A critical review of People in Organisations

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The fields of transformational leadership and emotional intelligence in organizational settings have gained momentum in the last couple of decades. Bass (1985), Bennis and Nanus (1986), Kouzes and Posner (1987) and Tichy and Devanna (1986) had published their books on transformational leaders-moving the field of organizational leadership towards greater interest in senior leaders who were change agents (Conger, 1999). One of the classifications of leadership styles includes Transformational Leadership (TL) (idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration), transactional leadership (contingent reward or constructive transactions and management-by-exception) and laissez faire management. Different authors postulate differing numbers of factors that should be included in emotional intelligence (EI). According to classification initially enunciated by Salovey and Mayer (1990) and then developed by Goleman (1995) EI comprises of understanding one's emotions; knowing how to manage them; emotional self-control, ability to delay gratification; understanding other's emotions, or empathy and managing relationships (Barling et al., 2000). The raising interest in TL and relation to EI or any other components or behaviour is based on the premise that TL can be predictable and trainable. If this is conclusively proved, the implications on leadership selection, training and development processes would be tremendous.

Comparative Review

Please note that all three articles chosen for review are research papers with primary data, relating to transformational leadership and emotional intelligence from 2000, 2001 and 2006.

Barling et al. (2000):

The objective of their study is to investigate if individuals high in EI are more likely to use transformational behaviours. Barling et al., have incorporated classification of EI as enunciated by Salovey and Mayer (1990) and Goleman (1995). Sample consists of 60 managers from various positions like vice presidents, general managers, middle managers and supervisors from of a large pulp and paper organization of which 57 managers responded along with at least three subordinates. They assessed the four components of TL using Bass and Avolio's MLQ (MLQ 5X Short, 1995) and the Seligman Attributional Style Questionnaire for leaders' attributional style. Contingent reward, management by exception (active, passive) and laissez faire management were measured in same way. The research is based on hypothesis, in contrast to TL and contingent reward, no relationship is expected between EI and management-by-exception, or laissez faire management. Based on their findings, they reported that EI is associated with only three aspects of TL (idealized influence, inspirational motivation and individualized consideration) and with contingent reward.

Palmer et al. (2001):

The aim of study was to examine relationship between EI and effective leadership. The study was based on transactional/transformational model of Bass & Avolio (1990, 1994) and "ability" model of EI by Mayer and Salovey (1997). Their sample size is of 43, consisting of 33% higher management, 30% middle management & 27% lower management positions with an average of 36 months in these positions. 23% of the sample size is female and the balance is male. They used MLQ (Avolio et al., 1995) for leadership style and Modified Trait Meta Mood Scale (TMMS) (Salovey et al., 1995), a self report measure of individual differences in the ability to reflect on (or monitor) and manage one's emotions for measuring EI. Their hypothesis was "transformational leaders would be higher in EI than transactional leaders". But they reported their hypothesis is not conclusively proved by the research findings. Their findings did suggest that inspirational motivation and individualized leadership components of TL were significantly correlated with ability to monitor and manage emotions in oneself and others.

Hoffman et al. (2006):

The objective of study was to investigate if there is any impact of emotional, cognitive, and social intelligences on TL using multiple measurement methodologies (i.e., here assessments centre and paper-and-pencil measures). The Cognitive intelligence component was assessed using paper-and-pencil measures; social intelligence using AC dimensions and personality scales; and EI using personality scales and assessment centre. They have acquired sample size over 4-year period from 86 physicians enrolled in an MBA program. The sample consisted of 73 males with a mean age of 38.4. The participants completed Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (CTA) and the California Psychological Inventory (CPI; Gough and Bradley, 1996). They also participated in developmental Assessment Centre (AC). The study included MLQ forms (Bass & Avolio 1990) circulated to supervisors, subordinates, and peers prior to beginning the program.

Framework and Assumptions

It can be observed that all three papers have utilized the Bass' framework of TL as an accepted standard though there are a few modifications in terms of correlation of components with transactional or transformational leadership and also with components of EI. Barling et al. (2000) deviated from Bass' six factor model framework (Bass & Avolio, 1999) in investigating relationship between EI and TL. They have conceptualized contingent reward (or constructive transactions) together with the four transformational behaviours rather than transactional leadership. They have hypothesized further, that leaders who manifest EI characteristics of high empathy and have ability to manage relationships will also be adept at contingent reward. This is consistent to some extent with discussion of two correlated higher-order factors representing transformational and transactional contingent leadership factors of Bass & Avolio (1999).

To examine components of EI, Hoffman et al. (2006) selected a slightly different approach compared to the other two, multidimensional facets of intelligence, where their research encompassed all the components of cognitive intelligence (in relation to intellectual stimulation), social intelligence (charismatic behaviour), and EI (in relation to individualised consideration). By far, it can be observed that Salovey and Mayer's ability model is a part or basis of framework for most of the other models. There are various other classifications or frameworks by different researchers but which seem to be less popular compared to these two models. As stated by Chrusciel (2006), Lam and Kirby (2002) offer division of EI into three distinct components: to perceive emotions, to understand emotions, and to regulate emotions. The other two studies have utilized a similar framework for EI. Both these studies have made an assumption that EI is expected to be linked to TL more than transactional leadership. Barling et al. have raised a valid point of causal inference, which was not considered by other two studies. While it might be tempting to assume that EI leads to higher levels of TL, possibility that being a transformational leader raises one's EI cannot be excluded (Barling et al., 2000).

Research Methodology

No evidence of selecting type of sampling method (major categories of Probability Sampling or Judgement Sampling) is provided in any of the research papers. The sample sizes are small and applicability of the outcomes to the whole of the population is questionable. Any scientific ways of selecting sample size are not explained, which can be limitation to analyse validity. It does seem like researchers took advantage of Simple Random Sampling. Also, it is quite evident that majority % of respondents are males in all studies. This may result in chances of data getting skewed to some extent. The average age of respondents falls between 37 - 39 years, hence it can be assumed that majority of respondents fall in the middle level management category rather than top level management. Hoffman et al. study participants were concurrently working as Physicians, their role can be assumed to be more of Individual Contributors and may not have many employees reporting.

All these three researchers have taken help of home grown tools. Though it is questionable to which extent these home grown tools can be accepted to serve the purpose of these studies, it is assumed that these tools are properly synchronized to MLQ's of Bass & Avolio.

All the researchers used same statistical tools like Mean, Standard Deviation and Correlation. Barling et al. used modified TMMS, based on self rating process, which is a point to be considered. 60% of items pertaining to self may skew the data as it is dependent on self-perception of EI rather than actual EI. As reported by Hoffman et al., "Research has found that individuals willingly distort their responses on self-report personality measures (Barrick and Mount, 1996; Douglas et al., 1996; Ones et al., 1996; Rosse et al., 1998)". The other two studies included subordinates, peers and superiors contributing in form of their opinion on the managers. This ensures that the data becomes more unbiased, either supporting or not supporting information provided by respondents.

Palmer et al. concentrated more on Emotional Monitoring of EI, but there are many other parameters worth considering to check the correlation between TL and EI. Research by Hoffman et al. is more elaborate when compared to other two research papers. But study method used by Hoffman et al., assessment centre (AC) may have certain limitations like no previous reports of its usage in same context to check validity. In their own words, "Linkages drawn from the scales used to measure the multiple intelligences - decisions for classifying particular personality scales and AC dimensions may be inadequate to capture emotional and social intelligence constructs" (Hoffman et al., 2006). Also, taking only a few parameters may not yield the exact results. When statistical tools are applied to check correlation and standard deviations, researcher may not get concrete results whether two of the items would positively correlated or negatively correlated. Researchers should have included more scales and sub scales to assess the traits of both transactional and transformational leadership so as to prove whether both are correlated or not or they are correlated with EI. Palmer et al. reflect on the method and scale used for research and confer with Avolio et al., (1999) on this aspect. Relationship between EI and effective leadership may be better established with performance based measures of EI (Palmer et al., 2000).


Palmer et al. hypothesised "Transformational Leaders would be higher in EI" but could not prove it. They noticed that Idealized Influence significantly correlated with scores on the Emotional Monitoring Scales but not with Emotional Management Scale. Whereas Inspirational Motivation was moderately correlated with Emotional Monitoring and Emotional Management Scale and Individualized consideration also correlated with Emotional Monitoring and Management scales. With the consideration of granular definition on Transformation Leaders by Hoffman et al., they could prove their hypothesis "EI will be positively related to subordinate ratings of their leader's individualized consideration". However, results pertaining to the specific dimensions of TL have been inconsistent. While EI could be theoretically connected to all three dimensions of TL, it appears most similar to the transformational component of individualized consideration. As per the research conducted Palmer et al., Intellectual Stimulation didn't correlate significantly with either of the EI Scales.

Research by Barling et al. also experienced absence of relationship between EI and intellectual stimulation. As they rightly reflect, it can be because nature of intellectual stimulation is more cognitive than other three components and may not rely on an individual's EI in same way that individualized consideration, idealized influence and inspirational motivation. However, Hoffman et al. noticed, Cognitive Intelligence will be positively related to subordinate ratings of their leader's intellectual stimulation behaviours. It was found by Palmer et al. that there existed significant correlation between contingent reward and emotional monitoring.

One weakness in these research papers is that all of the four behaviours of TL are not directly mapped to EI. All the authors used different definitions for EI and they have brought in sub scales of EI giving scope for confusion while deriving the conclusion if transformational leaders are high in EI. And, none of the papers provided the questionnaire used or raw data to accept or reject the findings of these research papers. We can just assume that the data collected is optimally used and accept results those are shown using statistical tools (if p < 0.05, hypothesis gets proved else would be disproved). However, all the research could not prove majority of the hypothesis, which means, there is a large scope for further study.

Practical Implications

Since the early 1980s, civilian studies in business firms, government agencies, and other civilian organizations along with military research have supported the greater effectiveness of TL in contrast to transactional leadership in generating subordinate extra effort, commitment, satisfaction, and contribution to military readiness (Bass, 1998). Large amount of research is being done in this field by many leading authorities in Organizational Behaviour. A few key reasons for overwhelming interest in this field is that if TL is conclusively related to EI and EI is proved to be a trainable trait, this can be utilized in leadership selection, training and development processes. Knowledge regarding exactly how EI relates to leadership may lead to significant advances in leadership training and development programs, and the ability to select potentially effective leaders (Palmer et al., 2001). The components of EI which can influence or predict a leader's behaviour or style of leadership will be quite helpful in selection of future leaders. Understanding precisely how EI related to effective leadership may have several implications for human resource practitioners and leadership search firms (Palmer et al., 2001). Although it is not yet conclusively proved by practical application, it is believed by most researchers that EI and hence TL are trainable. Regardless of which interpretation one chooses, all seem to support general definition which includes the facts that EI is distinct from general intelligence, it develops throughout one's life, it can be enhanced through training and that those who have come to master this intelligence can identify and perceive emotions for both themselves and others Chrusciel (2006). It is believed that managers can be trained to use TL (e.g. Barling, et al., 1996). But there are limitations to this concept as pointed out by many researchers, the extent to which an individual can exercise the learning of this into a real life context. As reported by Chrusciel (2006), Bardzil and Slaski (2003) point out that even with extensive training and improvement of the individual's EI quotient, the organizational environment will continue to be an influencing factor determining whether an individual can exercise the new training. For those positions within the organization that require a high level of inter-personal interactions, EI assessments can be effective tool in identifying the proper placements Chrusciel (2006). Many leading authorities on this topic suggest that TL is seen in all the layers in a corporate setting not just in top level management. Managers should be observant in noticing how their behaviours and characteristics are being modelled to ensure that their leadership is cascading effectively (Bass, 1998). As firms adapt to economic pressures in their selection, training and development program, the identification of the most important selection and training topics would seem to be a goal worthy of managerial focus (Rozell et al., 2002).

If we frame our understanding of leadership by concentrating on not just what leaders do, but rather by a consideration as to what capabilities an individual must have in order to perform effectively in a leadership role, perhaps understanding, selection and development could be enhanced (Brown et al., 2006). As charismatic and inspirational leaders display various personality attributes such as high energy, self-confidence, determination, intellectual and verbal skills, strong ego ideals, and an inner locus of control, measures of such traits can provide valid screening instruments (Bass, B. M., 1998). If EI does indeed develop early on in life (Goleman, 1995), it may predict the ability to use TL behaviours (Barling et al., 2000).

All three research papers are based on EI and leadership behaviours with their final objective oriented towards investigating the practical application of the trainability concept. Though the findings do not conclusively prove there is a strong relation between these two, a few of the components seem to have correlations. The research provides necessary evidence to take up further research in this field (already provided basis for many other research papers). If association between TL and EI is replicated, research should focus on whether EI can also be developed through training (Barling et al., 2000). It is believed that research on EI and effective leadership may identify new sets of emotion-based skills, which could be used in leadership training and development programs (Palmer et al., 2001). Goleman (1998) reports success of one such training program from American Express pilot project. "The first pilot of the emotional competence program, financial advisors who went through the training has sales gains of 8 to 20 percent over the previous year - significantly more than the comparison groups who did not get the training, and more than the average company-wide" (Goleman, 1998).