Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Behaviour - Ideas for Leaders
Idea #023

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Behaviour

This is one of our free-to-access content pieces. To gain access to all Ideas for Leaders content please Log In Here or if you are not already a Subscriber then Subscribe Here.
Main Image
Main Image


Emotional intelligence is our ability to control our emotions, understand the emotions of others and use this information to guide thinking and action – and it can have a huge impact on leadership effectiveness. In relation to the collaborative aspects of leadership in particular, emotional intelligence has been found to have a significant effect.


Emotional intelligence (EI) has been conceptualized as a key predictor for success at work and job performance in a number of studies. Salovey and Mayer’s definition describes EI as an individual’s capacity to appropriately regulate his/her emotions, which involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.

Here we examine the effects of EI on leadership effectiveness, dividing the latter into two categories:

  1. Getting along behaviours: feeling liked and supported, and the critical ability to work well in teams. This also involves empowering others.
  2. Getting ahead behaviours: gaining power and control of resources, related to the directive and inspirational side of leadership.

This is the first research to examine how, specifically, EI translates into the two broad categories of ‘work behaviours’ above.

The research cited collected data from 929 managers enrolled in executive education programs at an elite European business school, and examined the mediating effects of collaborative behaviours at work between EI and inspirational leadership behaviours.

The findings were that EI influences getting along behaviours in particular, which subsequently impact other behaviours at work related to the inspirational side of leadership. Furthermore, getting along behaviours fully mediated the relationship between EI and getting ahead leadership behaviours.


These findings have big practical implications for the design of leadership development interventions in particular, which have been shown to primarily raise self-awareness among the participants. Once back in the office their co-workers’ perception of their leaders’ inspirational leadership skills will not change if the leaders do not demonstrate this capacity in the service of effective team building.

On the importance of collaboration it is useful to highlight that awareness and regulation of emotions need to crystallize in group processes in order to be effective. Emotional awareness needs to reverberate in teamwork if it is to impact others’ perceptions of inspirational leadership behaviours.

Therefore, it is essential to spend time with others and work cooperatively to impact followers’ perceptions of the inspirational side of leadership.



Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Effectiveness: The Mediating Influence of Collaborative Behaviours. Laura Guillén & Elizabeth Florent-Treacy. INSEAD Working Paper No. 2011/23/IGLC (2011).

Ideas for Leaders is a free-to-access site. If you enjoy our content and find it valuable, please consider subscribing to our Developing Leaders Quarterly publication, this presents academic, business and consultant perspectives on leadership issues in a beautifully produced, small volume delivered to your desk four times a year.



Idea conceived

December 1, 2011

Idea posted

Feb 2013
challenge block
Can't find the Idea you are after?
Then 'Challenge Us' to source it.


For the less than the price of a coffee a week you can read over 650 summaries of research that cost universities over $1 billion to produce.

Use our Ideas to:

  • Catalyse conversations with mentors, mentees, peers and colleagues.
  • Keep program participants engaged with leadership thinking when they return to their workplace.
  • Create a common language amongst your colleagues on leadership and management practice
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest thought-leadership from the world’s leading business schools.
  • Drill-down on the original research or even contact the researchers directly

Speak to us on how else you can leverage this content to benefit your organization.