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Transformational leadership and emotional

intelligence: an exploratory study

Julian Barling
School of Business, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Frank Slater
School of Business, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
E. Kevin Kelloway
St Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Keywords Within the large literature on leadership, Notwithstanding its conceptual origins
Leadership, Intelligence, transformational leadership has probably (Salovey and Mayer, 1990), but consistent
attracted more empirical scrutiny than any with its early stage of empirical development,
Abstract other current theory (Bass, 1985, 1998), there is currently no consensus about the
Investigated whether emotional focusing either on its nature or effects. The exact nature of emotional intelligence.
intelligence (EQ) is associated theory suggests that transformational Different authors postulate differing
with the use of transformational
leadership can be distinguished from numbers of factors that should be included in
leadership in 49 managers. Man-
agers completed questionnaires transactional leadership. Transformational emotional intelligence (e.g. Bar-on, 1997;
assessing their own emotional leadership comprises idealized influence, Goleman, 1995; Salovey and Mayer, 1990;
intelligence and attributional inspirational motivation, intellectual Weisinger, 1998). In the present study, we use
style; their subordinates (n = 187) the classification initially enunciated by
provided ratings of their transfor-
stimulation, and individualized
mational leadership. Controlling consideration. In contrast, transactional Salovey and Mayer (1990) and Goleman
for attributional style, multivariate leadership consists of contingent reward (1995). Thus, emotional intelligence
analyses of covariance showed (also referred to as constructive comprises five characteristics, namely:
that three aspects of transforma- 1 understanding one's emotions;
tional leadership (i.e. idealized transactions), management-by-exception,
2 knowing how to manage them;
influence, inspirational motivation, and laissez faire management.
and individualized consideration) Perhaps the reason that research on 3 emotional self-control, which includes the
and constructive transactions dif- transformational leadership has become ability to delay gratification;
fered according to level of emo-
somewhat self-sustaining is that positive 4 understanding others' emotions, or
tional intelligence. In contrast, no
results continue to emerge on the effects of empathy; and
multivariate effects emerged for
transactional leadership (i.e. transformational leadership. We now know, 5 managing relationships.
laissez faire or management-by- for example, that transformational Goleman, (1998a, 1998b) argues strongly that
exception). Some suggestions for
future research are offered. leadership enhances subordinates' emotional intelligence is a prerequisite for
satisfaction (Hater and Bass, 1988) and trust successful leadership, and we assert that
(Barling et al., 2000; Pillai et al., 1999; there are several reasons why individuals
Podsakoff et al., 1996) in leadership, as well as high in emotional intelligence would be more
employees' affective commitment (Barling et likely to use transformational behaviors.
Received/Accepted: al., 1996). In addition, transformational is First, leaders who know and can manage
January 2000 associated with business unit performance their own emotions, and who display self-
Portions of this research (Barling et al., 1996; Geyer and Steyrer, 1998; control and delay of gratification, could serve
were submitted by Frank Howell and Avolio, 1993). as role model for their followers, thereby
Slater in partial fulfilment of Given the usefulness of transformational enhancing followers' trust in and respect for
the requirements of the leadership, attention has turned to other their leaders. This would be consistent with
Executive MBA degree to
the School of Business at issues such as how it develops (Avolio and the essence of idealized influence. Second,
Queen's University. The Gibbons, 1988; Zacharatos et al., in press), with its emphasis on understanding others'
authors express their and associated factors such as moral emotions, leaders high in emotional
appreciation to Nick Turner development that may predispose intelligence would be ideally placed to realize
for his comments on an
earlier version of this individuals to use transformational the extent to which followers' expectations
manuscript. leadership (Turner and Barling, 2000). In the could be raised, a hallmark of inspirational
present study, we focus on another factor motivation. Third, a major component of
that might predispose leaders to use individualized consideration is the ability to
transformational behaviors, namely understand followers' needs and interact
Leadership & Organization emotional intelligence (EQ). accordingly. With its emphasis on empathy
Development Journal and the ability to manage relationships
21/3 [2000] 157±161 positively, leaders manifesting emotional
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
# MCB University Press intelligence would be likely to manifest
[ISSN 0143-7739]
individualized consideration.
[ 157 ]
Julian Barling In investigating the relationship between
Frank Slater and emotional intelligence and transformational Method
E. Kevin Kelloway leadership, we deviate from Bass' (1985, 1998)
Transformational leadership Participants and procedure
and emotional intelligence: an conceptualization in one respect. A total of 60 managers (e.g. vice presidents,
exploratory study Specifically, we conceptualize contingent general managers, middle managers and
Leadership & Organization reward (or constructive transactions) supervisors) of a large pulp and paper
Development Journal together with the four transformational
21/3 [2000] 157±161 organization were approached individually
behaviors rather than transactional and asked whether they would be willing to
leadership for two reasons. First, while the participate in this study. They were then sent
behaviors involved in contingent reward the three questionnaires, with appropriate
(providing feedback, setting goals, rewarding instructions (i.e. complete the emotional
behaviors) are all task-oriented, the common intelligence questionnaire and the Seligman
factors across contingent reward and the four Attributional Style Questionnaire
aspects of transformational leadership are themselves, and distribute copies of the MLQ
that the behaviors involved are positive and to eight subordinates). The Emotional
discretionary. In this respect, we view Intelligence Inventory was mailed to Multi
contingent reward as more similar to Health Systems in Toronto for scoring, while
transformational leadership than it is to the other two questionnaires were mailed to
management-by-exception or laissez faire the senior author, all in stamped, self-
management. Second, confirmatory factor addressed envelopes.
analyses empirically show that contingent For the data to be included, the manager
reward loads more appropriately with was required to complete both
transformational leadership than it does with questionnaires, and 57 managers did so. In
transactional leadership (Bycio et al., 1995; addition, at least three subordinate reports
Carless, 1998). We hypothesize further, that for each manager were required, and seven
leaders who manifest emotional intelligence managers had fewer than three subordinates
characteristics of high empathy and have the respond, resulting in 49 sets of data, i.e. a
ability to manage relationships will also be manager and at least three subordinates (M =
adept at contingent reward. 3.9 subordinate respondents per manager).
In contrast to transformational leadership No data on age or gender were collected to
and contingent reward, no relationship is maintain the anonymity of managers and
expected between emotional intelligence and their subordinates.
either active or passive management-by- Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations
exception, or laissez faire management. First, for all variables are presented in Table I.
neither management-by-exception nor
contingent reward require insight or Measuring instruments
empathy. Instead, they reflect the more basic, The four components of transformational
reactive and routine behaviors involved in leadership were assessed using Bass and
management. Second, laissez faire reflects an Avolio's (1995) Multifactor Leadership
unwillingness to take any action at all, and Questionnaire (MLQ 5X-Short). Each of the
thus should share no relationship with four components was assessed with four items
emotional intelligence. on a five-point rating Likert scale (where 0 =
Lastly, in testing for an association not at all, and 4 = almost always). Contingent
between emotional intelligence and reward, management-by-exception active and
transformational leadership, we controlled management-by-exception passive, and
statistically for leaders' attributional style. laissez faire management were measured in
While optimism does not differentiate the same way.
between success and failure in leaders, being We used Bar-On's (1997) self-report
low in pessimism does (Wunderley et al., Emotional Intelligence Inventory. All 133
1998). This is consistent with Gardner's (1997) items are rated on a five-point scale. From
observation that what differentiates these items, five subscales are generated
successful and unsuccessful leaders is how (intrapersonal, interpersonal, adaptability,
they handle failures, perhaps because failure stress management and mood). Each subscale
experiences are demotivating and decrease score is transformed to a standard score, and
persistence. Consistent with this idea, the total emotional intelligence score is
attributional style predicted both turnover derived by averaging scores across the five
and productivity in a group of insurance subscales.
salespeople (Seligman and Schulman, 1986). Attributions were assessed with the
Salespeople with internal attributions for Seligman Attributional Style Questionnaire
failure were more likely to leave the (Seligman, 1984). A total of 12 events (six
organization within the first two years, and positive and six negative) are presented (e.g.
manifested lower sales performance. ``You get a raise'') in which respondents are
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Julian Barling asked to attribute a cause for the event. The served as the dependent variables. The
Frank Slater and respondent is then asked to rate, on a seven- multivariate main effect was not significant,
E. Kevin Kelloway point scale, each event in terms of Pillai's F(3,42) = 1.52, p > .05, and no
Transformational leadership
and emotional intelligence: an internality, stability and globality. Scores are univariate analyses were undertaken.
exploratory study summed and averaged across these three
Leadership & Organization indices for all 12 vents.
Development Journal
21/3 [2000] 157±161 Discussion
The results of the present study show that
Results emotional intelligence is associated with
Based on the total emotional intelligence three aspects of transformational leadership
score, three groups were generated based on (namely idealized influence, inspirational
scores below the 33rd percentile (M EQ = motivation and individualized
89.69, SD = 6.47, min. = 76, max. = 97), between consideration), and contingent reward. In
the 34th and 65th percentile (M EQ = 103.88, contrast, active and passive management-by-
SD = 3.61, min. = 98, max. = 109), and above exception, and laissez faire management,
the 66th percentile (M EQ = 120.41, SD = 6.07, were not associated with emotional
min. = 111, max. = 130). The difference in EQ intelligence. Though these findings must be
scores between these three groups was considered exploratory, they do suggest that
significant (F(2,47) = 128.77, p < .01). further research is certainly warranted. In
We computed two separate multivariate each case, the current findings suggest that
analyses of covariance. In both, three groups individuals higher in emotional intelligence
of leaders were constructed based on their are seen by their subordinates as displaying
overall emotional intelligence scores. more leadership behaviors. The strength of
Transformational and transactional these findings is enhanced because they
leadership scores of the 49 managers were emerge after controlling for attributional
contrasted across the three EQ groups, and style and across sources (e.g. leaders' self-
managers' self-reported attributional style rated emotional intelligence, subordinate
served as the covariate in all analyses. In the rating of leadership), thereby reducing the
first analysis, the four transformational likelihood that the findings are a function of
leadership characteristics, namely idealized mono-source bias.
influence, inspirational motivation, The absence of a relationship between
intellectual stimulation and individualized emotional intelligence and intellectual
consideration, together with contingent stimulation also bears further investigation.
reward, served as the dependent variables. A Previous research has supported the role of
multivariate analysis of covariance revealed intellectual stimulation as a predictor of
a significant main effect, Pillai's Trace subordinate attitudes and performance
F(5,40) = 2.13, p < .05, justifying an analysis of (Barling et al., 1996) making it a central
the five separate variables. As can be seen concept in transformational leadership
from Table II, idealized influence, theory. It is possible that the nature of
inspirational motivation, individualized intellectual stimulation (i.e. presenting an
consideration, and contingent reward all intellectual challenge, getting people to think
yielded significant univariate effects; about old problems in new ways) is more
intellectual stimulation did not. cognitive than the other three components,
For the second analysis, active and passive and does not rely on an individual's
management-by-exception, and laissez-faire, emotional intelligence in the same way that

Table I
Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations of all study variablesa
M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 Idealized influence 2.67 0.54
2 Inspirational motivation 3.02 0.47 0.53
3 Intellectual stimulation 2.71 0.29 0.32* 0.56
4 Individualized consideration 2.72 0.41 0.39 0.62 0.61
5 Contingent reward 2.81 0.41 0.34 0.70 0.60 0.75
6 MBE: Active 1.93 0.52 ±0.41 ±0.25 ±0.05 ±0.23 0.02
7 MBE: Passive 1.11 0.49 ±0.06 ±0.30* ±0.29* ±0.21 ±0.31* 0.20
8 Laissez faire 0.70 0.47 ±0.05 ±0.31* ±0.22 ±0.18 ±0.32* 0.14 0.73
9 Emotional intelligence 104.96 13.73 0.12 0.56 0.35 0.49 0.44 ±0.01 ±0.18 ±0.27
10 Attributional style 4.42 2.69 0.01 ±0.02 ±0.01 0.11 0.01 ±0.02 0.20 0.03 0.20
Notes: With N = 49, r > 0.34; p < 0.01; * p < 0.05

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Julian Barling Table II
Frank Slater and Differences between the three EQ groups on transformational leadership
E. Kevin Kelloway
Transformational leadership Low EQ Medium EQ High EQ Univariate
and emotional intelligence: an
exploratory study M SD M SD M SD F(2,44) p
Leadership & Organization Idealized influence 2.46 0.39 2.87 0.29 2.89 0.38 7.60 < 0.01
Development Journal Inspirational motivation 2.72 0.49 3.06 0.36 3.31 0.41 8.05 < 0.01
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Intellectual stimulation 2.58 0.31 2.74 0.27 2.80 0.31 2.52 < 0.05
Individualized consideration 2.50 0.36 2.74 0.28 2.89 0.51 3.69 < 0.05
Constructive transactions 2.54 0.37 2.90 0.31 2.92 0.45 5.20 < 0.01

individualized consideration, idealized link between emotional intelligence and

influence and inspirational motivation do. transformational leadership (i.e. statistical
While subject to empirical replication, this conclusion validity), because if anything,
leads to the possibility that emotional small samples would bias the findings in a
intelligence may predispose individuals to conservative manner.
different leadership behaviors. In addition to those mentioned previously,
Being the first study in a particular area the current findings have implications for
has certain advantages, and the results of future research and practice. In particular,
this study suggest that future research aimed although the exploratory nature of the
at understanding the link between current study makes replication of these
transformational leadership and emotional findings mandatory, such replication would
intelligence is certainly warranted. have substantial implications for both the
Nonetheless, like all initial research in a selection and training of organizational
given area, this study draws attention to leaders. From a selection standpoint, it may
certain methodological issues. Perhaps the be that emotional intelligence provides an
first issue that requires attention is the initial indication of leadership potential, and
measure of emotional intelligence. We used would provide organizations with a means
Bar-On's (1997) questionnaire in this study, for selecting organizational leaders. If
which includes some components (e.g. mood, emotional intelligence does indeed develop
stress management) that are not necessarily early on in life (Goleman, 1995), it may
part of the construct initially illuminated by
predict the ability to use transformational
Salovey and Mayer (1990) and Goleman
leadership behaviors.
(1995). Thus, because the usefulness of any
Current research supports the idea that
research on emotional intelligence will be
managers can be trained to use
based on the reliability and validity of the
transformational leadership (e.g. Barling et
measure, research might focus first on
al., 1996). If the association between
developing and validating such a scale.
transformational leadership and emotional
Second, because of the cross-sectional
intelligence is replicated, research should
nature of the data, causal inferences are
focus on whether emotional intelligence can
premature. While it might be tempting to
also be developed through training. If this is
assume that emotional intelligence leads to
higher levels of transformational leadership, indeed possible, as Goleman (1995) suggests,
the possibility that being a transformational considerable benefits could accrue to
leader raises one's emotional intelligence individual leaders and to organizations. For
cannot be excluded, and research should example, such training could be made
focus on this issue in the future. available to all employees, not just those
The sample size used in this study also currently holding leadership positions,
deserves some comment. In any future thereby expanding the pool of potential
research in this area, it would obviously be leadership candidates in the organization.
important to obtain larger samples. However, To conclude, while exploratory, the
it should be noted that small samples affect strength of our findings is enhanced by the
research findings in two ways, namely in application of statistical controls for
terms of the generalizability of the findings attributional style and our use of multi-
(the representative nature of the sample) and source data, which decreases the likelihood
statistical conclusion validity. Future of mono-source bias. Future research would
research should certainly replicate the be profitably directed to exploring the causal
current findings on different samples to nature of these associations and, in
ensure the generalizability of the current particular, the question of whether current
findings. While the sample size was research on emotional intelligence can be
relatively small, however, we argue that this used to enhance leadership performance
has no negative effects in terms of showing a within organizations.
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