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Emotional intelligence of leaders: a profile of top executives

Steven J. Stein (Multi‐Health Systems, Toronto, Canada)
Peter Papadogiannis (Multi‐Health Systems, Toronto, Canada)
Jeremy A. Yip (University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Gill Sitarenios (Multi‐Health Systems, Toronto, Canada)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 6 February 2009




The purpose of this paper is to examine the emotional intelligence (EI) scores of two high profile executive groups in comparison with the general population. Also the study aims to investigate the executive group's EI scores in relation to various organizational outcomes such as net profit, growth management, and employee management and retention.


The Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ‐i) was administered to a sample of 186 executives (159 males and 27 females) belonging to one of two executive mentoring associations, the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) and the Innovators' Alliance (IA). A series of questions relating to pre‐tax operating profits over the past three years, previous year's net profit, and various business challenges were asked of each executive.


The results showed that top executives differed significantly from the normative population on the EQ‐i in eight of the 15 EQ‐i subscales. Executives who possessed higher levels of empathy, self‐regard, reality testing, and problem solving were more likely to yield high profit‐earning companies, while Total EQ‐i was related to the degree to which a challenge was perceived as being easy with respect to managing growth, managing others, and training and retaining employees.

Practical implications

The findings enable researchers and practitioners to better understand what leadership differences and similarities exist at various organizational levels. These profiles further aid in human resource initiatives such as leadership development and personnel selection.


Despite empirical evidence supporting the relationship between EI and leadership, research with high‐level leadership samples is relatively sparse. The study examines EI in relation to two unique, yet high functioning executive groups, which will enable further exploration into the emotional and psychological structure of these high‐performing groups.



Stein, S.J., Papadogiannis, P., Yip, J.A. and Sitarenios, G. (2009), "Emotional intelligence of leaders: a profile of top executives", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 87-101.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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