The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership. Qualitatively Defining and Quantitatively Measuring Performance-Based Emotional Intelligence Competencies

Mikael Saarinen

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to be presented with due permission of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Helsinki University of Technology, for public examination and debate in Auditorium 1 at Theatre Academy of Finland (Haapaniemenkatu 6, Helsinki, Finland) on the 9th of February, 2007, at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 978-951-22-8564-8)   [1136 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-951-22-8563-1)

Note: The language of the dissertation is Finnish.


Emotional intelligence (EI) is a new construct of intelligence first presented by two American psychologists John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey. Since 1990, they have tried to conceptualize a theory of skills and abilities related to emotional information and its perception, use, understanding and management. This model is performance-based, in contrast to the trait-based or mixed model proposed by journalist-psychologist Daniel Goleman.

Research has shown that EI competencies are connected to several factors related to life quality, well-being and work satisfaction. In recent years, EI has also received attention in the area of leadership research. There has been no prior research on the EI competencies of superiors in Finland, although due to the quartile economy superiors must increasingly deal with awkward and anxiety-producing emotions in the workplace. EI competencies can enhance coping with these risk factors, which threaten well-being and productivity in working life.

This research was conducted across eight Finnish companies, ranging from public enterprises to IT companies. My first research agenda was to qualitatively define the emotional work of superiors, using the performance model of EI as a basis. This produced structured information about the emotional side of managerial work and development areas for a small research group (n=21) consisting of superiors and experts. In the data, the interviewees referred mostly to perception, experience, expression and management of emotions. There were significantly fewer descriptions of facilitating thoughts with emotions and understanding emotions. Superiors produced fewer emotional descriptions than average Finns, and female superiors (n=6) slightly fewer than male. Experts (n=9) diverged statistically from superiors in the greater number of emotional references.

My second research agenda was to study the functioning of different EI measurements created from different theory models. The performance-based EI test (MSCEIT) and mixed-model EI self-inventory (SSRI) did not function as expected in this data (n=43 and n=52). The distributions and reliabilities diverged significantly from those obtained in international studies. MSCEIT distribution was nearly one standard deviation weaker and scale reliabilities were all weaker than in the norm data. My own 18-item EI 360° evaluation did not extend to all dimensions of the Mayer-Salovey model of EI, although it proved to be a quite promising instrument structurally. The EI 360° consisted of five dimensions: 1) perception and understanding, 2) expression of positive and 3) negative emotions, 4) regulation of emotions and 5) emotional support of others. The cognitive elements of EI, such as facilitating one's thoughts and analyzing emotions, seem to be harder to track in a 360° evaluation. The results of performance tests, self-inventories and EI 360° evaluations did not correlate strongly. They seem to measure different areas of EI, as previous studies indicate.

My third research question was related to the level of emotional intelligence and well-being in superiors (n=25) as compared to two control groups (experts n=9 and young adults n=18). Based on the results from different measurements, several development areas were identified, particularly in the area of experiential EI competencies, where emotions are strongly present and must be perceived accurately at the same time as they are used to facilitate thinking. Unlike the earlier studies, this time there were not significant differences between men and women. Young adults were more skillful than other groups. In particular, experts and superiors got weaker results than in other studies. In the area of well-being, there was proportionally more need for development in the area of fatigue, especially with superior-group.

My last research question concerned the relation between EI and the perceived success of a superior's work. Superiors (n=14) were evaluated as fair (3.7 on a scale of 1–5) in the area of international management competencies. The perceived success as evaluated by others (n=101) was not statistically related to the EI competencies measured by different instruments. The results do provide some information on the functionality of different EI instruments in Finnish culture and where development efforts should be focused, although the small size and selected nature of the data limit these conclusions.

Keywords: emotional intelligence, competencies, evaluation, superior work, success, well-being

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© 2007 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26