacity to convey emotions with accuracy and spontaneity via nonverbal cues (Lancefield and Rangen). By being able to express and manage their feelings, such leaders influence followers to adopt a specific change or move in a certain strategic direction.

Another important quality of charismatic leaders is emotional sensitivity towards others. This skill is described as the capacity to detect and interpret people’s emotional cues (Jensen et al. 11). In this respect, an effective leader displays empathy and is attuned to each member’s emotional state. Charismatic leadership style also requires skills in managing emotions in social contexts. The ability to mask undesirable feelings is displayed as self-confidence even in uncertain situations.

The qualities of transformational leaders suggest a link between EI and a charismatic individual. Emotionally intelligent persons usually score highly in emotional and interpersonal aptitude. Leaders with high EI serve as role models to the team members and transfer important skills and positive emotions to their followers (Jensen et al. 6). They elicit admiration, respect, trust, and loyalty from their followers. As a result, charismatic leaders inspire and motivate teams to achieve organizational goals, making them effective in their leadership roles. Their emotional expressiveness is particularly useful in encouraging innovation, creativity, and new solutions to existing problems. Such leaders are less critical of mistakes or divergent ideas proposed by members.

EI is also aligned with individualized consideration, which is a key component of the transformational leadership style. Effective leaders attend to the emotional needs of individual team members. They are sensitive to personal differences in motivation and emotional states. Transformational leaders guide team members to navigate through stress or conflict in a way that builds tolerance (Kim and Kim 378). Thus, EI is related to this leadership style; supporting people to cope with work demands and build teamwork and cohesion requires emotional intelligence.

Effective leadership is related to high levels of EI in an organizational context. Transformational behavior is displayed by leaders with high EI, as they are empathetic and inspirational to followers (Kim and Kim 381). Important EI qualities, including empathy, self-awareness, intuition, and inspiration are critical for transforming organizations into high-performing entities. Thus, EI is an important component of leadership necessary for managing complex personal emotions and relationships that impact organizations.

Transactional Leadership

Effective leadership behaviors in organizational contexts range from active to passive ones. A distinguishing feature between transactional leaders and transformational is their emphasis on work performance and task-related goals (Kim and Kim 379). They reward or punish followers based on output or productivity. In the full range leadership model (appendix), two transactional dimensions are associated with organizational effectiveness: contingent rewards and management by exception (Moon 73). In the first case, employees are rewarded or sanctioned based on their performance. The leader interacts with his or her team in a way that promotes reciprocal exchanges. Through this interaction, the followers’ needs and mutual objectives are defined. Rewards or sanctions are awarded based on progress made in meeting the goals.

In management by exception, the focus is on corrective actions to restore normal operations. A transactional leader will intervene to correct or modify behavior so that the team does not deviate from its course (Moon 77). Thus, the goal is to restore the status quo and not necessarily to stimulate new ways of doing things. EI is related to the intrinsic motivation aspect of the transactional style of leadership (Kim and Kim 386). Self-motivation contributes to higher productivity, as an individual is motivated to start and complete a task while handling any challenges that may arise in the process.

In addition, individual self-awareness and intrinsic motivation are directed towards successfully finishing a task. The high task orientation leads to an increase in productivity and performance, as an employee attains the ‘flow’ or complete concentration on the assignment (Csikszentmihalyi 27). When using the contingent rewards approach, outcomes and rewards are specified during reciprocal exchanges. EI is needed to achieve appropriate interactions and binding agreements with followers. Each member’s progress must also be actively monitored to provide appropriate support. Thus, transactional leaders should be emotionally intelligent to apply constructive reward and recognition systems that enhance self-motivation in employees.


From the analysis above, aspects of the EI concept may be applied to effective leadership to improve personal and social skills of leaders. The concepts of self-awareness, intrinsic motivation, and emotional regulation apply to transactional leadership. These factors should be infused with management by exception to harness the collective enthusiasm in task-oriented projects. Important social skills derived from EI include empathy, team spirit, and effective communication. These competencies are recommended for transformational leaders planning to introduce a change or innovation into the organization. They will help engage and motivate positive employee behavior needed to realize key goals.

Self-awareness is a key component of EI that helps understand individual feelings and respond to others’ emotions. It is recommended that organizational and team leaders engage in mindfulness practice to acquire this skill. It entails adopting a nonjudgmental reflective view of a situation through meditation. Mindfulness will help leaders achieve a “flow” – a state of complete self-absorption in the present situation (Csikszentmihalyi 27). It allows one to recognize individual emotions and how they impact thoughts and decisions.

Self-management is recommended to acquire resilience and cope with stress related to managing teams. Leaders should learn to manage their feelings so that they can make sound strategic decisions. They should be able to receive diverse perspectives and input from employees without being impulsive or emotional. Self-management will allow leaders to lead initiatives and welcome new ideas during implementation. It promotes flexibility and adaptability to changing situations in the workplace environment.

Relationship management is another recommendation for building EI to achieve leadership effectiveness. From the analysis, emotionally intelligent leaders are proficient in recognizing and understanding each team member’s emotions. They acquire this skill by learning to work well in a team context. Therefore, higher EI can be attained in workplace contexts by participating in project tasks. Such environments help hone self-awareness, social skills, emotional self-regulation, and empathy.


The analysis has demonstrated the significance and relevance of EI in effective organizational leadership. EI encompasses a suite of soft skills that enable individuals to process emotional data correctly and effectively. An emotionally intelligent leader is adept at perceiving and managing emotions to foster teamwork and positive relationships. The transformational leadership style requires high EI, as followers must be motivated and inspired to act or behave in a way that will lead to better organizational outcomes. Charismatic leaders interact with team members effectively because they have developed EI skills, such as self-awareness and self-regulation. Transactional managers are task-oriented and require self-motivation, which also depends on EI. Therefore, EI is critical to effective leadership, as it helps leaders manage negative emotions, such as stress, and workplace relationships to increase productivity.

Works Cited

Covey, Stephen. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic. Free Press, 2004.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mahaly. Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row, 1990.

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books, Inc., 1995.

Jensen, Ulrich, et al. “Conceptualizing and Measuring Transformational and Transactional Leadership.” Administration & Society, vol. 51, no. 1, 2019, pp. 3-33.

Kim, Hyejin, and Taesung Kim. “Emotional Intelligence and Transformational Leadership: A Review of Empirical Studies.” Human Resource Development Review, vol. 16, no. 4, 2017, pp. 377-393.

Lancefield, David, Christian Rangen. “4 Actions Transformational Leaders Take.” Harvard Business Review, Web.

Moon, Jayet. “Effect of Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Styles on Risk Intelligent Decision Making and Risk Management.” Journal of Engineering Project and Production Management, vol. 11, no. 1, 2020, pp. 71-81.

Shao, Bo, and Yongxing Guo. “More than Just an Angry Face: A Critical Review and Theoretical Expansion of Research on Leader Anger Expression.” Human Relations, vol. 74, no. 10, 2020, pp. 1661-1687.


Full range model of leadership

Full range model of leadership

Components of EI (Goleman)

Components of EI (Goleman)

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