Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Responsibility

Emotional intelligence (EI) as defined by Brackett, Rivers & Salovey (2011) is “a set of mental abilities involving emotion-based problem solving” (p. 99). The four abilities are 1) perception of emotion, 2) using emotion to facilitate thinking, 3) understanding and analyzing emotions and 4) reflective regulation of emotions. Research of EI in education and leadership indicates awareness and coordination of emotions can contribute to a higher performing, more supportive learning and working environment (Bracket, et al., 2011; McCleskey, 2014; Ordun & Acar, 2014).

In particular, the social work and education fields both have high emotional labor components to job and organizational performance. As a leader, I feel I am responsible for providing a supportive environment to my students, clients and clinicians where they can develop their EI abilities. I am also obligated to continually develop my own EI abilities. As a clinician, my ability to use emotion to facilitate thinking is a key component of my work with clients. I have trained for years to hone by ability to perceive my own emotion and to tune into emotional clues my clients provide. As a practitioner of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), one of my primary objectives is to teach my clients emotion regulation skills. These skills are similar in content and practice to Bracket, et al.’s (2011) four EI abilities.

In the past year as I trained in DBT, I began to apply emotional regulation skills to my personal life. I believe that as I develop my ability to perceive, understand, manage and use my own emotional content, I have become more balanced and increasingly more effective in all aspects of my life. I know this works and I work daily with clients who struggle with their EI abilities, mostly because of compounded trauma experiences. It is my responsibility to bring my knowledge of EI and its practical applications to the classroom, field education and clinical supervision of my staff.

In essence, I believe the 4 EI abilities are necessary technology for a socially connected, mutually supportive community. It is my role as a leader to continue to learn how to utilize this technology and to teach it to my students, clients and clinicians.


Brackett, M.A., Rivers, S.E., & Salovey, P. (2011) Emotional intelligence: Implications for personal, social, academic, and workplace success. Social and Personality Psychology compass 5(1), 88-103.

McCleskey, J. (2014) Emotional intelligence and leadership: A review of the progress, controversy and criticism. International Journal of Organizational Analysis 22(1), 76-93.

Ordun, G. & Acar, A. (2014). Impact of emotional intelligence on the establishment and development of high quality leader member exchange (LMX). Advances in Management & Applied Economics 4(2), 111-129.


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