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Exploring the Rhetoric of the Emotionally (Un) Intelligent CEO in Times of Crisis

aEmlyon Business School, France
bESTIA, France

Emotion in Organizations

ISBN: 978-1-83797-251-7, eISBN: 978-1-83797-250-0

Publication date: 29 January 2024



Little is known about what emotionally un(intelligent) CEOs really say to their close collaborators within the boardroom. Would the rhetoric content differ between an emotionally intelligent and an emotionally unintelligent CEO, especially during a crisis? This chapter aims to answer this question.

Study Design/Methodology/Approach

40 CEOs of large corporations were asked to deliver a verbal address to their board members in reaction to a vignette describing a critical situation for the company. Participants were provided with the Schutte self-report emotional intelligence (EI) test. The verbal content of CEOs' closed-door discourses was analyzed using Cognitive-Discursive Analysis (CDA) and, subsequently, Geometric Data Analysis (GDA).


The results revealed that CEOs with low EI tend to evoke unpleasant emotions, talk about competition, and often blame some – or all – of the board members for their (poor) actions in comparison to CEOs with high or medium EI. In contrast, CEOs with high EI tend to use terms in relation to decision or realization and appear to be more cooperative than those with lower EI and were also ready to make decisions on behalf of team.


Previous research has mainly focused on CEOs' public speeches. But the content of CEOs' speeches within the boardroom might noticeably differ from what they would say in a public address. The results of our exploratory study can serve CEOs as a basis toward improving their closed-door rhetoric during a crisis.

Research Limitations

It would be interesting to enlarge the size of our population in order to strengthen our statistical analyses as well as explore other cultural and linguistic environments and other channels through which emotions can be expressed (e.g., human face, gesture, vocal tone).



Haag, C. and Wolff, M. (2024), "Exploring the Rhetoric of the Emotionally (Un) Intelligent CEO in Times of Crisis", Ashkanasy, N.M., Troth, A.C. and Humphrey, R.H. (Ed.) Emotion in Organizations (Research on Emotion in Organizations, Vol. 19), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 133-153.



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