The Impact of Emotional Leadership

Emotional Intelligence (EI) in leaders enhances thoughtful choices and unselfishness in their followers. As a result, leaders who are able to identify and manage their emotions and those of others develop sincerity and helpfulness among their followers. The expression of emotions is a vital component of charismatic leadership, and is linked to the leader’s ability to inspire and motivate followers through the emotional contagion process; that is, shared feelings encourage cooperation among everyone involved.

It has also been shown that the expression of positive emotions has a positive impact on groups. However, there is a lack of research on how leaders express negative emotions such as disapproval, anger, and disappointment, and how this expression affects group performance. One practical suggestion is that skilled and controlled expression of so-called negative emotions is important for leaders, so as to avoid decreasing workers’ motivation, or building up resentment and resistance.

Since practiced emotional expressiveness is necessary, effective expression of the leader’s negative emotions requires skills in expression, emotional control, and emotional sensitivity so as to gauge how these negative emotions are received by followers. There has recently been considerable interest in the role of emotional sensitivity, which is the ability to “decode” emotions in the work setting. In some of the research studies, measures of emotional decoding skills have been used as a substitute for emotional intelligence. Other studies have examined the notion of emotional “eavesdropping,” where leaders decode followers’ emotions even when they are not intending to convey them directly. Emotional eavesdropping involves an acute awareness of follower’s body language, tone of voice, and other unspoken indicators to understand their true feelings.

The reason there has been so much interest in emotional decoding is that there are a number of measures available for researchers to study. Also, it makes sense to study the ability to “read” others’ emotions in the workplace. Although effective leaders must possess good skills in emotional control, especially during crises, individuals who are particularly good at controlling and masking their emotional expressions usually seem distant and aloof.

Any imbalance in the possession of emotional and social skills is linked to poorer psychosocial adjustment in teams and, therefore, to poor leadership. In summary, we find that, across most of the research, emotional intelligence improves effectiveness in organizational settings. Effective leaders must make serious efforts to detect, analyze, and understand the feelings of their followers. As a part of this effort, leaders must also be careful of how they express their own emotions to their staff. A thoughtful leader will listen to their followers concerns, and speak with care and conviction about their own.


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