Managers with a high level of emotional intelligence are more likely to be unpopular and ineffective when compared to their peers.
This research comes from Manchester Metropolitan University and the EMLyon Business School in France, which is in contrast to “the common assumption that increased emotional intelligence is always a good trait for managers.”
The research was focused on NHS staff and found that high levels of emotional intelligence did not necessarily lead to enhanced outcomes. Beyond an “optimum point” high emotional intelligence led to a drop in positive outcomes.
Dr Sumona Mukhuty, the principal lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, said:
In the last two decades, emotional intelligence has often been identified as key factor in effective leadership. However, our work within the NHS suggests there could be a saturation point.
During a time of fundamental reorganisation within the health service, we found that managers who were rated beyond a particular threshold of emotional intelligence were not necessarily highly effective.
Professor Nikos Bozionelos, of the EMLyon Business School said:
Increases in emotional intelligence beyond a moderately high level are detrimental rather than beneficial in terms of a leader’s effectiveness. Too much emotional intelligence is associated with too much empathy, which in turn may make a manager hesitant to apply measures that he or she feels will impose excessive burden or discomfort to subordinates.
Simply considering that the more emotional intelligence the manager has, the better it is may be an erroneous way of thinking. As well as implications for emotional intelligence and leadership theory, these findings have the potential to change future approaches to leadership training.
The study asked slightly more than 300 NHS managers on the extra effort they put in to their job alongside staff satisfaction. It also asked staff to asses their managers level of empathy and awareness of other emotions.