High Intelligence

How Emotional Intelligence Affects Leadership

James Kouzes is the Dean's Executive Professor of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University and Barry Posner, PH.D. is the Dean of the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. They are the co-authors of the Leadership Challenge, a seminal book on Leadership.

For over 20 years they have surveyed workers, around the globe, asking what they admired most about their leaders. From their surveys they identified four qualities a leader must demonstrate to attract followers:

  • Honesty
  • Forward-looking
  • Inspiring
  • Competent

It is my belief that each of these four attributes are, at least partially driven by Emotional Intelligence (EI). Emotional Intelligence is a driver of behavior, good or bad and each of these four attributes are behaviors of admired leaders. Many times leadership behavior can be enhanced by good emotions or destroyed by bad emotions. A really good question might be; How does Emotional Intelligence impact these four most admired traits of leaders?

To answer that question, I use of the Multiple Health System's model of Emotional Intelligence, the EQi 2.0, having five major categories (Self-Perception, Self-Expression, Interpersonal, Decision Making, and Stress Management) and 15 sub-categories. Their Emotional Intelligence model was built on Ruevon Bar-On's original studies during the early years of EI and is one of the most widely used, highly validated Emotional Intelligence, self-assessments available today. How, then, does Emotional Intelligence enhance these four leadership skills:


I believe it is very difficult to be honest without high levels of Empathy and Social Responsibility. Empathy, the ability to recognize, understand how other feel is crucial to building trust and trust is the foundation of effective leadership. Empathy plays here because, it is difficult to be dishonest if one has a real sense of what one feels when you have been deceived. To understand how others feel when they have been deceived is a motivator to honesty and requires empathy.

Social Responsibility, is one's moral compass that directs our behavior toward promoting the greater good and contributing to society and other social groups. If one feels a high level of Social Responsibility, they are more likely to be honest with others than those sensing a lower or no social responsibility.

Forward Looking?

Being a Visionary requires higher levels of Reality Testing and Optimism that likely have the greatest impact on one's ability to look forward or be a visionary. To want to see what the future holds, one needs Optimism. Few pessimists want to look forward and even if they do, what they see is not motivating to others. A sense of Optimism and an exciting future draws followers like a magnate.

But a leader needs to be realistic about what they see and communicate reality to others. Reality Testing or the ability to see things as they really are and accurately sizing up the environment, resources, and future trends to build realistic plans and goals.


Being Inspirational requires higher levels of Emotional Expression and Assertiveness. Emotionally Expressive individuals can readily express emotions and convey their feelings in a way that is constructive for others. They have a unique ability to use facial expressions and body language to express emotions and are especially adept at finding ways to express emotions both positive and negative, in ways that are well received. Assertiveness is often perceived as a negative trait but, frankly it is essential to effective leadership and a big part of being inspirational. Assertiveness allows one to draw a line between passive and aggressive words and deeds. It allows one to effectively communicate goals, dreams and a future in a manner that is clear and concise.


Competency is often thought of as more cognitive or thinking than emotional, but emotional intelligence plays a big part in being practically capable, in the eyes of others. Those who are thought of as being highly competent are often found to have higher than normal scores in Self-Actualization and Emotionally Self-Aware. Self-Actualization allows one to be aware of things that are really important in a manner that eludes to a plan. A higher score in this area indicates that you will not likely be satisfied with the status quo.

To be Emotionally Self-Aware is really the beginning of understanding others. Competency in one's role demands awareness of your own emotions, as well as others. You must be Self-Aware before you can be aware of others.

To determine leadership potential and/or build on strengths and manage weakness of existing and potential leaders, I have found the measurement of Emotional Intelligence levels to be an excellent indicator of potential and a great coaching tool. In building and coaching leaders we have found that high levels of overall Emotional Intelligence and higher scores in the EQi 2.0 subscales: Empathy, Social Responsibility, Optimism, Reality Testing, Emotional Expression, Assertiveness, Self-Actualization and Emotional Self-Awareness are excellent indicators of leadership potential and provide great opportunities to coach leaders to even more productive level.

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