Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, and Corruption

Dianne Irene All Rights Reserved.

The very basis of corruption in leadership is spear headed by the lack of emotional intelligence or what some call spiritual maturity.  In early stages of development, humans discover that certain reactions to situations can elicit certain results. In infancy, humans learn that crying can get attention or food.  In adolescence humans discover that they can further use responses to elicit specific reactions with greater accuracy and a refining of what was learned becomes a process of uncertainty and deeper emotional responses. By adulthood, the cycle of behaviors and responses should be balanced and encompass a self-aware individual capable of empathy, understanding, and a sense of appropriateness.

On another level, this process can face a disjuncted development where a dispersement of energy goes in both a positive and negative direction. This struggle is between the use of power and empowerment. In the early development stages of discovery, power is used to communicate and express basic human emotions. As a person matures, the power can be internalized and thus become a focus of self-preservation.  This focus can lead to greed, manipulation, and poor judgment. Relevance and perspective are fine tuned emotional maturity components. They become the markers for appropriateness much like a compass is for direction. Any breakdown of these development factors can lead to a person’s misguided decision making. In adulthood, the sense of personal responsibility should already have been established. Otherwise, the transition into this can be difficult and the growth beyond the victim perspective can be very challenging. Psychologists at TalentSmart found that those leaders who scored low on emotional intelligence displayed the poorest ability to make decisions (Tasler et al., 2009). They are the leaders who do not take responsibility for their own actions and do not have a strong understanding of their own feeling and emotions (Nahavandi, 2006) .

The current worldwide financial crisis has been a strong example of this lack of empathic process of relating to others. A few became greedy internalizing their power and costing the global economy to subsequently falter. The understanding of power as a means to get a desired response on a juvenile level leads to an internalized motivation with a lack of understanding the connection in relationships and the importance they have on the spirit. The spirit can be understood as the part that makes a person animated. Beyond the physical expression is that place where people process information and create judgments about those thoughts. These become expressions of feelings. Then, actions are expressed in emotion. Anger is a feeling, but crying or yelling could be the emotional response. Learning to express appropriate emotions are also essential to the learning process. A lack of understanding and empathy will take leaders to place where they will not relate to others.

Another consideration is the fear factor. Those who live in response to fear become a reactive component of reality. Their ability to be proactive is stifled and decisions are made on the basis of a lower plain of emotional intelligence. The extreme of this scenario can be seen in places where riots began or where wars began. Fear takes over the rational mind and forces a person to seek out what are considered to be the self preservation considerations. In this state growth and maturity are put on hold and self preservation uses up the senses. These senses are needed to continually register the nuances of reality and place them in the appropriate place in consciousness.  
Those leaders who have a missing component in these development factors will display disconnected decisions. They will function much like a computer that has a virus or one that is missing some scripts. The development process of the human consciousness is imperative to it performance and its proactive abilities in leading appropriateness. Since a leader’s behavior has a trickle down affect on team members and subordinates, the emotional intelligence of that leader can create an environment that then becomes a framework for everyone involved. TalentSmart psychologists found that emotional intelligence will indicate, “how well managers understand and regulate their own feelings as well as how skilled they are at reading and responding to the emotions of others” (Tasler et al., 2009).

However, even those team members who are functioning at higher levels of emotional maturity can revert back to a lower level of functioning due to a hostile or inappropriate environment. Therefore it is a very important responsibility of the leader to ensure an appropriate environment and take responsibility. TalentSmart points out that when leaders take responsibility and are able to make a difficult situation into something positive then they will be the most effective decision makers (Tasler et al, 2009). Former President Lincoln apparently took this seriously and was able to even win over those who were his rivals. William Seward was appointed as secretary of state and after some time working together came to respect Lincoln as a leader (Coutu, 2009).

A sense of competition is another factor in developing emotional intelligence or spiritual maturity. In our lower stages of development competition is for preservation and develops to place where comparison is basic. Some leaders enjoy competition. It is the motivation behind the competition that determines it appropriateness. Those leaders that see their subordinate team members as sources of competition will hinder the group development. This is a practice of using power over others rather than empowering their team to a mutual growth and benefit. Situations will arise of uncertainty and when leaders are not developed or more interested in competing with themselves for higher standards, they can revert to a lower level of thought processes. Our social condition can greatly affect these processes, “so it is little wonder that team members are unwilling to embrace change and at times, sabotage new initiatives. Self governance skills will help team member support one another as they experience emotions elicited by today’s pluralistic, every changing society” (Gardenswartz, L. et al. 2009).

Leadership training is essential in today’s organizations. It quite often is the biggest factor in an organization’s success. Emphasizing the empowerment strategy and helping leaders understand the global picture of human emotional intelligence will strengthen any organization.


Coutu, D. (2009, April). Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln. Harvard Business Review, 87(4), 43-47. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from Business Source Premier database.
Gardenswartz, L., Cherbosque, J., & Rowe, A. (2009, February). Coaching Teams: for Emotional Intelligence in Your Diverse Workplace. T+D, 63(2), 44-49. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
Nahavandi, A. (2006). The art and science of leadership (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall.
Tasler, N., & Su, L. (2009, January 19). The Emotional Ignorance Trap. Business Week Online, Retrieved April 4, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.