Leadership and Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Review and its Application to Project Managers

In today’s business climate, organisations must meet the demands of high flexibility and quick responsiveness to maintain their competitive position (Anand and UdayaSuriyan 2010). Rapid change requires organisations to have leaders and workers who are able to adapt and work effectively and continuously to improve systems and processes (Khalili 2013).  Business managers have seen a recent shift in the need for different types of leadership skills; highlighting the importance of softer, interpersonal skills that were previously undervalued (Anand and UdayaSuriyan 2010). While technical skills and functional competencies are vital to maintaining a competitive advantage, research in emotional intelligence suggests businesses also depend on the social competencies and emotion management of its managers to achieve business goals (Turner, Müller and Dulewicz 2009). Project management deals with business goals that are unique and temporary in nature, and thus often associated with unknowns, complexity, and uncertainty (Anantatmula, 2010). In an environment that is highly unique and under rapid change, the need for emotionally intelligent leadership becomes apparent (Pinos et al. 2006). The purpose of this essay is to review and critically analyse the key concepts of emotional intelligence, and discuss the extent to which its influence on leadership is relevant to project managers.

Emotional intelligence is a relatively new but growing area of organisational behaviour research. Leaders with high emotional intelligence help organisations through increased performance, promoting innovation and risk-taking, effective time and resource management, restored trust, teamwork, and motivation (Pinos et al. 2006). Its legitimacy is still largely debated, with its main criticism being that it is too broadly defined as a construct, and there is little agreement as to how it can be defined and measured (Pinos et al. 2006). There are two major competing models of emotional intelligence that have emerged from the body of literature. First, there is Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso’s four-branch ability-based model of emotional intelligence, which emphasises four domains of related skills: the ability to perceive emotions accurately, use emotions to facilitate thinking, understand emotions, and manage emotions both in oneself and in others (Hui-Wen, Mu-Shang and Nelson 2010). Researchers advocating this ability-based model argue that emotional intelligence can be measured and should differentiated from personality (Hui-Wen, Mu-Shang and Nelson 2010). Such advocates propose the use of Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), which tends to correlate with general intelligence and less with personality characteristics, which is fitting with an ability-based model…

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