Is Emotional Intelligence Really Essential for Leadership?

It's become a truism today that leaders need emotional intelligence. But this "fact" assumes that leadership means being an executive. Of course, anyone in a position of responsibility needs to be trustworthy and sensitive to the needs of stakeholders.

However, what are we to make of an important aspect of leadership, namely challenging the status quo to promote a better way? Wasn't this what Martin Luther King was doing when he challenged the US and Alabama governments to end segregation on buses?

Leadership, in my view, is badly mixed up and confused with management. For me, leadership really means promoting new directions. This is the only way to make sense of bottom-up leadership - where innovative knowledge workers promote new products. This form of leadership is based on taking risks to stand up for your convictions. Such leadership can be shown by an aggressive presentation. If you can demonstrate that your idea works, it doesn't matter if your influencing style is a bit abrasive. The bottom line, for me, is that managers need emotional intelligence but leadership does not require it. I have recently written an article spelling out this idea in more detail. If you are interested, here it is: http://www.iveybusinessjournal.com/article.asp?intArticle_ID=804

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