EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE – IS IT JUST ABOUT BEING NICE? - A Qualitative Study on the Perceptions of Emotional Intelligence Amongst Leaders in a Multinational Organisational Context
Purpose: Emotional intelligence (EI) is a popular, highly used concept in organisations worldwide, which has not yet found a unified, central meaning, therefore creating communication errors. This study investigates the understandings and mental models of EI among high positioned leaders in an MNC whose daily tasks involve managing relationships. Theory: Three models stand out in the literature on EI: the emotional intelligence performance model by Daniel Goleman, Bar-On’s emotional intelligence competencies model and the emotional intelligence ability model by Mayer, Salovey and Caruso, who are the “creators” of emotional intelligence theory. The theory of mental models is used to construct the understandings. Method: A qualitative, exploratory single unit case study with the purpose of exploring the understanding and construction of a phenomenon (EI). The study is based on in-depth semi-structured open-ended interviews with 17 participants, in a high-level leadership position, with relevant leadership experience in an MNC. Participants had international work experience. Result: The study revealed that the understandings differed, mostly between interpersonal or intrapersonal competencies, as the basis of these understandings were seen as related to personal experiences. It was firmly stated that EI is an essential key skill in the leaders' position. Most of the participants agreed that the development of EI depends on inherent prerequisites. EI was mainly understood as a set of different competencies. The understandings of the leaders were partly related to Goleman’s theory. Self-awareness was identified as the component of EI that found the highest relevance regarding the vice president level of leadership.
Emotional intelligence (EI), EQ, understanding, leadership, Daniel Goleman, mental models