Emotional intelligence and leadership virtue: an investigation of the leadership practices of distinguished leaders

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Desmarais, Mark J.
The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to investigate the leadership practices of distinguished leaders to determine whether they utilized emotional intelligence (EI) competencies and exhibited leadership virtues. For this study emotional intelligence is observable displays of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (Boyatzis, Goleman, & Rhee, 2000; Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2013). Self-awareness and self-management determine how well individuals understand and manage their lives and their emotions, and social awareness and relationship management dictate how well individuals recognize and manage the emotions of others, build relationships, and work in complex social systems (Boyatzis & McKee, 2005). For this research leadership virtues are convictions or character traits that enable individuals to function in ways that develop their highest potential, and include courage, impartiality, empathy, judgment, enthusiasm, humility, and imagination (Glanz, 2003; Hare, 1993). Four distinguished New Hampshire leaders, with over 30 years of leadership experiences, from the professional fields of law and justice, educational leadership, high school coaching, and business/hospitality management, were purposefully selected to participate in this study. Data collection methods included document analyses, face-to-face and email interviews, and a leadership survey. A synthesis of the data analysis revealed emergent individual and relationship related elements shared among the distinguished leaders. The emergent elements consist of combinations of EI competencies and the seven leadership virtues. The individual related emergent elements include grit and passion, and continuous self-reflection and self-development, and utilize the EI competencies of self-confidence, achievement, initiative, optimism, accurate self-assessment, and transparency. A relationship related element, facilitator of organizational membership development, was also shared between the distinguished leaders, and included the EI competencies of empathy, service, developing others, and teamwork and collaboration. The results indicate the distinguished leaders utilized and exhibited a powerful integration of emotional intelligence competencies and leadership virtues, including individual and relationship related awareness, understanding and action to assist in their overall achievements as leaders. The results of this research provide a comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence effective and distinguished leadership indiscriminate of professional context.