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Emotional Intelligence And Leadership

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To be able to properly define the leadership styles and their application, it is important to look at the theory of emotional intelligence (EI). Although there are differences in the various EI models proposed and the method used by researchers to determine it (Cherniss, 2010), the fundamental concept of emotional intelligence is based on three principles: first that emotions are important in people lives, second that people differ in how they perceive, understand and manage emotions, third that individuals are affected by their emotion in the way they can adapt in different contexts, such as the workplace (Cherniss, 2010).

Although earlier references to the importance and the effect of internal states, non-cognitive aspects or interpersonal intelligence, the term Emotional Intelligence was first introduced by Wayne Payne in 1985 in his doctoral dissertation. In the 1990s psychologists, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer developed Wayne’s concept of emotional intelligence (Dhani & Sharma, 2016).

Daniel Goleman with his book Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ (Goleman, 1995), is the one who popularised the concept making it widely known. Daniel Goleman’s theory (Goleman, 1998), although applicable to every day, was research to determine leader’s cognition of the skills associated with emotional intelligence, and some of its intrinsic characteristics (Goleman, 1998)

  • Self-awareness – knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and impact on others.
  • Self-confidence, Realistic self-assessment, Self-deprecating sense of humour, Thirst for constructive criticism
  • Self-regulations – controlling or redirecting disruptive impulses and moods.
  • Trustworthiness, Integrity, Comfort with ambiguity and change
  • Motivation – appreciating achievements for its own sake.

A passion for the work itself and for new challenges, Determined to improve, Optimism in the face of failure

  • Empathy – understanding other’s emotional makeup.
  • Expertise in attracting and retaining talent, Ability to develop others, Sensitivity to cross-cultural differences
  • Social skill – building rapport with others to move them in the desired direction.
  • Effectiveness in leading change, Persuasiveness, Extensive networking, Expertise in building and leading teams

We could also simplify by distinguishing the skills needed to succeed in life, as well as professionally, in two main areas, Recognition and Regulation of the self and the social.

Recognition refers to the awareness of the self and of others’ emotional strengths and weaknesses, understanding them and how to relate to them to achieve the highest performance, personally, as part of a team and as a leader. In the specific of leaders Goleman (1998) argued that senior executives did not, and possibly still don’t, give credit to EI as an important quality for leaders, seen more like a weakness. His findings showed that the opposite was indeed true, as organization teams appreciated and were more productive when their manager/leader was aware of people feelings and was empathetic with their staff.

The many types of research that have analysed, defined and quantified EI, support the theory that it can be learned or improved, providing better social and emotional skills, which can enable people to better perform in a range of fields (Kapetopoulos, 2019).

Goleman’s research, spanning over 188 large international organizations, on personnel’s characteristics that drove productivity and performance, he found that, compared to technical skills and cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, the ability to work effectively in a team context and be responsive to, as well as leading through changes, was the main determinant for the success of an organization. Concluding that successful managers/leaders EI skills were more important than their IQ, (Goleman, 1998).

Goleman (1998) in aligning the five components of emotional intelligence, and the possibility of learning or improving them, has created a platform that leaders in different areas and different levels can use to improve their ability in leading a team and increase productivity and team’s members work satisfaction. He argues, for instance, that people with strong self-awareness are honest with themselves and others, or that they understand personal values and goal, they know where and how they are leading to. Self-regulation is also an important component of EI, as it allows people to better evaluate, regulate and respond to theirs and other emotions. People with well-developed self-regulation of emotions acknowledge the team performance, and when poor, they tend to step back and find reasons for it, without blaming the team. They are aware that negative emotion in management will result in negative mood throughout the organization. One of the EI components that are very important in any team situation is Empathy. Goleman (1998) was already aware twenty years ago that empathy is a very important part of people’s awareness of others’ emotions and social or cultural context to better navigate in today’s globalization. He emphasized the increase in the importance of empathy in leaders as more and more there are the needs to work in team, globalization and the need to retain talents.

Leadership Styles

Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee (2004) further developed the EI theories defining the six styles of leadership in their book Primal Leadership. The proposed leadership styles have positive and negative aspects as people may, emotionally, respond differently in a different situation. Of these six styles four of them are meant to promote harmony and positivity, (Authoritative, Coaching, Affiliate and Democratic), while two styles may create tension if not used only in specific situations (Pacesetting and Coercive) The authors argue that no one style on its work all the time in all situations, rather a combination of the six should be used to depending on the people involved and the situations. (Goleman, et al., 2004).

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Styles of Leadership Carachteristics

  • The authoritative: “Come with me.” Focoused on achiving the end goals mobilizing the team but leaving to them a level of indelpendency.
  • The coaching: “Try this.” Supports personal and professional in the team, preparing them for the future.
  • The affiliative: “People come first.” Creates a sense of belonging, trying to emotionally bring the team together.
  • The democratic: “What do you think?” Values the opinion of the team and support harmony via active participation.
  • The pacesetting: “Do as I do, now.” Effective when results are needed within a time frame. Could burn the team out
  • The coercive: “Do what I tell you” Possibly the less effective style of leasership, imposes his/hers view, most of the time resulting in people leaving the team. (Kapetopoulos, 2019).

More recent developments on leadership theories and how certain characteristics are affected by neurobiological chemistry and the individual social interactions that cause them (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2008), are proposed now as the fundamentals of Social Intelligence. A leader’s social interactions are now considered fundamental in the development of a genuine sense of positivity, which will foster positive feelings in the people that collaborate with him or her (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2008).

Emotion Intelligence and Creativity

Taking as a case study the Melbourne’s marketing agency Roque located on Chapel Street, Prahran, I’ll try to contextualize the leadership styles and element of EI as applied by the director of the agency Sandra Catalano

Creativity and Empathy

Empathy is a key component of creativity. The better we know our clients, the better equipped we become in understanding what they want, not what they think they want.

Sandra Catalano

Roque is a marketing agency specialized in the creation of advertising, branding, design, PR & web. I interviewed Sandra, the agency owner, asking question-related to EI and leadership styles theory, of which she had no academic knowledge. She honestly shared information on her management/leadership style, making me wonder if there is, indeed, a natural predisposition to be a team player and a leader, with an acute sense of EI and leadership, as a natural characteristic, as she seemed so spontaneous in applying them, not only the relationship with her staff, but also with the client.

At Roque, Sandra Catalano, co-founder and now sole owner and Managing Director of Roque, says that the agency boasts the kind of brand activation experience the client would expect from a team that has worked on major brands both locally and internationally, yet her team is small enough to give the deserved attention to the client’s needs. Sandra approach is that every client is intrinsically unique and different from the next. Each client relationship that Sandra and her team build starts by breaking down the physical (Emotional) and linguistic (Cultural) barriers. For her it is important to adopt a positive body language, expressing respect, and learn to understand and speak the client’s business language. Sandra emphasizes the importance to build the client’s trust (Affiliative/Democratic). Show empathy, she says, for their needs and challenges, listen, question and discover but most importantly be consistent; in our conversations, in our solutions, in our presence, in values. Once we have built that level of ease in the relationship and truly connect with a client, she continues, they will consider you a partner in their business and want you to share the journey with them. Relationships are at the heart of everything Sandra does; at work, at home, at play (Coaching).

Sandra relationship with her team, as she puts it, rather than leadership or management, is not different from the philosophy with which she approaches a new client. Openness, sharing the business positives and negatives, coaching and mentoring her staff, sharing responsibilities and achievements, supporting staff personal improvement and new skills development (Coaching/Democratic). A positive and empathic approach to the work environment.

As well as being connected to the team’s EI, Sandra provides a firm, coherent and clear organizational path (Authoritative), where each member of the team, although working in relative independence, has specific expertise and responsibility. Sandra said that she is happy for the willing staff to take on the supervision of some creative projects, usually supervised by herself (Coaching).

Coming from a great working experience in Italy, working for a major marketing agency under the wings of an incredible mentor, Sandra understands that giving the opportunity of growth to the staff enthuse them to stay in the agency. Of course, she also realizes that people eventually may want to start their own business but sees it not a problem, but a positive inevitability, and happy to have been part of that person’s professional and personal journey.

Talking with Sandra, as she shared her professional experiences and her passions, it was clear how EI was well integrated into her life, professional experiences and relationships. I felt that a good level of common sense, humanity, and humility, was even more important in knowing the various theories on leadership. In a world of self-professed or labelled “leaders”, her genuine character supported a certain scepticism that I have for the industry of professional and personal development, its gurus and their workshops. Goleman’s (1995) theories have certainly contributed to the proliferation of such an industry.

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Emotional Intelligence And Leadership. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
“Emotional Intelligence And Leadership.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
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