Leadership Derailment & Emotional Intelligence

by Sarah Rasmussen (née Mills)

The potential cost of leadership derailment to the organisation is considerable. Not only does it incur costs for exit and rehire, but also it can have an immeasurable negative impact on team productivity and motivation. Research suggests that a deficit in emotional intelligence (EI) can contribute to leadership derailment (Ruderman et al., 2001; Goleman, 1998). Three areas of EI appear in particular to be conducive to leadership derailment: poor interpersonal skills; difficulty in dealing with change; and lack of teamwork skills.

This study aims to further our understanding of the links between EI and leadership derailment. Moving beyond the idea that a lack of EI leads to derailment, we also explore the impact of overplayed EI and potential negative outcomes for leaders (Book, 2009). To understand these relationships, correlations between the HDS and the EQ-i were conducted.

The EQ-i is a measure of EI, defined as ‘how we recognise, understand and manage our emotions to ultimately succeed in life’ (Bar-On, 1997). Studies indicate that the higher the level of EI, the more likely we are to perform well at work (Bar-On, 1997). The HDS identifies 11 patterns of dysfunctional interpersonal leadership behaviour. These leadership derailment areas identify overplayed strengths that are of particular concern in managerial and leadership roles as they can seriously hinder career progression (Hogan & Hogan, 1997).