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Emotional Intelligence; A Stepping Stone to Effective Leadership

Keywords: leadership, emotional intelligence, emotional literacy, emotional depth, emotional fitness, emotional alchemy, leadership effectiveness, competence, performance


"Today companies worldwide routinely look through the lens of EI in hiring, promoting, and developing their employees."

Daniel Goleman, 2005, p. xii

Intelligence isn’t solely the measurement of one’s IQ, in the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner (Gardner & Hatch, 1989) proposed nine types of intelligence, interpersonal and intrapersonal being the facets by which he measured it. Emotional Intelligence has important implications on one’s life. It is found that people high on emotional intelligence earn, on average, $29,000 more than those individuals who score low on emotional intelligence (Bradberry, 2014).

In academia, the model on EI developed by Mayer, Salovey and Caruso has been widely accepted.

They define emotional intelligence 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.”

This model is considered an ability model, it contains four levels of emotional abilities.

The four levels include:

  1. The skill of recognizing people’s facial emotions.

  2. The ability to use emotions to facilitate thought and skills.

  3. Understanding emotion involves labelling emotions and understanding the relationships associated with shifts in emotion.

  4. The ability to manage emotions, to effectively manage feelings within oneself and others.

The Four Cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence

Four Cornerstone Model Of Emotional Intelligence, first envisioned by Ayman Sawaf and Robert Cooper in 1997.

In this Cooper identified several high profile business leaders, and who demonstrated these aspects of emotional intelligence.

1. Emotional Literacy:

involves developing a clear and useful vocabulary for emotional literacy and recognizing, respecting, and valuing the inherent wisdom of feelings. Emotional honesty, emotional energy, emotional feedback, and practical intuition contribute to emotional literacy.

2. Emotional Fitness:

Trust is one of the key characteristics of the second cornerstone of emotional intelligence, emotional fitness. It includes authenticity, resilience, renewal, and constructive discontent - which is the ability to stay open and focused while facing disagreements and criticisms.

These qualities illuminate our personal values and character, and the feelings that enliven and drive them. Through them, each of us forges his or her authentic place in the greater scope of life and work. Few things matter more to a successful professional or leader.

3. Emotional depth:

Deals with, bringing your core character out, understanding and advancing on your unique potential, applying integrity and increasing your influence.

4. Emotional Alchemy:

Involves blending and tuning emotions to find opportunities and realization of such opportunities by creativity, cognitive thinking and rhetoric.

A leader actively putting EI related capacities to action is Colin Marshall, the CEO of British Airways. He has effectively made emotional honesty (which can be seen as an aspect of emotional fitness) a trademark of his operations. He meets 25 groups of managers up to twenty times a year and they converse openly about different aspects of the business. He in fact promotes individuals who have challenged the system in place. (Cooper, 1997)

Why does Emotional Intelligence matter if you want to be a leader?

Research on leadership and emotional intelligence -

  • Emotional intelligence is a predictor of leadership potential (Higgs & Aitken, 2003).

  • Emotional intelligence is a strong predictor of leadership effectiveness (Kerr et al., 2006)

  • An individual with a high intelligence quotient, managerial competencies and emotional intelligence combined are more likely to perform better in their job than people with low dimensions. (Dulewicz et al., 2005)

  • There is a strong relationship between superior high performing leaders and emotional competence (Cavallo & Brienza, 2002)

  • Leaders with high emotional intelligence can not only improve team performance but also boost employee management. (What's the relationship between emotional intelligence and leadership? 2021)

  • A study found that 63% of employees wasted time avoiding their leader who had low emotional intelligence. (How to improve your emotional intelligence to become a better leader, 2021)

We see the importance of having good emotional intelligence and how it could potentially help build various aspects of yourself. But today more so than ever, we see the importance of leaders with emotional intelligence, due to the pandemic, things changed suddenly. Having a leader with the ability to understand their employees’ emotions and thoughts was crucial.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence would have been able to successfully keep up employee motivation and morale, and create a positive and productive workplace. (Scott Steinberg, 2019)

How can you develop your emotional intelligence to become a better leader?

According to Cooper (1997), You can aim to develop your mindfulness skills, take into account your emotions and learn to regulate your emotions successfully.

  • Mindfulness can help you become self-aware, which in turn will help you make informed responses. (How to improve your emotional intelligence to become a better leader, 2021)

  • Learn how to take responsibility for your actions and instead of avoiding or ignoring when certain problems come up. Learn to put yourself in others positions and see things from others points of view. EI is “essential to effective team interaction and productivity” team. The leader serves as a motivator toward collective action and facilitates supportive relationships among team members. The emotionally intelligent team leader also provides a transformational influence over the team.”( Prati, Douglas, Ferris, Ammeter and Buckley)

What are some ways your organization can aim to increase leadership skills in their employees? (Feel free to add your thoughts and views in the comment section)


About the Author:

Hey there, I'm Tanvi!

A third-year Psychology student from Fergusson College, Pune, I've had a keen interest in all things psychology right from my school days. I aim to further take up Organisational or Clinical Psychology in the future. In my free time, you'd find me reading, baking, or walking my dog!



Bradberry, T. (2014, January 9). Emotional intelligence - EQ. Forbes. Retrieved from

Cooper, Robert K. "Applying emotional intelligence in the workplace." Training & development 51.12 (1997): 31-39.

Cavallo, K., & Brienza, D. (2002). Emotional competence and leadership excellence at Johnson & Johnson: The emotional intelligence and leadership study. Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, 1-12.

Dulewicz, C., Young, M., & Dulewicz, V. (2005). The relevance of Emotional Intelligence for Leadership Performance. Journal of General Management, 30(3), 71–86.

Higgs, M., & Aitken, P. (2003). An exploration of the relationship between emotional intelligence and leadership potential. Journal of Managerial psychology.

Lonczak, H. S. (2021, October 1). 7 emotional intelligence quotes and do they ring true? Retrieved October 21, 2021, from

Kerr, R., Garvin, J., Heaton, N. and Boyle, E. (2006), "Emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 265-279.

Korn Ferry. (2021, July 29). What's the relationship between emotional intelligence and leadership? Korn Ferry. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from

Sadri, G. (2012). Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Development. Public Personnel Management, 41(3), 535–548.

Trotta, J. (2021, February 9). Emotional intelligence - what do the numbers mean? LinkedIn. Retrieved from

Why constructive discontent is the ultimate competitive advantage. Get Lighthouse. (2018, April 9). Retrieved October 21, 2021, from

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