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HRDXXX10.1177/1534484317729262Human Resource Development ReviewKim and Kim

Integrative Literature Review

Human Resource Development Review
2017, Vol. 16(4) 377­–393
Emotional Intelligence © The Author(s) 2017
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and Transformational
DOI: 10.1177/1534484317729262
Leadership: A Review of

Empirical Studies

Hyejin Kim1 and Taesung Kim2

There is an ongoing debate between the proponents and skeptics of emotional
intelligence (EI) with regard to its contribution to leadership effectiveness in
organizational settings. Not aiming to address all the leadership styles exhaustively,
this research looked into the relationship between EI and transformational leadership
(TL) by reviewing the accumulated research assets in the existing literature. After the
staged review, 20 empirical studies covering five different continents were chosen for
an in-depth analysis. The results show that most studies provide empirical support
of the relationship, with variances in identifying subfactors of EI and TL that further
explicate the EI–TL relationship. At the same time, the remaining studies are found to
be skeptical, not fundamentally denying the relationship, but commonly pointing out
the problem with EI measures and emphasizing the need for more valid and reliable
assessment tools. Building on these findings, the present research suggests implications
for practice and research in the human resource development (HRD) field.

emotional intelligence, transformational leadership, EI measures, leadership development

In the unprecedented economic era characterized with VUCA (volatility, uncertainty,

complexity, and ambiguity), the topic of leadership seems to take center stage in vari-
ous disciplines. As indicated by the main theme of the 2017 World Economic Forum,

1SK Telecom, Seoul, South Korea

2Incheon National University, Yeonsu-gu, South Korea

Corresponding Author:
Taesung Kim, Assistant Professor, Incheon National University, Creative HRD, 119 Academi-ro,
Yeonsu-gu, Incheon, 22012, South Korea.
378 Human Resource Development Review 16(4)

Responsive and Responsible Leadership, many thinkers recognize than ever the
importance of influential leaders to tackle challenges, seize opportunities, and secure
success. In the organizational context, research and practice alike have been in pursuit
of the formula and programs for effective leadership. For example, Google has trans-
formed the manager’s role by taking the traditional personnel-related power away
from managers and reassigning their duties to primarily help solve problems (Bock,
2015); almost a half of human resource development (HRD) professionals ranked
leadership development for managers at the top of their priority (Association for Talent
Development [ATD], 2016); organizational scientists have long researched effective
leadership to propose a variety of definitions, styles, and relationships.
There are numerous factors assumed to affect effective leadership, making it diffi-
cult to come to a consensus on adequate configuration for leadership development. In
particular, a lingering question is why leaders with proven expertise are not necessar-
ily successful in influencing others and attaining business goals. In this respect,
Goleman (1998) proposed that performance of those in low-level positions in the orga-
nizational hierarchy tends to be associated with technical excellence, while it may not
be the case for those on higher levels. Even worse, individual prowess and cognitive
intelligence are often suspected to be a barrier to performance of organizational lead-
ers who are interdependent with a variety of humans in crafting results. Suciu, Petcu,
and Gherhes (2010) looked into the potential economic effect of leaders’ emotional
intelligence (EI) and argued that leaders who underestimate EI are likely to fail due to
their inability to move followers and satisfy customers.
Over the last few decades, the concept of EI has been around in the HRD field and
is broadly assumed as a crucial attribute of effective leaders. For example, Clarke
(2010) asserted that effective leaders act as role models in a group, paying attention to
members’ emotions and making efforts to establish a positive climate. Furthermore,
Ashkanasy and Tse (2000) claimed that transformational leaders are attentive to their
own emotions, as this practice allows them to reflect on their emotional behaviors,
perceive others’ emotions, and effectively react to their needs. As indicated by a myr-
iad of programs aimed at improving leaders’ EI, these claims have garnered substantial
support from many practitioners as well.
However, some researchers challenge the scientific rigor of EI-related propositions
and argue that EI itself is conceptually incoherent among various definitions (e.g.,
Antonakis, 2004). Matthews, Zeidner, and Roberts (2004) even maintain that EI seems
to be more myth than science and that the proponents of EI stand on speculative scaf-
foldings, rather than on sufficient evidence. In fact, when it comes to scholarly work
on the relationship between EI and leadership effectiveness, the results are mixed. For
example, Barling, Slater, and Kelloway (2000) argued that important components of
EI are positively associated with transformational leadership (TL) behaviors;
Antonakis, Ashkanasy, and Dasborough (2009) found no significant evidence of EI’s
contribution to TL behaviors; Harms and Credé (2010) added a variation that EI and
TL have a marginal association. In brief, the existing body of research has yielded
inconsistent results about EI and incurred an ongoing debate between the proponents
and skeptics. This inconclusive tension underscores the urgency of an extensive inves-
tigation for a theoretical contribution, while advising the practical field that it would
Kim and Kim 379

be premature to regard EI as a key determinant of effective leadership and embed it

into leadership development efforts. What inheres in an application without solid evi-
dence might include invalid schemes and unpredictable results, as well as ineffective
use of resources. Said differently, it is necessary to take an in-depth look at the rela-
tionship between EI and leadership and to offer an integrated reference for both
researchers and practitioners.
To this end, the present research attempts to look into the relationship by reviewing
the accumulated research assets in the existing literature. In particular, not aiming to
address all the leadership styles exhaustively, we focus on TL in relation to EI because
all-inclusive scoping is likely to end up with completely incoherent interpretations
and, moreover, because TL is featured with comprehensive aspects of effective leader-
ship and, therefore, is regarded the most prevailing leadership style in recent research
and practice (Carasco-Saul, Kim, & Kim, 2015).
In sum, the purpose of this research is to (a) take an overview of essential informa-
tion about EI and TL, (b) extensively review empirical findings regarding the relation-
ship between EI and TL, and (c) suggest implications for research and practice in the
HRD field.

Referring to Torraco’s (2005) guide to an integrative literature review, we conducted a
staged review that proceeded from initial identification of pertinent articles to scan-
ning their titles and abstracts for preliminary inclusion, to the further review of candi-
dates for selection, and, ultimately, to the in-depth analysis of the selected articles.
More specifically, pertinent scholarly articles were identified using multiple
ProQuest databases that include ABI/INFORM Complete, ERIC, ProQuest Education
Journals, PsycINFO, and PsycARTICLES. With the research focus on the link between
EI and TL, the keyword combination of “emotional intelligence” and “transforma-
tional leadership” was used to result in 118 articles found. There were such restrictions
as peer-review, empirical study, and English publication, but no restriction was placed
on publication dates considering the term “emotional intelligence” was coined by
Salovey and Mayer in 1990. Then, the titles and abstracts of the articles were reviewed
to determine whether each study (a) focused on the relationship between EI and TL,
(b) had a research methodology, and (c) examined empirical data measured by instru-
ments designed for EI and TL. In the following stage, the studies whose abstracts
provided vague descriptions of the research frameworks and measurements were
reviewed in-depth for inclusion or otherwise. The studies that focused mainly on other
factors, such as the gender and new venture growth issues, were excluded, as were
those purely conceptual with no report of measurements. As a result of this staged
review of 118 articles, 20 empirical studies were chosen for further in-depth analysis.

Overview of EI and TL
Before examining the relationship between EI and TL, it is necessary to provide an
overview of how EI and TL have been developed, defined, and measured.
380 Human Resource Development Review 16(4)

In the 1990s, the term “emotional intelligence” was coined by Salovey and Mayer
(1990) who recognized EI as being comprised of multiple emotional abilities different
from cognitive ones. Spurred by the publication of Emotional Intelligence by Goleman
(1995), EI gained worldwide popularity and inspired many to have a fresh look at
emotion from the perspective different from the traditional one.

Definitions of EI.  EI is generally used with reference to the ability to perceive, under-
stand, and manage the emotions of both the self and others to accomplish personal and
collective goals (Brown & Moshavi, 2005). One step further, there are three different
approaches to understanding EI: (a) EI as a trait, (b) EI as a competency, and (c) EI as
an intellectual capability.
The first approach suggests that EI is an innate dispositional tendency that allows
for emotional well-being (Bar-On, 1997). Proponents of this view argue that EI is
significantly associated not only with cognitive intelligence but with certain personal
qualities. Referring to the performance potential, instead of performance itself, they
argue that understanding EI along with other cognitive intelligences offers a more
comprehensive picture of an individual’s performance potential.
The second approach holds that EI is a set of acquired skills and competencies
essential for leadership effectiveness and job performance (Goleman, 1995).
Maintaining that leaders with high EI are most successful, this approach stresses that
emotional competence is a learned ability that contributes to effective performance at
work and spans four dimensions: (a) self-knowledge, (b) self-control, (c) social aware-
ness, and (d) relationship management.
The third approach emphasizes that EI is distinct from both competency and per-
sonality (Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, & Sitarenios, 2003; Salovey & Mayer, 1990). This
approach considers EI as a new type of intelligence characterized by “the ability to
perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to under-
stand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as
to promote emotional and intellectual growth” (Mayer & Salovey, 1997, p. 5).
These different approaches more explicitly manifested in the instruments that mea-
sure EI.

Measurements of EI.  Among various EI measures, the most frequently used ones are
the following: (a) Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i), (b) Emotional Competence
Inventory (ECI), and (c) Multifactor Emotional Intelligence Scale (MEIS) and Mayer–
Salovey–Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT; Conte, 2005).
The EQ-i is based on Bar-On’s (1997) noncognitive intelligence model, views EI as
an innate dispositional tendency, and relies solely on self-reporting in measuring EI.
The EQ-i with 133 items is designed to measure the following five areas and their
subcomponents: (a) interpersonal skills, (b) intrapersonal skills, (c) adaptability, (d)
stress management, and (e) general moods.
Kim and Kim 381

The ECI views EI as a set of acquired competencies. It intends to measure the emo-
tional competencies of individuals and identify high performers’ emotional competen-
cies and positive social behaviors in the workplace. The ECI consists of 110 items
assessing 20 competencies in the following four clusters: (a) self-awareness, (b) social
awareness, (c) self-management, and (d) social skills (Conte, 2005). Unlike the EQ-i,
the ECI is a 360-degree tool that includes self, peer, and supervisor ratings.
The MEIS and MSCEIT take an ability-based approach to EI, as they view EI as a
new type of intelligence. Comprising 12 subsets with 402 items and eight subsets with
141 items, respectively, the MEIS and MSCEIT measure four EI branches, including
(a) perceiving emotion, or the ability to identify emotions in the self and others, as well
as in other stimuli; (b) facilitating thought, or the ability to use and communicate emo-
tions in cognitive processes; (c) understanding the progression of emotion, or the abil-
ity to analyze emotional information and identify how emotions shift; and (d) managing
emotions, or the ability to control the emotions and moods of the self and others for
specific purposes (Brackett & Salovey, 2006). Both are markedly different from other
EI measures in that, similar to the way used in cognitive ability tests, each item has the
correct answer (Rosete & Ciarrochi, 2005).
There are other tools used, such as the Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence
Test (SUEIT), Trait Meta Mood Scale (TMMS), Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal
Accuracy (DANVA), SMS-EQ, and EI-type scale.

There has been a development in leadership research, whereby the perspective has
shifted from trait and behavioral theories to current ones such as contingency, leader–
member exchange, and TL theories, to name just a few (Carasco-Saul et al., 2015).
Among this multitude, the TL model has been adopted by much of leadership literature
that has attempted to look into the factors (and their combinations) for effective leader-
ship. In fact, for the last several decades, TL has been most pervasive in leadership
research (Brown & Moshavi, 2005; Harms & Credé, 2010).

Definitions of TL.  Transformational leaders are described as those who encourage fol-
lowers to increase their intellectual confidence, actively work to challenge the status
quo and achieve higher performance, and pursue learning and development (Clarke,
2010; Dulewicz, Young, & Dulewicz, 2005; Harms & Credé, 2010). Many researchers
(e.g., Bass, 1991; Bass & Avolio, 1997; Bogler, Caspi, & Roccas, 2013) asserted that
TL is constructed with the following key dimensions: (a) idealized influence, (b) inspi-
rational motivation, (c) intellectual stimulation, and (d) individualized consideration.
Idealized influence, frequently referred to as charisma, involves not only a leader’s
attributes, such as commitment to ideal achievement, but also actions consistent with
his or her beliefs. Inspirational motivation is the extent to which a leader encourages
his or her followers to achieve more by setting the bar high and inspiring confidence.
Intellectual stimulation refers to how a leader mobilizes followers to question assump-
tions and challenge uncertainties. Finally, individualized consideration refers to a
382 Human Resource Development Review 16(4)

leader’s attention to the needs and concerns of followers by emotionally supporting

them and keeping up sincere interactions. By taking a comprehensive approach to
multiple, concurrent factors for effective leadership, TL is distinguished from other
notable leadership styles, such as authentic leadership, ethical leadership, and charis-
matic leadership, that attend to (a) certain salient aspect(s).

Measurements of TL. Recognizing the multiple dimensions of leadership, Bass and

Avolio (2000) proposed the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) and Form
5X (MLQ-5X) to identify an individual’s leadership style. These most widely used
instruments (e.g., 16 out of 20 articles reviewed here) evaluate four TL dimensions of
idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual-
ized consideration, and use a 5-point behavioral scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 4
(frequently). According to the degree to which leaders behave in terms of the items
stated in the questionnaire, the instruments identify three different leadership styles:
transactional, laissez-faire, and TL.
In working with people and exercising their leadership, transactional leaders
depend on contingent rewards, management by expectation (active), and management
by exception (passive) as significant leverages. Contingent rewards refers to how fre-
quently leaders use expectations and resultant economic rewards to encourage mem-
bers to achieve their goals; management by expectation means how often leaders
foresee members’ mistakes in advance and actively correct them; management by
exception means the extent to which leaders passively react to members’ mistakes,
rather than actively preventing them. Laissez-faire leadership is characterized as the
absence of leadership and is distinguishable from management by exception. Laissez-
faire leaders avoid accepting responsibility, making decisions, expressing their own
opinions, or acting on members’ request for assistance. This type of a leader is typi-
cally absent when needed. As transformational leaders influence, inspire, stimulate,
and care about followers, instead of proffering carrots and sticks for performance or
letting go, they are apparently differentiated from those with transactional and laissez-
faire styles of leadership (Bass & Avolio, 2000; Bogler et al., 2013).

Relationship Between EI and TL

The analysis of the chosen studies suggests that the results be classified into two dis-
tinct groups: (a) those that found a significant relationship between EI and TL and (b)
the others that are skeptical about their relationship. In what follows, we provide a gist
of each of the studies along with the samples, measuring instruments, and other details.

Positive EI–TL Relationship

Among the 20 studies chosen, 15 argue the significance of EI in relation to TL based
on the correlational and predictive findings about the EI–TL relationship.
Barling et al. (2000), drawing on data from 49 managers of a large pulp and paper
organization via Bar-On’s self-report Emotional Intelligence Inventory and the MLQ
Kim and Kim 383

5X-Short, found that EI is significantly related to three dimensions of TL: inspirational

motivation, idealized influence, and individualized consideration. Among these, inspi-
rational motivation had the most significant correlation with EI—Pillai’s Trace F(2,
44) = 8.05, p < .01—followed by idealized influence—Pillai’s Trace F(2, 44) = 7.60,
p < .01—and individualized consideration—Pillai’s Trace F(2, 44) = 3.69, p < .05.
In exploring their hypothesis that transformational leaders would possess higher EI
levels than transactional leaders, Palmer, Walls, Burgess, and Stough (2001) studied
43 students and alumni of the Swinburne University Center for Innovation and
Enterprise Programs. For the survey, they used the modified version of TMMS to
assess an individual’s ability to reflect and manage emotions of self and others, and the
MLQ to assess leadership style. Although their hypothesis was not fully supported, the
authors found that some components of TL are correlated with those of EI, namely,
idealized influence with monitoring emotion (r = .44, p < .01), inspirational motiva-
tion with both monitoring emotion (r = .42, p < .01) and managing emotion (r = .37,
p < .05), and individualized consideration with both monitoring emotion (r = .55, p <
.01) and managing emotion (r = .35, p < .05).
L. Gardner and Stough (2002) used the SUEIT that measures how an individual
handles emotional information in the workplace and MLQ-5X for TL. Based on the
analysis of the data from 110 high-level managers including 69 in the senior level or
above, they reported that TL is positively correlated with EI (r = .675, p < .01) with
intellectual stimulation having the strongest correlation with total EI scores (r = .586, p
< .01) and that EI significantly predicts TL with the subscale of “understanding of emo-
tions, external” being the most significant predictor of the variance in TL (β = .554, p <
.01). They also provided empirical evidence of a negative correlation between laissez-
faire leadership and EI (r = −.464, p < .01).
Sivanathan and Cynthia Fekken (2002) employed EQ-i and MLQ-5X to measure
EI and leadership style of university residence staff. For data collection, 58 residence
managers at Ontario University, the managers’ 232 employees, and 12 supervisors
were asked to participate in the survey. The authors found that the EI levels of univer-
sity residence staff were positively correlated with TL (r = .40, p < .01).
Duckett and Macfarlane (2003) researched managers in retail organizations in the
United Kingdom to examine who the high-performing managers in the organization
are. The researchers reviewed the results of annual performance appraisals of 20 man-
agers and measured their EI using SMS-EQ profiles that have been used to hire and
select managers in the retail companies and measure 13 dimensions of EI: energy,
stress, optimism, self-esteem, commitment to work, attention to details, change, cour-
age, direction, assertiveness, tolerance, consideration, and sociability. Duckett and
Macfarlane (2003) mapped the dimensions of the SMS-EQ profiles against TL behav-
iors, analyzed the high-performing managers’ EI profiles, and reported a positive rela-
tionship between their EI and desired TL behaviors.
Using the MSCEIT and MLQ-5X to assess EI and TL, respectively, Leban and
Zulauf (2004) collected the data from 24 project managers from six organizations to
examine if the managers’ EI levels are related to TL behaviors. They found that one’s
overall score on EI has a positive correlation with inspirational motivation (r = .364,
384 Human Resource Development Review 16(4)

p < .05), idealized influence (r = .362, p < .05), and individualized consideration (r =
.419, p < .05).
Rubin, Munz, and Bommer (2005) gathered data from 145 managers from a large
biotechnical company to examine the extent to which EI and personality of leaders
influenced TL behaviors. The authors used DANVA to measure the ability of recogniz-
ing emotion; Big Five Inventory to measure the personality factor of extraversion; and
Podsakoff, MacKenzie, and Bommer’s (1996) instrument to measure six dimensions
of TL: articulating a vision, providing a role model, communicating high-performance
expectations, providing individualized support, fostering the acceptance of group
goals, and providing intellectual stimulation. The results of this study showed that
leaders with the ability of emotional recognition are more likely to engage in TL
behaviors (β = .18, p < .05) and that the personality factor of extraversion positively
influences the relationship between EI and TL (β = .19, p < .05).
Using the EQ-i for EI and the MLQ-5X for TL, Butler and Chinowsky (2006) col-
lected data from 130 senior executives (either presidents or vice-presidents) out of the
construction industry in the United States to investigate the relationship between EI and
leadership effectiveness. Through a bivariate regression analysis, the researchers found
that 34% of TL behaviors could be explained by the participants’ total EI scores (R2 =
.3429, p < .01) and that the TL score increased as the total EI did: specifically, when the
total EI increased by one point on a 5-point scale, the TL score increased by .022.
Downey, Papageorgiou, and Stough (2006) collected data from 146 female project
managers in Australia, using the SUEIT and the TMMS to measure their EI levels and
the short version of MLQ-5X to assess their leadership styles. The reporting was that
three dimensions of the SUEIT, understanding emotions (r = .304, p < .01), emotional
management (r = .435, p < .01), and emotional control (r = .325, p < .01), as well as
two subfactors of the TMMS, attention to feelings (r = .295, p < .01) and clarity of
feelings (r = .375, p < .01), are positively correlated with all TL behaviors. Moreover,
according to the results of regression analysis, EI was a significant predictor of TL:
specifically, emotional management accounted for 20% of the variance in TL (β =
.453, p < .01); a mixed model, with emotional management and attention to feelings
combined, accounted for an additional 5% (β = .513, p < .01); a further combination
of emotional management, attention to feelings, and clarity of feelings accounted for
27% of the variance in TL (β = .535, p < .01).
In looking at the correlation between EI and TL, Hackett and Hortman (2008) col-
lected data from 46 assistant principals in elementary, middle, and high schools in a
large school district of Georgia and used the ECI university edition (ECI-U) for EI and
the MLQ for leadership styles. The results showed that EI levels were positively cor-
related with TL behaviors (r = .290- .695, p < .05) with two domains of the ECI-U
(social awareness and relationship management) being most significantly correlated.
Furthermore, 16 out of 21 EI subfactors of the ECI-U were found to be correlated with
intellectual stimulation, and 13 subfactors were positively correlated with inspirational
Wang and Huang (2009) examined the relationship in a Taiwanese context and
measured EI levels with the Wong and Law’s (2002) Emotional Intelligence Scale
(WLEIS) and TL with MLQ-5X. The WLEIS assesses the following four dimensions
Kim and Kim 385

of EI: self-emotion appraisal, others’ emotion appraisal, regulation of emotion, and

use of emotion. Using data from 51 managers and 252 employees in small- and
medium-sized textile companies, the researchers conducted a hierarchical regression
analysis to find that EI significantly predicts TL (β = .264, p < .05) and that TL medi-
ates the effects of EI on group cohesiveness.
Using the MSCEIT and MLQ-5X, Clarke (2010) conducted a study with 67 project
managers from various national organizations in the United Kingdom, in which the
participants were also asked to respond to a survey regarding behavioral competen-
cies, including communication, teamwork, attentiveness, and conflict management.
Through bivariate correlation and regression analyses, this study found a significant
correlation between Branch 2 of the MSCEIT, using emotions to facilitate thinking,
and two components of TL, idealized influence (r = .26, p < .05) and individualized
considerations (r = .27, p < .05). Branch 2 was also found to be related to the behav-
ioral competency of teamwork (β = .28, p < .05).
Hur, van den Berg, and Wilderom (2011) examined whether there is a correlation
between EI and TL and whether TL mediates the relationship between EI and such
managerial factors as leader effectiveness, team effectiveness, and service climate.
The authors collected data from 55 leaders and 859 employees in a public-sector orga-
nization in South Korea, using 16 items from the WLEIS to measure EI and the short
version of the MLQ-5X to measure TL. The results showed that EI is positively cor-
related with TL (r = .46, p < .01); EI significantly predicts the variance in TL even after
controlling for leaders’ ages, their levels of education, and the sizes of their teams, β =
.43, p < .01, ∆R2 = .19; ∆F(1, 50) = 12.95, p < .001; and that TL mediates the relation-
ship between EI and leader effectiveness, as well as between EI and service climate.
San Lam and O’Higgins (2013) examined a correlation between EI and TL with
data from 50 managers and 273 employees across two Chinese construction compa-
nies. Using the MLQ and the Wong Emotional Intelligence Scale (WEIS) developed
by Wong, Law, and Wong (2004), tailored to the Chinese context (San Lam &
O’Higgins, 2013), and designed to measure four dimensions of EI (self-awareness,
self-management, social awareness, and relationship management), the authors found
that there is a positive correlation between EI and TL in a Chinese context (r = .23,
p < .01)
Ugoani, Amu, and Kalu (2015) investigated the correlation between EI and TL with
data collected from 47 managers and employees in Aba, Nigeria. They developed their
own questionnaire for the study using the survey design technique and found a strong
correlation between EI and TL (r = .89, p < .01).
Despite some variance in discrete TL components related with EI, measuring
instruments, and sample sizes and research contexts, the 15 studies overviewed above
provide convincing empirical evidence that EI is positively related to TL.

Skepticism Regarding the EI–TL Relationship

However, unlike the studies in the previous section, the following five studies are
skeptical about the relationship between EI and TL.
386 Human Resource Development Review 16(4)

Barbuto and Burbach (2006) collected data from 80 public officials and their 388
employees in the United States and measured TL with the MLQ and EI with Carson,
Carson, and Birkenmeier’s (2000) instrument that assesses five dimensions of EI:
empathetic response, mood regulation, interpersonal skills, internal motivation, and
self-awareness. The authors found a moderate correlation between EI and TL but, at
the same time, a difference between the leaders’ self-reported and employees’ rater-
reported results. For example, EI was found to be less related to the rater-reported TL
subfactors of intellectual stimulation and idealized influence. In conclusion, Barbuto
and Burbach argued that these findings weaken the claim that EI is correlated with TL.
Using the EQ-i and MLQ with 161 supervisors and their 2,411 employees in a large
international technology company in the United States, Brown, Bryant, and Reilly
(2006) investigated how EI and TL interact with leadership outcomes such as leader-
ship effectiveness and employees’ satisfaction with their leaders. This study found
that, when TL was considered in the hierarchical regression analysis, a leader’s EI
significantly predicted leadership effectiveness, R2 = .88, F(2, 158) = 557.20, p < .001,
and employees’ satisfaction (β = −0.08, p < .01) with TL playing a mediating role in
between. However, the researchers found no correlation between EI and TL and that
neither the total EI scale nor its subscales predicted variance in TL scales.
In examining the EI’s correlation with diverse leadership behaviors, Harms and
Credé (2010) conducted a meta-analysis to suggest a moderate relationship between
EI and TL. They also pointed out that there was a distinct difference in degrees of cor-
relation between those that employed the single source rating both for EI and TL and
the others that used the multi-source rating, in which studies of single source rating
tended to present a stronger relationship between EI and TL (r = .48, p < .1) than those
of multi-source rating (r = .11, p < .1). They added that trait-based measures of EI were
more strongly related to TL than ability-based measures. With this low level of agree-
ment, Harms and Credé raised the concern about the validity of EI assessment tools
and did not fully support the claims made by EI proponents.
Cavazotte, Moreno, and Hickmann (2012) examined whether the leader’s EI level
is positively related to TL behaviors. The data were collected from 134 team managers
and their employees in a large Brazilian energy company using WLEIS and MLQ-5X.
The researchers found a significant EI–TL relationship when EI was considered alone,
but no significant relationship when ability and personality elements were factored in.
At the same time, the authors were concerned about the discriminant validity of the EI
measurement, arguing that many EI factors could be explained by cognitive intelli-
gence and personality traits. Acknowledging the possible bias of their findings due to
the measurement issues, Cavazotte et al. recommended that future researchers should
use ability-based measurements to mitigate the possibility.
Føllesdal et al. (2013) examined the extent to which EI influences TL, using multi-
level analyses of data from 104 executives and their 459 employees through the
Administrative Research Foundation in Norway. The MSCEIT and the official
Norwegian version of the MLQ-5X were used to measure EI and TL, respectively. The
authors found that EI levels did not predict TL when such factors as leaders’ ages,
general cognitive ability, and personality factors were controlled for. They also argued
Kim and Kim 387

that the MSCEIT has validity problems and might not be an appropriate tool for mea-
suring EI.
The five studies overviewed above challenge the claim that EI is significantly
related to TL. In addition, although the studies employed different EI measures, they
commonly pointed to the validity issue of EI assessment.

This research examined a total of 20 articles focused on the relationship between EI
and TL. These studies were conducted across five continents: eight in North America
(the United States and Canada), three in Asia (China, South Korea, and Taiwan), three
in Europe (the United Kingdom and Norway), two in Oceania (Australia), and one in
Africa (Nigeria). Including one meta-analytic study, three studies did not provide
information on where they were conducted. The data were gathered from various
industries, including public-service providers, university staff, private companies, and
international organizations. There was no dominant industry surveyed in the studies.
This wide range of research settings could serve as a solid ground for reliability and
generalizability of the research findings.
Overall, the findings are divided into two groups. One group of 15 studies provides
evidence that EI is a critical contributor to TL behaviors, with variances in identifying
subfactors of EI and TL that further explicate the EI–TL relationship. Among the TL
subfactors, for instance, some researchers found inspirational motivation to be most
significantly correlated with EI (e.g., Barling et al., 2000), while others gave the credit
to intellectual stimulation (e.g., L. Gardner & Stough, 2002). Despite this room for
continued investigation, the results of this dominant group of studies provide empiri-
cal support of leveraging EI for leadership development. On the contrary, the other
group adopted a skeptical stance about the relationship. In particular, these studies
commonly pointed out the problem with EI measures and emphasized the need for
more valid and reliable assessment tools. Not fundamentally denying the EI–TL rela-
tionship, they suspect that the relationship is overstated by the proponents of EI.
With all these findings and interpretations, the present research offers the HRD
field a comprehensive understanding of the EI–TL relationship and suggests implica-
tions for practice and research.

Implications for Practice

In the organizational reality, the boss is a prime reason for employees to leave (Hay,
2002; Wefald, Reichard, & Serrano, 2011), and there are many other undesirable phe-
nomena that leaders are blamed for. Considering that these are frequently associated
with the emotional aspect of leaders and the sentiment of members, it is imperative to
pay more attention to the matter of EI and its relationship with leadership in the work-
place. The present research informs the HRD field that the majority of studies sup-
ported EI’s contribution to TL behaviors. In other words, leaders with high EI are more
likely to effectively influence employees by providing visions, inspiring them,
388 Human Resource Development Review 16(4)

encouraging their pursuit of intellectual competence, and attending to their specific

needs. Therefore, HRD professionals are advised to more confidently incorporate EI
components into practices for leadership development. In particular, they are encour-
aged to explore further values for leadership development from such opportunities as
EI assessment, self-reflection and meditation, mindfulness programs, and others that
feature emotional interventions.
From the functional perspective, leadership is regarded as a major enabler of high
performance and sound culture of an organization; from the interpretational perspec-
tive, it is a driver of people’s learning and engagement (Moss, 2008; Shuck & Herd,
2012). These are the fundamental reasons why the HRD field is concerned about effec-
tiveness of current and potential leaders and why balanced attention should be paid to
both indicators of material performance and human dynamics. In particular, given the
EI’s role in association with leadership, EI-related aspects deserve to be embedded in
the selection and promotion process, as well as in the regular evaluation process. For
example, if the organization prefers transformational leaders over transactional or
laissez-faire counterparts, it could address the EI of emerging leaders in the assess-
ment center or evaluate their social relationships with their protégés. Unmatched with
its widespread awareness, EI still seems to be regarded as good-to-have in practice,
instead of must-have, under the full swing of performance-centered, result-based orga-
nizational atmosphere. However, the present research offers evidence for HRD profes-
sionals to spell out EI’s contribution to leadership effectiveness and, ultimately, to
sustainable performance and healthy culture of an organization.

Implications for Research

EI is an area that still calls for a continued debate on its definition and attributes.
Scholars thus far have been successful in shedding light on EI, looking at it from mul-
tiple angles and providing insightful references for the field. However, the research
community has yet to reach a consensus on the fundamental conceptualization of EI as
represented by the disagreement on whether it is a trait, a competency, or an intellec-
tual capability. This theoretically inconclusive status leaves the field confused about
how to address EI and indecisive on, for example, whether to put resources in buying
leaders with high EI or in making leaders by developing their EI. In other words, the
conceptual consensus would reduce the likelihood that strategic efforts would become
stranded with resources wasted, while serving as a phenomenal step forward to robust
theorization of EI.
This research found that, largely due to the issues with EI measures, the EI’s con-
tribution to TL is questioned by both its advocates and opponents. Hunt and Fitzgerald
(2013) pointed out that the lack of a broadly accepted EI assessment tool is one of the
reasons for the mixed results regarding the EI–TL relationship. To be specific, the
discriminant validity issue is concerning for self-reporting instruments (e.g., EQ-i and
ECI), because quantitative studies are often susceptible to common method bias, espe-
cially when the data set is gathered from the homogeneous source with similar assess-
ment methods. Ability-based EI measures (e.g., MEIS and MSCEIT) are also
Kim and Kim 389

vulnerable to critique due to their scoring techniques and subfactors often overlapping
with those of cognitive intelligence and personality. This overlap is a by-product of the
disagreement in conceptualization of EI and reversely adds to the difficulty of reach-
ing the agreed-upon definition. Therefore, alongside with pursuing the consensus in
definition, testing and securing the validity of EI measures would continue to be an
important area of research contribution.
Another research opportunity is implied on an entirely new level with the advent of
the 4th Industrial Revolution (4th IR) characterized with massive connectivity, big
data, meta-intelligence, to name a few (Schwab, 2017). As the introduction of the term
at the World Economic Forum in 2016, many are concerned what it really means for
us. Much attention so far seems to be around its mega-level ramifications with such
arguments as that numerous jobs would disappear, that human beings at work would
be substituted by artificial intelligence (AI) and robots, and that one would live a com-
pletely different working life (Frey & Osborne, 2017). Subsequent to these arguments
is the question on what quality the future talent should possess to survive and succeed
in these uncharted waters. To this question, the most common answer is that it must be
creativity and socioemotional capabilities given the prospect that an individual’s intel-
lectual capacity is likely to lose to AI and that important logical decisions might be
made by the computer algorithm based on data analytics. At work, people would con-
nect and collaborate with each other, rather than command and follow; information
and intelligence would be shared, rather than distributed; the organizational structure
would become horizontal, rather than vertical. Applied to the leadership context, this
understanding suggests that EI should garner refreshed attention in the HRD field as
not only a contributor to, but also an ultimate determinant of effective leadership in the
new era of 4th IR. It also implies that researchers should critically revisit current lead-
ership models, including TL, and come up with new leadership models that better fit
the new norm. In fact, it might be the time for HRD to discuss what the 4th IR has to
offer to all the established knowledge across the various dimensions of the field.
Things are changing dramatically, and so should HRD.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.

The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of
this article.

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Author Biographies
Hyejin Kim is currently an HRD manager for SK Telecom in South Korea with nearly 20 years
of professional experience in the field. She received her master’s degree in Workforce Education
Kim and Kim 393

and Development at The Pennsylvania State University. Her area of expertise includes HRD
planning, leadership development, organization development, and coaching.
Taesung Kim is currently an assistant professor in the department of Creative HRD at Incheon
National University in South Korea. He received his Ph.D. degree in Workforce Education and
Development at The Pennsylvania State University and has more than ten years of extensive
experience in the HR field including the tenure with KPMG Korea as a director in the Learning
and Development Center. His research area includes organization development and change,
leadership development, work engagement, and professional ethics.