Emotional Intelligence is a key element for successful transformational leadership—the leadership style to use when you aim to lead the way to new business goals.
Today’s marketplace is not asking for just leadership. It is demanding change leadership—even more, transformational change leadership—a new breed of leader for a new breed of change.
There is no universally accepted definition of leadership. But one scholar who has researched hundreds of definitions, Joseph Rost, offers the following:
Leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes.
This is the definition I’ll adopt for the purpose of exploring leadership and emotional intelligence.
Referring to the Can-Do Wisdom Framework shown below, the desired changes will ultimately be instituted in the We Do quadrant. For this to happen, followers in the We Can quadrant will need to be convinced in their minds to take initiatives to implement the changes. The function of a leader is to influence followers by his or her authentic way of living and leading behaviours in the I Do quadrant. This all starts in the I Can quadrant when the would-be leader becomes aware—that is, learns—of a mismatch between the current state and a more desirable state.
For more information on this framework, see An Introduction to the Can-Do Wisdom Framework.
Transactional and transformational leadership
There are many leadership styles that have been used throughout history. However the nature of leadership has changed as the world has become more complex and fast-paced. Contemporary scholars now classify leadership into two basic categories, transactional leadership and transformational leadership.
The transactional leader rewards or disciplines followers on the basis of their performance. A good transactional leader is one who solves problems as they arise and to keeps things working as they are supposed to be. This appeals to the many followers who like to see things continue as they are. Transactional leadership has traditionally been found to operate in large multi-national businesses, government departments, the military and emergency services where consistency of operations is desirable.
In contrast, the transformational leader aims to bring about change and does this by inspiring followers, as Bass and Riggio explain, “to commit to a shared vision and goals for an organization or unit, challenging them to be innovative problem solvers, and developing followers’ leadership capacity via coaching, mentoring, and provision of both challenge and support.”
Leadership researcher Bernard Bass suggests the best leaders are adaptable to situations and can be both transactional and transformational leaders as the need arises.
Daniel Goleman discovers Emotional Intelligence
Daniel Jay Goleman was born in Stockton, California on 7 March 1946. Both his parents were college professors. He followed their footsteps by studying anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley and graduating from Amherst College in Massachusetts. He then continued studies in clinical psychology at Harvard University where he was awarded a Ph.D. In the 1970s he was an associate professor at Harvard with a gift for explaining complex concepts to undergraduate students:
I returned to Harvard as a visiting lecturer, teaching a course on the psychology of consciousness—a topic of intense interest back then in the 1970s. Because it was so heavily enrolled, the class was moved from a small room to one of the largest lecture halls on campus.
It was in 1975 that he was offered a job as a science writer for the Psychology Today publication. Goleman explains:
I had always thought I would be a college professor like my parents. But writing appealed to me, and at the magazine I went through a tutorial in journalism that was to set the course of the rest of my career.
In 1984 Goleman joined the staff of the New York Times where he would remain for the next 12 years. It was his job to write informative articles about what was happening in psychology and related fields. In 1990 he came across a paper by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey with the title “Emotional Intelligence”, which they defined as “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 actions.”
In other words, emotional intelligence is the state of being intelligent about emotions—one’s own and others. It is a set of mental abilities based on awareness, experience and understanding and not in itself an emotional state.
The paper also presented an interesting challenge. Mayer and Salovey maintained that bringing together, within a framework, the existing scattered research on emotions would be of great benefit to the field of psychology. Goleman rose to the challenge:
I found that my urge to write about ideas with impact sent me in directions that did not always fit what the Times saw as news. This was especially so with the rich trove of research on emotions and the brain, which I had covered in small bits and pieces over the years for the Times. I felt the topic deserved to be a book, and so Emotional Intelligence came to be. 
Published in 1995, Emotional Intelligence quickly became an immediate New York Times bestseller. To date over 5 million copies have been printed in 40 languages. It has been named by Time Magazine as one of the 25 “Most Influential Business Management Books.”
Goleman’s contribution was to make the wide-ranging studies on brain research and emotions accessible and entertaining for the general public. This was not an easy feat.
Goleman expanded on Salovey’s original definition to become the five components of emotional intelligence:
- Self-Awareness: the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others.
- Self-Regulation: the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods and the propensity to suspend judgment–to think before acting.
- Motivation: a passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status and a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.
- Empathy: the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people and skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions.
- Social Skill: proficiency in managing relationships and building networks and an ability to find common ground and build rapport.
His point was that we have over-emphasised the importance of the purely rational—what IQ measures—when it comes to human life. We can’t ignore emotions.
The success of the book and the speaking engagements that followed resulted in Goleman leaving the Times and dedicating himself to further developing and applying the El concepts to leadership theory.
Mapping Emotional Intelligence on to the Can-Do Wisdom Framework
In his 2002 book, Primal Leadership, Goleman simplified the five components of emotional intelligence down to four domains for a leader to be aware of and to manage: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.. These four domains are shown in Fig. 2.
Daniel Goleman’s Leadership Styles
In his landmark publication in the Harvard Business Review in 2000, Daniel Goleman broke down leadership into six styles of leadership: coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting and coaching.
In terms of transformational change, the authoritative leadership style is most important. This is the style that mobilises people towards a vision.
That style is useful for getting the need for change accepted but the true buy-in for change and for the change to be permanent may require three additional leadership styles to be used:
- Democratic which uses participation of staff to form consensus,
- Affiliative which builds emotional bonds and creates harmony, and
- Coaching style to develop people for the future, including leadership roles.
Goleman contends that all these leadership styles require emotional intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence and Wisdom
There are two ways of looking at wisdom – from the point of view of an individual and a collective:
- Individual wisdom can be described as the process of learning, living and leading change for the common good.
- Collective wisdom can be described as the process of nurturing, creating and instituting change for the common good.
According to Robert Sternberg’s Balance Theory of Wisdom, people are wise when their interests are balanced with those of others in achieving the common good. He maintains emotional intelligence skills are an important part of wisdom but only when there is a common good as the outcome.
Emotional Intelligence – A new industry
Since the publication of Goldman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, just over two decades ago, a whole industry has been created. Goleman has been the author or co-author of 11 books and numerous papers since then. Other researchers, consultants, training companies, authors have flooded the market with products and services to help individuals and organisations develop emotional intelligence skills. In some cases the benefits of IE are overstated but from the many studies that have been conducted there is no doubting IE skills contribute to leaders and business success.
- Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson, Beyond Change Management: Advanced Strategies for Today’s Transformational Leaders (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 2001), 3.
- Joseph Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993).
- James M. Burns, Leadership (New York: Open Road Media, 2012).
- Bernard M. Bass and Ronald E. Riggio, Transformational Leadership, 2nd ed. (Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006), 4.
- Bass and Riggio, Transformational Leadership, 135.
- “About Daniel Goleman,” Daniel Goleman, accessed July 21, 2017. http://www.danielgoleman.info/biography/
- Daniel Goleman, “About Daniel Goleman.”
- Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, “Emotional Intelligence,” Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, no.3 (1990): 185-211.
- Daniel Goleman, “About Daniel Goleman.”
- Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996).
- Daniel Goleman, “What Makes a Leader?,” Harvard Business Review, 76, no.6 (1998): 93-102.
- Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, Primal Leadership: unleashing the power of emotional intelligence (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2002), 39.
- Daniel Goleman, “Leadership That Gets Results,” Harvard Business Review, 78, no.2 (2000): 78-90.
- Goleman, “Leadership That Gets Results,” 82-83.
- Robert J. Sternberg, “A Balance Theory of Wisdom,” Review of General Psychology, 2, (1998): 347-365.