The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Emotions, we all have them and there are powerful forces in our lives. In 1994 after extensive research with brain damage patients, Antonio Damasio published his breakthrough findings that rational decision making is impossible when devoid of emotion. He found that brains are hardwired to engage a predetermined emotional response for every reaction we experience, thoughts we have, and the decisions we make. In short, emotions are at the very epicenter of what distinctly makes us human. The good news is that we can have a major influence on how we respond to our emotions and in doing so, enhance our ability to work effectively with others, teams, and organizations.

Great leaders not only manage themselves well, there are also able to live the power of emotions to create significant commands and positively influence others. The nature of institutional leadership plays a critical role in shaping the performance and sustainable growth of learners. Many schools of thought have therefore argued that leaders are born and made while others argue that leaders are only born and not made.

However, looking at leadership in a holistic view, the findings of Payne and Huffman (2005), reviews that the concept of emotional intelligence comes into the force as the ability of one to be able to read and positively use the emotional attachments to influence, motivate and nurture people. The inherent character to attract people and command authority using feeling is what defines leadership through emotional intelligence. It is for these reasons that this paper seeks to examine how emotional intelligence significantly contributes to effective leadership.

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Given the dimensions of emotional intelligence, the focus will be made on the effects of emotional intelligence traits (self-awareness, self-management, motivation, social awareness and social skills) that significantly contribute to effective leadership in an academic institution.

Main Body


Goleman (1998) defines, “emotional intelligence as the capacity to recognizing one’s own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationship”. Therefore, the concept of emotional intelligence has gained popularity currently and in recent decades, however, the characteristic traits of emotional intelligence have different positive abilities which can help leaders lead others effectively. Taking self-awareness as an orthodox starting point, Self- awareness relates to one’s ability to
Understand one’s emotions and those of others, and the ability to express emotions accordingly. It is the ability to accurately perceive one’s emotions and remains aware of them as they happen, including the ability to manage one’s response to specific situations and people. Developing self-awareness is a crucial first step in effective leadership. Shipper and Davy (2002) concluded that self-awareness is the keystone to emotional intelligence and serves as the foundation for effective leadership and psychological development necessary to achieve academic success.

Effective leadership starts with self-awareness because it lays the foundation upon which emotions and social intelligence is built. Self-awareness impacts leaders to regulate their own emotions thereby creating a trusting environment between them and team members for healthy work interactions which promote positive academic performance. Breakthrough findings of Goleman (2001) reviews that the level of emotional intelligence through self-awareness is related to the dynamic of the process of self-assessment, which gradually leads to creating the feeling of identity and dignity. Recent studies of Knight and Trowler (2000) on Emotional Intelligence emphasized that effective higher education leadership through self-awareness is posited to promote a culture that is conducive to outstanding learning and teaching and a central requirement for academic excellence.

Furthermore, Cherniss (1998) emphasized that effective team members from organizations though the influence from there effective leaders become self-confident, which is a reflection of their own emotional self-awareness, and ability to control their emotions hence trusting the leader. Additionally, Lanser (2000) also places a strong emphasis on the importance of self-awareness in guiding and perfecting academic performance, including interactions between the leader and team members or among colleagues in the establishment of positive and productive leadership and teamwork skills. It is said that effective leadership of self-awareness makes term members of an academic institution recognize their strengths and weakness thereby making students strive hard to study. Boyatiz (2011) further explains that leaders use this trait to make others accurately reflect on their behavior. In doing so, fear is eliminated and skills get manifested in the institution.

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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership. (2020, Sep 28). Retrieved from

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