Defining Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

In his article in “What Makes a Leader”, Daniel Goleman states that “I have found, however, that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence.” Furthermore, in their article “Transformational Leadership in the Context of Organizational Change”, Eisenbach, Watson, and Pillai suggest that transformational leaders that can emotionally identify with followers and team members create more trust.

Leadership Emotional Intelligence Can Be Developed

Goleman goes on to explain that the components of emotional intelligence (including leadership emotional intelligence) are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Goleman adds, “In short, the numbers are beginning to tell us a persuasive story about the link between a company’s success and the emotional intelligence of its leaders. And just as important, research is also demonstrating that people can, if they take the right approach, develop their emotional intelligence.”

Using an Emotional Approach for Successful ERP Organizational Change

ERP, leadership, and organizational change research would suggest that there is perhaps a significant common denominator, or glue shall we call it, that is a primary influence that acts to guide successful ERP Rescue and ERP organizational change success: leadership emotional intelligence.

Dr. Nestell adds that “While I personally did not study nor seek to specifically look for Goleman’s emotional intelligence (EI) indicators directly (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills), my work and experience would certainly suggest that these emotional intelligence in leadership qualities were prominent in ERP promising practice studies.” (A promising practice study is essentially research in which one analyzes successful companies to determine methods and approaches that may have led to that success.)

In upcoming posts, we will further elaborate on emotional intelligence and transformational leadership attributes, but in this particular post, we wanted to share some key ideas from Goleman’s article and how they directly relate to emotional intelligence in change management. Goleman states that:

“Consider the challenge of leading a team. As anyone who has ever been a part of one can attest, teams are cauldrons of bubbling emotions….A team’s leader must be able to sense and understand the viewpoints of everyone around the table.”

How Empathy Can Enable Successful Organizational Change

Dr. Nestell shares thoughts and excerpts from his work in ERP organizational change research:

“Emotional intelligence, and especially empathy (a component of EI), are certainly relevant and obvious in my formal research and in practice. Of relevance, an important result of my personal qualitative analysis supports this phenomenon described by Coleman: EI and performance. To be certain, in my work and the work of many others, the concept of transformational leadership is a recurring theme in ERP organizational change research. From my own formal research as well as informal research and experience, executives within organizations that have realized successful ERP organizational change are highly inspired and motivated, were intellectual in their approach, and were intellectually considerate of employees. These executives also appeared to move employees beyond self-interests. They were highly motivational, promoted risk, were open to opinions, advocated for a strong culture of learning, and were highly considerate of the well-being of others. The participants in my own work and experience were strong advocates of the organizational change process via the creation of a team-decision-making process while being cognizant of, and managing, behavior with empathy and understanding. My experience and work suggest that executives that have experienced ERP organizational change success were highly motivational, put self-interest behind in the interest of organizational change management, and demonstrated a strong sense of individual empathy.”
In “What Makes a Leader”, Goleman states that
“In what is probably sounding like a refrain, let me repeat that empathy doesn’t get much respect in business. People wonder how leaders can make hard decisions if they are “feeling” for all the people who can be affected. But leaders with empathy do more than sympathize with people around them: They use their knowledge to improve their companies in subtle but important ways.”

Channeling Self-Regulation in Leadership

Self-regulation is also a crucial component of emotional intelligence in leadership. Goleman adds that “Biological impulses drive our emotions. We cannot do away with them-but we can do much to manage them. Self-regulation, which is like an ongoing inner conversation, is the component of emotional intelligence that frees us from being prisoners of our feelings.” Goleman notes that self-regulation is critical to effective leadership but also a sound personal virtue because it enhances integrity and adds to organizational strength. Goleman then shares an insightful statement “The signs of emotional self-regulation, therefore, are easy to see: a propensity for reflection and thoughtfulness: comfort with ambiguity and change; and integrity-an ability to say no to impulsive urges.” Dr. Nestell further shares thoughts and excerpts from his work in ERP organizational change research:

“Self-reflection, as well as self-regulation, are critically important. From my formal work, executive participants encouraged self-reflection and self-regulation and challenged beliefs and values. The results suggest that transformational leadership may be a significant influence on internal alignment and hence increased performance. Research participants demonstrated learning strategies, intentional or not, that suggested that planning, monitoring, self-regulation, and reflection upon personal learning as a mechanism to improve ERP organizational change success.”

Discover Successful ERP Organizational Change Management


Eisenbach, R., Watson, K., & Pillai, R. (1999). Transformational leadership in the context of organizational change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 12(2), 80–89. Harvard Business Review. (2011). HBR’s 10 must-reads on leadership. Harvard Business Press. Goleman, D. (2017). What Makes a Leader? (Harvard Business Review Classics). Harvard Business Press. Goleman, D. (1999). What makes a leader?. Clinical laboratory management review: official publication of the Clinical Laboratory Management Association, 13(3), 123-131. Goleman, D., Welch, S., & Welch, J. (2012). What makes a leader? (pp. 93-102). New York: Findaway World, LLC.

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