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22,1 Emotional intelligence
and leadership
A review of the progress, controversy,
76 and criticism
Received 20 March 2012 Jim McCleskey
Revised 20 March 2012 Organization and Management, Capella University,
Accepted 2 April 2012 Spring, Texas, USA

Purpose – In 1990, Salovey and Mayer presented a framework for emotional intelligence (EI). This
marked the beginning of 20 years of academic research, development, and debate on the subject of EI.
A significant amount of previous research has attempted to draw out the relationship between EI and
leadership performance. EI has been a uniquely controversial area of the social sciences. EI is based on
three simple yet fundamental premises. This manuscript reviews the definitions and models in the
field of EI with special emphasis on the Mayer ability model and the connection between EI and
leadership. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper takes the form of a literature review.
Findings – EI appears to have a foothold in both our popular vernacular and our academic lexicon.
However, it is not entirely clear what future form it will take.
Originality/value – This manuscript explores the current relationship between EI and leadership,
discusses the various instruments and scales used to measure the construct, and examines the
controversy and criticism surrounding EI. Finally, it illuminates some areas for additional research.
Keywords Leadership, Emotional intelligence, Organizational behaviour
Paper type Literature review

Introduction: 20 years of emotional intelligence

In 1990, Peter Salovey and J.D. “Jack” Mayer published an article that presented
a framework for emotional intelligence (EI) (emphasis by authors) (Salovey et al., 2007,
p. 5). Mayer and his colleagues were the first to publish works that referred to an EI
(Mayer et al., 1990; Salovey et al., 2007). Interestingly, the concept of an EI was not new.
Riggio et al. (2002, p. 2) noted how the earliest intelligence researchers understood there
was more to the construct of intelligence than the mental abilities represented in the
traditional intelligence tests of the day. In fact, Edward Thorndike is credited with first
defining social intelligence (emphasis added) in 1920 (Riggio et al., 2002, p. 2). Gardner
(1983) presented the idea that individuals possessed an interpersonal and intrapersonal
intelligence seven years before the publication of the Salovey and Mayer article. Salovey
and Mayer (1990) originally conceived EI as a subset of social intelligence. The term EI
first appeared in Leuner (1966). Payne (1986) used the term in his unpublished doctoral
International Journal of dissertation entitled “A study of emotion: developing emotional intelligence;
Organizational Analysis self-integration; relating to fear, pain, and desire”. Despite these earlier forays into the
Vol. 22 No. 1, 2014
pp. 76-93 idea, generally Salovey and Mayer’s published article is credited with creating the
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited current conception of EI and marking the beginning of 20 years of research, theory,
DOI 10.1108/IJOA-03-2012-0568 authorship, development, critique, controversy, and criticism on the subject of EI.
Later, EI was thrust into popularity when Goleman (1995) wrote his book Emotional Emotional
Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ and cited the work of Salovey and Mayer intelligence and
(1990). Goleman’s claims in particular sparked controversy in the fledgling field. In
discussing EI, some researchers (Spector and Johnson in Murphy, 2006) have stated that leadership
“there is perhaps no construct in the social sciences that has produced more controversy
in recent years” (p. 325). Spector (2005) noted that debate rages about the definitions,
uses, measurement and nature of the construct. 77
In a recent attempt at clarification of the concept of EI, Cherniss (2010b, p. 111)
suggested that the extreme views about the construct of EI, both for and against, are
incorrect and that the truth about EI is more complex. Cherniss (2010b, p. 111) also
noted that there are many conflicting definitions and models of EI. Indeed, EI seems to
suffer from an acute form of the theoretical pluralism that the leadership field often
exhibits (Glynn and Rafelli, 2010). This theoretical pluralism poses both benefits and
challenges to an academic field (p. 361). However, the fundamental premises behind EI
are simple enough. As Cherniss (2010b) indicates, the concept of EI is based on these
three premises. Emotions play an important role in daily life; people may vary in their
ability to perceive, understand, use, and manage emotions; and these variances may
affect individual adaptation in a variety of different contexts, including the workplace
(2010, p. 110). These basic premises are intuitive and difficult to refute; however, the
complete concept of EI requires additional clarification.
What is EI? How can we define it? What models currently represent the construct?
What does the research tell us about those models? What is the relationship between EI
and leadership effectiveness? What instruments measure EI? Are they valid? What are
the criticisms of EI, its definitions, and its measurement? Why is EI so popular with the
press, the practitioner, and the public? What gaps exist in the current research? What
are the future directions for research on EI? This manuscript will attempt to address
these questions.

Review of the literature

The (many) definitions of EI
A number of different researchers define EI in a number of different ways. In the
original 1990 article, Salovey and Mayer defined EI as:
[. . .] the subset of social intelligence that involves 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 (Salovey and Mayer, 1990 in Salovey et al., 2007, p. 5).
Later, the authors of the original definition revised their thinking on EI and began
defining it as involving:
[. . .] the ability to perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion; the ability to access
and/or generate feelings when they facilitate thought; the ability to understand emotion and
emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and
intellectual growth (Mayer and Salovey, 1997 in Salovey et al., 2007, p. 35).
In that same article, the authors simplify the definition by further stating that:
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so
as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional meanings, and to reflectively
regulate emotions so as to promote both better emotion and thought (p. 46).
IJOA Still later, the authors once again simplified the definition by paraphrasing their own
22,1 1997 article and referred to EI as “the ability to perceive and express emotion,
assimilate emotion and thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate
emotion in the self and others” (Mayer et al., 2000, in Salovey et al., 2007, p. 82).
This definition and their model of EI, more commonly known as the ability model,
has become the most widely accepted definition and model for the construct of
78 EI (Antonakis and Dietz, 2010, p. 165; Cherniss, 2010b, p. 115; Côté and Miners, 2006,
p. 4; Jordan et al., 2010, p. 145; Lopes et al., 2006, p. 132; Rosete and Ciarrochi, 2005,
p. 389). Additional researchers offer other competing definitions of EI, mostly in
conjunction with different models.
The various models and constructs applied to the concept of EI are presented in
detail later in this manuscript; however, various competing definitions are introduced
here for reference. The first group of researchers defines EI as ability and therefore
shares similarities with Mayer et al. Gignac (2010) proposes a definition in keeping
with his seven-factor model of EI and defines EI as “the ability to purposively adapt,
shape, and select environments through the use of emotionally relevant processes”
(Gignac, 2010, p. 131). Ciarrochi and Godsell (Schulze and Roberts, 2005, pp. 71-72)
define EI as the “ability to act effectively in the context of emotions and emotionally
charged thoughts, and use emotions as information” and refer to their concept of EI as
“internally-focused” EI.
Another group of researchers defines EI in terms of emotional and/or social
competencies and skills rather than as ability. The first of these, Bar-On (1988), views
EI as a collection of competencies and skills and defines what he calls “emotional-social
intelligence” (ESI) as a:
[. . .] cross section of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills and facilitators that
determine how effectively we understand and express ourselves, understand others and
relate with them, and cope with daily demands (Bar-On, 2006, p. 14).
Boyatzis (2009) views EI in terms of competencies and skills and offers several definitions
related to the construct. He defines an EI competency as an “ability to recognize,
understand, and use emotional information about oneself that leads to or causes effective
or superior performance” (2009, p. 757). Additionally, Boyatzis (2009, p. 757) defines a
social intelligence competency as “the ability to recognize, understand and use emotional
information about others that leads to or causes effective or superior performance”. Some
critics of EI also offer a competency based definition, describing EI as “a generic
competence in perceiving emotions (both in oneself in another’s) which also helps us
regulate emotions and cope effectively with emotive situations” (Zeider et al., 2009, p. 3).
In sharp contrast to the previous approaches, Kaplan et al. (2010, p. 175) subscribe to no
particular definition of EI at all while calling for a process of study and inquiry which is
designed to reveal the “socio-emotional variables” which are operationalized as
knowledge, skills, abilities, and other factors (KSAOs) that allow leaders to influence
organizational outcomes. Their conceptual model is addressed later in the paper.
Still other researchers take a different view of EI, neither conceptualizing it as
ability or as a set of skills and competencies, but rather as a type of trait (Petrides et al.,
2007; Schutte et al., 1998). Petrides et al. (2007) view EI as a personality trait. Petrides
identifies it within the factors of personality and defines it as a “constellation of
emotional self-perceptions located at the lower levels of personality hierarchies and
measured via the trait EI questionnaire” (Petrides, 2010, p. 137; Petrides et al., 2007, Emotional
p. 288). The lack of a consistent definition of the construct of EI has led some intelligence and
researchers to call for a consolidation around a single construct model and definition
(Cherniss, 2010b; Jordan et al., 2010; Matthews et al. in Murphy, 2006, p. 6; Roberts et al., leadership
2010a, b). While others are content to give the fledgling construct more time to explore
its boundaries (Van Rooy et al., 2010). Ultimately, the multitude of definitions of EI and
the sincere academic disagreement about what the construct does or should represent 79
have contributed to an environment of criticism and controversy that swirls around the
academic field of EI research.

The models of EI
A number of different conceptual approaches to modeling the construct of EI exist.
Broadly, these include ability models; mixed-models – sometimes called emotional and
social competence models; trait models; and other models. The Mayer ability model is
the most commonly accepted model of EI. It is based on a four-branch approach to EI
and includes the four basic abilities of emotion perception; emotion facilitation; emotion
understanding; and emotion regulation (Caruso and Salovey, 2004). Jordan et al. (2010,
p. 145) describe the Mayer ability model and definition as the “gold standard” for
defining EI. A plethora of studies has been conducted using the Mayer ability model as
well as the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) as an
instrument. Testing and specific instruments are discussed later in the manuscript;
however, it is worth noting all of the major theoretical models of EI include the use of a
test instrument that was developed in conjunction with the model.
The Workgroup Emotional Intelligence Profile (WEIP) was developed as a context
specific (workplace teams), self-report test of EI following the ability model. A study by
Jordan et al. (2002) provided evidence that the WEIP scale has convergent validity with
respect to existing scales relating to the EI construct. The authors also found that team
EI predicted team performance. High EI teams operated at high levels of performance
while low EI teams initially performed at a low level (Jordan et al., 2002, p. 209).
Additional EI models based on ability exist. One such model starts with the
four-branch ability model, ranks the abilities in a hierarchical structure, and then
describes the abilities as a cascading model (Newman et al., 2010, p. 161). Specifically,
Newman et al. (2010, p. 160) call their model a “facet-level process model of EI and job
performance”. Developed in part using meta-analytical evidence from previous EI
research, the cascading model shows strong statistical support for both fit and
construct validity ( Joseph and Newman, 2010, pp. 65-66). The cascading model is a
relatively new construct and one area where additional research is needed. Complete
recommendations for additional research are presented later in the manuscript.
The second major category of EI models are emotional and social competencies
(ESCs) or, more commonly known mixed-models of EI. This manuscript will use these
two terms interchangeably. Bar-On’s doctoral dissertation, competed in 1988 and
unpublished, described the first mixed-model of EI. Bar-On’s (2006, p. 14) model of
competencies and skills included:
[. . .] the ability to be aware of, to understand, and to express oneself; the ability to be aware of,
to understand and relate to others; the ability to deal with strong emotions and control one’s
impulses; and the ability to adapt to change and to solve problems of a personal or social
IJOA Bar-On’s model, which he later named the Bar-On model of ESI, includes the components
22,1 of interpersonal skills, interpersonal skills, adaptability, stress management, and general
mood (Bar-On, 2006, p. 14). Bar-On’s model, considered one of the four major EI models,
is frequently referenced and cited (Cherniss, 2010b, p. 111).
Goleman and Boyatzis developed another mixed-model approach to EI. Goleman’s
1995 bestseller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ created a
80 wave of popularity around the concept of EI and became the touchstone for many of
the controversial issues that continue in the academic field of EI to the present day.
This book and the discussions that centered on its claims are considered further later
in the manuscript in both the discussion on popularity of EI and on criticisms of EI.
The Boyatzis-Goleman model was partially inspired by the Mayer ability model. Goleman
cited the earlier work of Salovey and Mayer (1990) in his blockbuster book (Goleman,
1995, pp. 42-43). However, Boyatzis and Goleman expanded the scope of their model to
encompass social and emotional competencies linked to effective performance in the
workplace. These included a number of competencies sorted into four “clusters” including
self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management
(Boyatzis, 2009; Cherniss, 2010b; Goleman et al., 2002; Goleman, 1995, 1998).
A third category of EI model is the trait model. Trait EI consists of four components:
well-being (self-confidence, happiness, and optimism); sociability (social competence,
assertiveness, and emotion management of others); self-control (stress management,
emotion regulation, and low impulses in this); and emotionality (emotional perception
of self and others, emotion expression, and empathy) (Petrides et al., 2007, pp. 274-275).
Petrides (2010, p. 137) describes trait EI as “the only operational definition in the field
that recognizes the inherent subjectivity of emotional experience”. Trait EI is a domain
comprised of numerous facets including adaptability, assertiveness, emotion
expression, emotion management, emotion regulation, impulsiveness, relationships,
self-esteem, self-motivation, social awareness, stress management, trait empathy, trait
happiness, and trait optimism (Petrides, 2010, p. 137).
In an attempt to clarify the concept of EI and to eliminate some of the confusion
surrounding the various models, Cherniss (2010b) recommends drawing a bright line
distinction between EI and ESC. If EI models (Mayer ability and cascading) and ESC
models (ESI and Boyatzis-Goleman) represent two distinct constructs, it is not necessary
to debate the legitimacy of the various models, and some of the “heated and unproductive
controversies in the field” of EI should be eliminated (Cherniss, 2010b, p. 122).

The relationship between EI and leadership

The study of leadership has evolved over time. Zaccaro (2007) notes that the analysis of
leadership dates back to Galton’s (1869) Hereditary Genius. Galton emphasized
two basic concepts that have informed our popular ideas about leadership. The first
is that leadership is a characteristic ability of extraordinary individuals whose
decisions, therefore, are capable of altering the course of our history (p. 7). The second
concept ties the special attributes of these individuals to their genetic makeup. This
conception of leadership, sometimes called the Great Man (emphasis added) theory,
argued that the qualities which define effective leadership were naturally endowed and
passed from generation to generation (Zaccaro, 2007, p. 7). Other scholars claim that
the study of leadership is over 100 years old, and reveal that the resulting literature is
enormous (Kaiser et al., 2008, p. 97). Podolny et al. (2010, pp. 65-74) describe the history
of the leadership field and note its progression from the study of the traits of Emotional
individuals, to the marginalization of the study of leadership and an emphasis on its intelligence and
organizational constraints, to the concept of meaning making, charisma, and
transformational elements of leadership. Still others (Hackman in Nohria and leadership
Khurana, 2010, pp. 107-115) attempt to define leadership more succinctly and see it as
occurring in specific domains, being measured by specific criteria, including specific
functions, taking place in a specific context, being limited by specific organizational 81
conditions, and including a mysterious “it” factor.
It has been noted that leadership is an “emotion laden process” (George, 2000,
p. 1046). Intuitively therefore, EI should matter for effective leadership. Various
scholars have studied and documented correlational effects between EI and leadership
effectiveness in a number of different organizational settings. EI has been studied in
connection with organizational leadership (Zaccaro, 2002); emotional leadership theory
(Caruso et al. in Riggio et al., 2002); transformational leadership (Bass in Riggio et al.,
2002); leader-member exchange (LMX) (Côté and Miners, 2006); and leadership
emergence in small groups (Côté et al., 2010). A number of studies indicate correlations
between leadership effectiveness and EI (Abraham in Schulze and Roberts, 2005;
Gardner and Stough, 2003a, b; Lopes et al., 2006; Rosete and Ciarrochi, 2005; Wolff et al.,
2002; Wong and Law, 2002). Specifically, Walter et al. (2011, p. 55) stated that research
evidence does suggest that EI helps us better understand leadership emergence,
specific leadership behaviors, and leader effectiveness.

EI and the three streams

Ashkanasy and Daus (2005) first proposed the three streams approach to analyzing
EI. Stream one consists of ability measures of EI; stream two includes self-report
measures based on the Mayer four-branch ability model; and stream three is
comprised of mixed-model data. McRae (2000) noted that the mixed-model
approaches in EI (Stream 3) show considerable overlap with more traditional
measures of personality and go beyond the original definitions given by Salovey and
Mayer (1990). Further, Fiori (2009) indicated that the ambiguity associated with
stream three measures may hinder the development of new theoretical insights.
Other scholars have adopted the three streams approach to classifying EI research as
well (O’Boyle et al., 2011; Walter et al., 2011).
Recently, a meta-analysis was conducted on 43 studies including some involving job
performance (n ¼ 5,795 for job performance) to examine the relationship between EI and
specific work outcomes using the largest group of studies and the most up-to-date and
sophisticated statistical methodologies available (O’Boyle et al., 2011, p. 795). O’Boyle et al.
(2011, p. 789) described the two major purposes of their study: first, to extend prior
studies by testing whether EI shows “unique variance for predicting job performance
above and beyond the five factor model (FFM) and cognitive ability (IQ)”. The second
was to investigate whether EI measures incrementally predict job performance when
measures of personality and cognitive intelligence are also included as predictors (p. 790).
O’Boyle et al. (2011) analyzed the results using the three streams approach.
Although a complete discussion of the statistical analysis of the O’Boyle et al. (2011)
study is beyond the scope of this manuscript, the results did show a statistically
significant correlation between measures of EI and job performance as well as
incremental validity over the FFM of personality and cognitive intelligence (IQ) across
IJOA all three research streams (O’Boyle et al., 2011, p. 807). This is the strongest evidence
22,1 so far of the validity of EI as a construct related to leadership, organizational
effectiveness, and important work outcomes.

The measurement of EI
Varieties of different instruments are currently used to measure EI. The most common
82 are listed here along with a brief explanation of each. The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso
Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT v2.0) is an ability-based test of EI using four
scales with each corresponding to one branch of the Mayer ability model. The test
comprises 141 items and has “adequate internal consistency and reliability” (Conte and
Dean in Murphy, 2006, p. 60). Mayer et al. (2003) and Brackett and Salovey (2006)
provide additional support for the validity of the MSCEIT. The Multifactor Emotional
Intelligence Scale (MEIS) is also an ability-based test of EI using four scales, with each
corresponding to one branch of the Mayer ability model. The test comprises 402 items,
has “adequate internal consistency and reliability”, and shows discriminant and
incremental validity above the Big 5 personality traits and IQ (Conte and Dean in Murphy,
2006, p. 60). The Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-I) was designed by Bar-On and in its
current format is a multirater instrument (360 degree feedback). The test comprises
133 items but has shown some limitations with discriminant validity (Conte and Dean in
Murphy, 2006, p. 60). The EQ-I came under negative scrutiny when studies revealed that
the test was susceptible to faking and showed test-retest reliability challenges (Grubb and
McDaniel, 2007; Whitman et al., 2008). The Emotional Competence Inventory (ECI) is used
primarily with the Boyatzis-Goleman mixed-model. The test is comprised of 72 items and
is both a self-report and multirater instrument. The evidence has shown low to moderate
discriminant and predictive validity in studies (Conte and Dean in Murphy, 2006, p. 60).
The Wong Law Emotional Intelligence Scale (WLEIS) is a self-report measure of EI
comprised of 16 items. The instrument has shown adequate internal consistency and
reliability as well as some construct validity, and evidence of incremental validity above
the Big 5 (Conte and Dean in Murphy, 2006, p. 60). The Genos Emotional Intelligence
Inventory (Genos EI) is a 70 item self-report measure based on the seven-factor model of EI.
Although a relatively new instrument, a significant study using multifactor statistical
analysis has shown promising validity for the test (Gignac, 2010). Palmer et al. (2010,
p. 103) note that the Genos EI does not measure EI, rather it measures how often the subject
demonstrates 70 emotionally intelligent workplace behaviors. The test has demonstrated
respectable reliability and validity to date (Palmer et al., 2010). The Trait Emotional
Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue) comes in two versions, a long and short form. The test
is a self-report questionnaire of 153 items (30 items in the short form) published since
2003. The test has shown some incremental validity to predict “emotional reactivity” over
and above social desirability, alexithymia, and the Big 5 model of personality
(Mikolajczak et al., 2007). Petrides (2010, p. 138), the author of the test, claims that Trait EI
is “not tied to specific proprietary tests” describing it as a platform for the interpretation
of data from any test of EI.
Conte and Dean (2006) note some of the issues related to the various measures of
EI by stating that “existing validity measures of EI range from weak to moderate,”
and that “attempts to measure EI have been varied and have varied in their success.”
Additionally, they note that “most EI measures also lack convergent and discriminant
validity evidence”, and finally that “these EI measures are lacking in
discriminant validity” (Conte and Dean in Murphy, 2006, p. 71). The need for effective Emotional
measurement of the EI construct is clearly an important criticism and is echoed by intelligence and
several scholars (Cherniss, 2010b, p. 116; Conte, 2005; Côté, 2010, p. 128; Gignac, 2010,
p. 132). EI’s strongest critics have pointed to the lack of effective and valid leadership
measurement repeatedly throughout its 20 year history, and despite improvements in
this area, this criticism continues to be leveled at EI today (Antonakis et al., 2009, p. 249;
Antonakis and Dietz, 2010, p. 166, 2011). The most vehement criticism against the 83
measurement of EI is the claim that test subjects can fake self-report measures of EI
(Grubb and McDaniel, 2007; Whitman et al., 2008). The criticisms of the measurement
instruments used in the study of EI are not the only controversies in the field.

The criticisms of EI
From its beginnings, EI has drawn a lot of criticism in the academic community,
and scholars have lined up on all sides of the issue. As mentioned previously, some
researchers (Spector and Johnson in Murphy, 2006) stated, “There is perhaps no
construct in the social sciences that has produced more controversy in recent years”
than EI (p. 325). In fact, several books exist on the subject of EI’s shortcomings
(Murphy, 2006; Zeider et al., 2009). Cherniss (2010b, p. 111) outlines the three major foci
of criticism: conflicting models and definitions; the need for better assessment and
measurement (discussed previously in this manuscript); and the significance of EI as a
predictor of important organizational outcomes such as leader effectiveness. With
regard to the problems of models and definitions, Cherniss (2010b) suggests an elegant
solution. Many of the researchers in the field have lined up behind the ability model
or the mixed-models. Therefore, Cherniss suggests that the two concepts (EI and ESC)
be separated and that we continue to study both (p. 186). As for the need for better
assessments of EI, there appears to be consensus on both sides of the EI debate.
As Van Rooy et al. (2010, p. 151) pointed out “The bottom line is that more tests
assessing the demonstration of emotional ability are needed”.
As to the third criticism, evidence of a link between EI and important organizational
outcomes continues to mount; the meta-analytical work of O’Boyle et al. (2011) is one
recent example. Additional studies which provide this evidence include: Côté and
Miners (2006), Lopes et al. (2006), Newman et al. (2010) and Rosete and Ciarrochi (2005).
So far, the evidence of EI’s relevance for specific work performance outcomes has not
slowed down its critics.
Locke (2005, p. 430) might be EI’s staunchest critic. Locke points out how:
multiple definitions exist and each definition of EI is constantly changing;
most EI definitions are so all-inclusive as to make the concept unintelligible;
one definition in particular (reasoning with emotion) involves an inherent
contradiction; and
there is no such thing as actual EI – the term itself is oxymoronic since the very
definition of intelligence involves rational, dispassionate thought.

Locke does at least concede the possibility that intelligence can be applied to emotions
(emphasis added) as well as to other life domains. He describes the highest possible
definition of EI as the idea that individuals may be more or less intelligent about
(emphasis by author) emotions. However, this is not a new form of intelligence,
IJOA but rather it is intelligence applied to a particular domain, in this case emotions. There
22,1 is already a term for mastering intelligence of a specific domain and that term is skill.
Therefore, EI is a mislabeled skill (p. 427). Ultimately, Locke calls for the replacement
of EI with the concept of introspective skills or to be redefined, as a personality trait
although, he admits that it is not completely clear what that trait would entail or what
it should be called (p. 430).
84 More recently, in a published series of interchanges between Antonakis on one side
of the debate and Antonakis et al. (2009) on the other, Antonakis writes, “It is now close
to 20 years since Salovey and Mayer (1990) wrote their groundbreaking piece” and
based on the data we now have and the correct statistical analysis conducted on that
data, either “EI researchers are using the wrong measures or the wrong methodology,
or EI does not matter for leadership” (Antonakis et al., 2009, p. 248). Landy (2005), as
part of a point-counterpoint series of articles by the Journal of Organizational Behavior,
suggested that EI researchers do a better job of defining their terms and picking their
independent variables of interest. These criticisms of the construct of EI by Locke
(2005), Antonakis et al. (2009) and Landy (2005) are biting.
However, the defenders of EI are equally committed to their cause, and evidence for
the construct continues to mount. Antonakis et al. (2009, p. 258) note that there is
a plethora of research appearing in the most highly respected peer-reviewed journals
in the field that supports the construct of EI in general, and its role in leadership in
particular. Further, they note that a “great many dedicated, educated, and intelligent
scholars are working in this field” in order to move EI forward and increase our
understanding of specific phenomena such as leadership (Antonakis et al., 2009, p. 258).
Cherniss (2010a) notes that after more than 100 years of measuring cognitive
intelligence (IQ), there are still debates about the strength of the IQ-performance
relationship. It is not surprising therefore, that disagreement exists on the link between
EI and performance after only 20 years, and relatively few empirical studies on the
subject. It is likely that this debate will continue for some time (Cherniss, 2010a, p. 190).
The amount of empirical evidence that will be required to decide the question depends
on “one’s standards and how one is disposed to the question” (p. 190).
In order to try to silence the critics of EI, Mayer et al. (2008, p. 516) make five
(1) Researchers should stick to the established research definitions and not
continue to add new ones to the construct.
(2) The term EI should apply only to the ability model.
(3) Researchers should limit their EI studies to the facets, emotional knowledge,
emotional facial recognition ability, levels of emotional awareness, and
emerging research on emotional self-regulation.
(4) Researchers should leave personality traits and skills where they are and avoid
lumping them into EI.
(5) Finally researchers should follow concise terminology and conduct good theory
building and research in EI.

Essentially, they have advised the research community to “do it our way”; and many of
them have, as evidenced by the fact that the four-branch ability model and the related
instruments and methodologies have become the dominant paradigm in EI research.
Even EI’s critics admit, “If there is a future for EI, we see it in the ability model of Emotional
Mayer, Salovey, and associates” (Antonakis and Dietz, 2010, p. 165). Other scholars in intelligence and
the field also support the ability model as the conceptualization of EI with the most
promising future for further research and advancement of the field (Antonakis et al., leadership
2009; Ashkanasy and Daus, 2005; Daus and Ashkanasy, 2005; Zeider et al., 2009).

The popularity of EI 85
Part of the explanation of the controversy and criticism surrounding EI comes from the
popularity of the construct itself. Since the publication of Goleman’s best-selling book in
1995 and a Time Magazine cover story in the same year (Gibbs and Epperson, 1995, p. 60)
which announced to the world that “research suggests that emotions, not IQ, maybe the
true measure of human intelligence”, EI (and the more populist term EQ) have become
household words. A Google search for the terms “EI” conducted at the time of this
writing returns around 8,170,000 results. A search for the term at Amazon reveals
1,356 books, recordings and other products. Zeider et al. (2009, p. 3) commented on this
phenomenon, noting that EI is all around us, and educators, business people, gurus, and
the average man are consumed by the notion that what people need for success in today’s
modern world is “emotional awareness, heightened sensitivity, and street smarts”.
Why has the construct of EI become so popular? Furnham (2006) provided some
potential answers to this question. Furnham related three signs of the popularity of EI.
These included the volume of information about EI on the internet; the use of the term by
human resource professionals in organizational settings and their comfort level with its
meaning; and the anchoring of the concept in popular language (Murphy, 2006, p. 142).
Furnham explained that the dramatic rise of popularity of EI relates to three factors.
First, EI is essentially an effective repackaging of an old idea that dates back to
Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and carries on a time-honored
interest in interpersonal skills. Second, EI is both positive and optimistic, offering
important, relevant, and learnable skills. Finally, part of the enthusiasm for EI reflects
skepticism of IQ by the average person. Since IQ is viewed as a relatively stable
characteristic, those with average or low IQ reject the notion that IQ is highly correlated
with success in life. EI, on the other hand, is viewed as a set of skills (more correctly
mixed-model EI is a set of skills or competencies) that the average person feels they may
have, or at least can improve upon (Murphy, 2006, p. 156). The intuitive appeal of the EI
construct, its popularity with the average person, and its antithetical skepticism of IQ
may have helped make EI a prominent and enduring target for academic criticism.

The future of EI research

Despite the assertion by some critics that EI “does not matter for leadership”
(Antonakis et al., 2009) and the disparaging and dismissive observations of some
detractors as it is currently conceptualized (Landy, 2005; Locke, 2005), EI appears to
have a foothold in both our popular vernacular and our academic lexicon. However,
it is not entirely clear what future form it will take. In their thorough discussion of EI
and leadership Walter et al. (2011) called for additional research into novel areas such
as cultural impacts on EI, new developments in neuroscience, and leadership ethics.
O’Boyle et al. (2011) also called for more research that includes the contextual factors
that affect workplace outcomes, as well as taking a more holistic approach to the
consideration of dependent variables. For example, rather than considering EI’s impact
IJOA on job performance, other factors such as good employee citizenship and the
22,1 prevalence of counterproductive workplace behaviors could be considered alongside
performance (O’Boyle et al., 2011). While these various research agendas offer fertile
grounds for additional academic exploration, three other particularly interesting areas
for additional research exist. These include: EI as a moderator of emotional labor; EI or
its branches considered with situational judgment test (SJTs), and the “dark side” of EI.
86 This manuscript will consider each of these opportunities in more detail before closing.

Emotional labor and EI

The theory of emotional labor suggests that a job’s demands for emotional labor,
the process of regulating both feelings and expressions for organizational goals, may
serve as a moderator of the relationship between EI and performance ( Joseph and
Newman, 2010, p. 69). In effect, jobs that require better emotional skills, abilities and
effectiveness in order to perform well will show stronger positive correlations between
high EI scores and performance. However, jobs with lower emotional labor components
(computer programmers, accountants, technical specialists) will not show a positive
correlation between high EI scores and workplace performance, and may even show a
negative correlation to EI scores. Based on their results, Joseph and Newman (2010,
p. 54) concluded that EI positively predicted performance for high emotional labor jobs
and negatively predicted performance for low emotional labor jobs. This new finding
in the field of EI was exciting and may have far-reaching implications for future
research. EI may be a better predictor of workplace performance and outcomes than
previous research indicated; however, its efficacy is contextual and the emotional labor
content of the task, specialty, or organization plays a significant role in the outcome.
This theory may have additional implications for leadership, sales, marketing,
psychology, sociology, and a host of other fields. Ashkanasy and Humphrey (2011)
discuss the idea of “leading with emotional labor” as originally proposed by Humphrey
(2005, 2006, 2008; Humphrey et al., 2008). Ashkanasy and Humphrey (2011, p. 375)
suggest that additional research is needed in the areas of emotional labor and EI’s
emotional regulation concept. Emotional labor could be the single most promising area
for additional research on EI.

The dark side of EI

Most references to leadership in the literature seem to depict the leader as a “paragon
of virtue” and to focus on the leader’s positive characteristics, however a darker side
of leadership does exist (Kets De Vries and Balazs, 2012, p. 380). Burke (2006) describes
the dark side of leadership and the failure of leaders as falling into the category of either
incompetent or unethical behaviors. Austin et al. (2007) conducted a study to attempt to
uncover the dark side of EI as a relationship between EI and Machiavellianism. While no
clear relationship was found, the authors called for additional research to further clarify
the possible correlations between certain high EI traits and dark leadership behaviors
(Austin et al., 2007). Judge et al. (2009) described some of the negative effects of
“dark side” leader traits including: narcissism, hubris, dominance, and Machiavellianism.
Côté et al. (2011, p. 1073) note that although EI has typically been associated with
prosocial outcomes, EI relates to both prosocial and antisocial behaviors. Lindebaum and
Cartwright (2011) draw attention to the possibility that employing highly emotionally
intelligent individuals may not yield positive outcomes for organizations because of
a lack of ethical behavior. EI may give the unethical advantage in carrying out negative Emotional
behaviors within the organization. This area of “dark side” EI is largely overlooked. intelligence and
SJTs and EI
Some researchers have developed new tests of the stream one ability model of EI using
the SJT approach (MacCann and Roberts, 2008; Roberts et al., 2010b). MacCann and
Roberts (2008) point out that the majority of ability model stream one research comes 87
from a single instrument, the MSCEIT v2.0 (and its predecessors, MSCEIT and the
MEIS). This represents an issue because test effects cannot be distinguished from
construct effects and because the MSCEIT is “empirically rather than theoretically
keyed, such that EI scores do not have a strong theoretical background” (MacCann and
Roberts, 2008, p. 540). For these reasons, MacCann and Roberts developed two new
tests, the situational test of emotional understanding (STEU) and the situational test of
emotion management (STEM). The initial reliability and validity of these tests offers
promise and the characteristics of the STEM were “experimentally manipulated to
disentangle test effects from construct effects” (MacCann and Roberts, 2008, p. 540).
These new tests offer the ability to look at each branch of the four-branch ability model
individually, and should offer a wealth of new research opportunities. These three
areas, emotional labor, SJTs, and the dark side of EI represent significant and exciting
areas for additional research.

Nohria and Khurana (2010) point out that many scholars who study leadership focus
on the “knowing” dimension of becoming a leader. They further state that knowing
highlights the essential cognitive capabilities of the leader. These are the cognitive
abilities, also known as the multiple intelligences that the effective leader must possess.
These include analytical intelligence; practical intelligence; social intelligence; EI; and
contextual intelligence (2010, p. 21). Despite the popularity and importance of EI, there
is widespread disagreement about the EI construct and its importance in the academic
setting. For example, some have argued that EI is more important than IQ as an
indicator of individual and organizational effectiveness (Goleman, 1995). While many
critics argue that EI is merely a new “shiny new package of ideas and constructs” that
have been around for decades and that make little difference for a person’s success in
life or in organizations (Cherniss, 2010b, p. 110). A wide range of definitions,
constructs, and models are present in the field of EI, and the study of the EI borders on
theoretical pluralism. With regard to the significance of EI for important organizational
outcomes such as leadership effectiveness and job performance, there exists a growing
body of research suggesting that EI does play a role in work-related processes
(Cherniss, 2010b). EI and its related competencies may possess the kind of predictive
validity for leadership effectiveness that has often eluded researchers in the past. For
that reason, there is value in a proper understanding of current and previous research
in the field of EI, along with a review of the future implications for research in this area.
Ashkanasy and Daus (2005) aptly noted that “EI research will continue to be a central
plank of organizational behavior research for the foreseeable future” and there is no
reason to doubt the validity of that claim today.
This manuscript reviewed the definitions and models in the field of EI with special
emphasis on the Mayer ability model. It explored the relationship between EI and
IJOA leadership, discussed the various instruments and scales used to measure the
22,1 construct, and examined the controversy and criticism surrounding EI. The popularity
of EI was considered, and numerous possible avenues for additional research were
presented with particular emphasis on the idea of emotional labor as a moderator of EI
in important outcomes and the dark side of high EI individuals in organizational
contexts. As noted previously, EI rests on three basic fundamental premises: our
88 emotions play an important role in our daily lives; people vary in their ability to
perceive, understand, use, and manage these emotions; and these variances affect
individual capability in a variety of contexts, including organizational leadership. This
simple and intuitive set of premises help guide a dynamic, growing, and sometimes
controversial field of academic inquiry and should continue to do so.

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Further reading
Fernandez-Berrocal, P. and Extremera, N. (2006), “Emotional intelligence: a theoretical and
empirical review of its first 15 years of history”, Psicothema, Vol. 18, pp. 7-12.
Gignac, G.E. (2010), “Seven-factor model of emotional intelligence as measured by Genos EI:
a confirmatory factor analytic investigation based on self- and rater-report data”,
European Journal of Psychological Assessment, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 309-316.
Harms, P.D. and Crede, M. (2010), “Remaining issues in emotional intelligence research: construct
overlap, method artifacts, and lack of incremental validity”, Industrial & Organizational
Psychology, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 154-158.
Murphy, K.R. (Ed.) (2009), A Critique of Emotional Intelligence: What Are the Problems and How
Can They Be Fixed?, 2nd ed., Routledge, New York, NY.
Van Rooy, D.L. and Viswesvaran, C. (2004), “Emotional intelligence: a meta-analytic investigation
of predictive validity and nomological net”, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 65 No. 1,
pp. 71-95.

Corresponding author
Jim McCleskey can be contacted at: jim.mccleskey@hotmail.com

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