leader-effectivenessIn the business (including legal services) world, job satisfaction determines key performance behaviors and outcomes critical to the life, health, and sustained prosperity of not only the organizations, but their workers, too. A leader’s effectiveness, i.e. the overall performance of leadership behaviors, influences workers’ job satisfaction. Emotional intelligence, shown by a line of research, predicts leader effectiveness. A recently published meta-analytical review study closes a gap – no previous meta-analysis had studied how a leader’s emotional intelligence influences leader effectiveness – in the research stream. That research investigated how leader emotional intelligence relates to an important type of leader effectiveness – worker job satisfaction. This study’s results showed not only that leaders’ emotional intelligence predicts workers’ job satisfaction, but also provides insights about how that occurs.

Why You Should Read This Post. Additional, powerful evidence lends further support for organizations, including legal and other professional services organizations, using emotional intelligence assessments, emotional intelligence training, and education about emotion to promote an important type of leader effectiveness – job satisfaction. This post outlines the new and important evidence for legal leaders, their followers, and leaders and members of other professional services organizations. The following parts highlight why and how the researchers conducted it and notes important features of the study, discusses certain main findings and conclusions, and offers points of application for legal leaders, lawyers, and other professional service providers concerned with issues and outcomes about worker job satisfaction and leadership effectiveness. Legal leaders, the research strongly suggests, need to become emotionally savvy mood managers. It begins with their emotional intelligence.

Why the Researchers Did the Study. A number of individual studies have shown that a relationship between emotional intelligence and job satisfaction exists. But, the authors noted that “to date there has not been a meta-analysis of how leaders’ EI influences subordinates’ job satisfaction.” They cited several reasons to conduct the study, including that job satisfaction constitutes one of the most important central constructs in organizational psychology, and shown to impact job performance, organizational citizenship behavior, and health outcomes of workers; understanding how leader emotional intelligence influences worker job satisfaction will enable inferences about those important outcomes; and other reasons including the need to investigate whether worker emotional intelligence affects the relationship between leader EI and worker job satisfaction, to consider certain firm type and size contextual factor impact, and to contribute to developing a framework on how to better understand leaders’ moods and emotions influence their effectiveness as leaders and its impact on worker job satisfaction.

Research Background – Emotional Intelligence, Leader EI, and Job Satisfaction.  Job satisfaction, a “primary focus” of academics and practitioners concerned with worker behavior and workplace performance outcomes, has two basic components. “Job satisfaction has two relevant components, namely affective (feelings towards one’s job) and cognitive (cognitive evaluation of one’s job) components.” Job satisfaction has also been identified as “an important type of leader effectiveness.” Experts conceptualize and measure emotional intelligence in many ways. They call these “streams”. This research considered three in order to generate the best possible predictability from the results. Some distinguishing features about those three streams of emotional intelligence follow.

Ability-stream 1 (four branch model, i.e. perceive, use, understand, and regulate, of emotional intelligence measured by the Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test [MSCEIT]; models an “intelligence” IQ type test in which “right” answers exist], Self-report-stream 2 (measured by the Wong and Long Emotional Intelligence Test [WLEIS], and tracks the four-branch model of emotional intelligence), and Mixed-stream 3 (four dimensions, i.e. emotionality, self-control, sociability, and well-being, which “comprehensively encompasses the emotion-related facets of personality”, as measured by the self-report Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire [TEIQue], not redundant with other personality measures; or the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory [EQ-i]) constitute the three (3) “major” streams of emotional intelligence. The researchers considered each stream, individually and collectively, when they conducted their meta-analytical review study of the relationship between leader and worker emotional intelligence and worker job satisfaction. A final aspect of the research-theoretical background featured here involves leader emotional intelligence.

female-leader-emotionLeadership matters greatly when it comes to moods, feelings, and emotions in the workplace. Today’s workplace involves workers in a constantly changing affective environment. Workers’ reactions to that ever-changing flow of negative and positive events impacts their affective responses. The authors cite a number of studies and conclude that this reaction results “in an ebb and flow in job satisfaction”. In this regard, the authors also noted that “emotionally intelligent leaders take the role of ’emotional manager’ to set up a positive ‘affective tone’ both for their subordinates’ benefit and to create positive affective events for them.”

Influence constitutes an important aspect of leadership. Under a multi-level model of emotions in organizations, one level involves a leader’s one-on-one interactions with workers in order to influence them. Relying upon the several studies cited, the authors argue “The interaction between leaders and subordinates provides a natural platform where leaders can rely on their EI to enhance their subordinates’ job satisfaction by spreading feelings of happiness and enthusiasm to them.” Authenticity and caring count as two more qualities which relate to leader EI and job satisfaction.

Emotional displays play a critical role in generating worker’s feelings about a leader’s sincerity and charisma. Drawing upon earlier research, the authors further argue about the leader EI / subordinate satisfaction connection, stating “Emotionally intelligent leaders are proficient at displaying emotions, invoking emotions in others, and conveying a message of authenticity to their subordinates, thus increasing subordinates’ job satisfaction.” Finally, perceiving and understanding emotions relates to empathy. Leaders who can perceive and understand their subordinates’ emotions are “emotionally savvy leaders”. These leaders “can improve their followers’ job satisfaction by displaying empathy and demonstrating that they care about their followers’ well-being.”

What the Researchers Did: Methods. The researchers conducted a meta-analysis for the relationship between leaders’ emotional intelligence and subordinates’ job satisfaction. They searched several electronic databases. They also searched journals in the management science and psychology research literatures. In addition to also searching management and psychology conference materials, the research team also reached out to emotional intelligence scholars for other related, unpublished materials and information. The resulting pool of articles and information included only empirical quantitative studies which involved real employees and which also reported a correlation between leaders’ emotional intelligence and subordinates’ job satisfaction. Twenty samples and a sample size of 4,665 comprised the data set for the meta-analytical review study.

businessman-thumbs-upQuestions Considered and Results. The researchers considered twelve hypotheses in their study. This part notes certain hypotheses considered by the researchers and, without detailing the various techniques used and analyses conducted, highlights selected results obtained by their analyses. A brief summary follows:

  • Collectively, do all three steams of emotional intelligence, i.e. ability, self-report, and mixed, significantly and positively relate to subordinates’ job satisfaction? ANSWER: YES;
  • Individually, does each stream of emotional intelligence, i.e. ability, self-report, and mixed, significantly and positively relate to subordinates’ job satisfaction? ANSWER: YES;
  • Does each stream of leader emotional intelligence predict subordinate job satisfaction above and beyond personality factors, i.e. neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, and cognitive ability? ANSWER: YES;
  • Does leader emotional intelligence contribute to subordinate job satisfaction over and above subordinate emotional intelligence? ANSWER: YES;
  • Does subordinate emotional intelligence relate positively to leader emotional intelligence and contribute positively to that relationship and in turn subordinate job satisfaction? ANSWER: YES; and
  • Does leader emotional intelligence in organizations known as “low humane orientation”, i.e. not encourage fairness, friendliness, caring, and kindness, more strongly and positively relate to subordinate emotional intelligence than in a high humane oriented culture? ANSWER: YES.

Discussion Highlights. Citing one of the leading articles about emotions in the workplace, the authors began their article’s discussion section with this quote: “Leadership is an emotion-laden process and emotional intelligence leads to effective leadership.” The big result from this quantitative review of twenty research studies of emotional intelligence, leadership effectiveness, and job satisfaction is this point – “emotionally intelligent leaders will produce satisfied followers.”  Other discussion points related to the results noted in the part above follow.

Mixed emotional intelligence, e.g. Bar-On model, serves as the greatest predictor of subordinate job satisfaction. All three models, i.e. streams, of emotional intelligence contributed above and beyond leader personality factors and cognitive ability in predicting subordinate job satisfaction. “It is worthwhile to note that mixed EI alone impressively accounts for 49.9% relative importance in predicting subordinates’ job satisfaction, whereas FFM [personality factors] and cognitive ability in combination (i.e. six predictors in total) show only 50.1% relative importance in predicting subordinates’ job satisfaction.” A couple more points deserve special mention.

Subordinate emotional intelligence and leader emotional intelligence, according to this study, share an approximate 50/50 split in terms of determining subordinate workplace satisfaction. The authors labelled the 48.0% relative role of leaders’ emotional intelligence as “noteworthy”. Followers’ emotional intelligence does influence the effect of their leaders’ emotional intelligence”.

A final point relates to leader emotional intelligence, follower job satisfaction, and humane workplace culture. Low humane cultures do not seem fair, friendly, caring, or kind. Such low cultures also do not promote generosity. Low humane cultures also do not have the well-being of subordinates as a core norm. The results of this study showed that leader emotional intelligence has a stronger impact on subordinate job satisfaction in low humane culture orientations.  Next, suggestions for legal leaders, their followers, and legal and other professional organizations.

female-business-leaderTake-Aways for Legal Leaders, their Followers, and Legal Services and other Professional Services Organizations. “Job satisfaction is a factor influencing many important workplace outcomes, such as job performance, turnover, and profits.” A positive, strong link exists between leader emotional intelligence and subordinate job satisfaction. Many different models and measures of emotional intelligence exist. This study considered three different streams.

The resulting evidence, derived from a large quantitative synthesis of 20 studies involving almost 5,000 participants in a variety of workplace environments, shows that collectively and individually emotional intelligence predicts worker job satisfaction. While cognitive ability and personality factors do predict worker job satisfaction, leader emotional intelligence impacts this very important workplace performance outcome over and above those factors.

This post’s featured research article did not highlight findings regarding the legal profession and its leaders. But, the resulting evidence, described variously as “impressive” or “noteworthy”, implicates the attention and focus of legal leaders and their followers. Why?

Emotional intelligence, as shown by this recent and other research studies of mounting significance, matters for both leaders and their followers. Legal leaders who are emotionally savvy, i.e. able to control and show their emotions appropriately, will display more empathy and care about their followers more. This will boost job satisfaction. Emotionally intelligent leaders have a greater proficiency in displaying emotions, invoking emotions in others, and conveying to their followers an overall impression of greater authenticity. This leads to increased job satisfaction.

More broadly, leaders who possess and exhibit higher emotional intelligence competencies in the workplace will create and sustain an organizational culture that values emotional intelligence and attracts, nurtures, and retains emotionally intelligent followers. This happens by way of training and development opportunities. Follower emotional intelligence gets cultivated. More emotionally intelligent followers will use proper strategies to cope with stress and negative feelings in the workplace. What results? Enhanced follower job satisfaction.

Although not considered in the featured study, new research about measurement and assessment of emotional intelligence confirms that females tend to have higher emotional intelligence skills, abilities, and competencies. Why have legal and other professional services firms continued to discount or minimize the teaching of science when it comes to who might, in fact, serve better in leadership roles? Possible answers include bias and / or ignorance or a combination of both. In the next few years, the speculation goes, human capital factors, including leadership and followership, have grave implications for sustainability. Legal leaders, this suggestion goes, need to go beyond “being green”. Instead, some potent evidence points to something more personal – their own emotional intelligence. It relates to leadership effectiveness in terms of a very important factor – worker job satisfaction.

Many decision makers have a concern about return on investment when it comes to training and development in the workplace. Legal and other leaders have much to forfeit if they do not embrace the emerging evidence and take appropriate action now instead of deferring until later. The final take-away comes from the authors. It relates to practical implications and taking action:

“As such, organizations should consider including EI in leadership education, training, and development in order to generate satisfied employees. Longitudinal studies have shown that managers can improve their EI through training programs. We also encourage managers to administer an EI test when they make personnel decisions.”

Thank You.  Thank you very much. Dan DeFoe JD MS – Adlitem Solutions | Organization Development for Professional Services Firms and the Legal Profession: People. Projects. Practices |Web – www.adlitemsolutions.com | Email: dan@adlitemsolutions.com | Blog – www.psycholawlogy.com | Services – Organization Development Practitioner combining and leveraging 25+ years of diverse legal experience, 7+ years of allied health training and work experience, a Master of Science in Organizational Development Psychology, and educationally qualified or earned certifications in industry-leading normal (Myers-Briggs MBTI) and special business (Hogan Assessments) personality; ability (MSCEIT) and self-report (EQi 2.0 [derived from Bar-On model]) emotional intelligence; leadership (Certified Intentional Leadership Coach); and stress management assessment and tools (ARSENAL best practices system for stress resilient emotional intelligence) to partner with client organizations, their leaders, and member to discover needs and opportunities for growth and to design, develop, deliver, and evaluate custom interventions for individual, team, project, or organizational solutions. | Mission:  “America’s leading resource for normal personality and emotional intelligence assessments, and related coaching, continuing education programs, training, and workshops for judges, lawyers, law schools, bar associations, healthcare, medical, and other professional services providers and their organizations and leaders.”  Please visit Adlitem Solutions and Psycholawlogy again soon. Thank you very much.

Unique Emotional Intelligence Qualifications & Complimentary Assessment: I have practiced law for more than 25 years in a wide variety of contexts and practice settings. Importantly, I am one of less than a handful of practicing attorney / organization development pracitioners who have been certified to purchase, administer, interpret, and provide debriefing and developmental feedback regarding emotional intelligence assessment results. I offer the suite of assessments, e.g. workplace, leadership, group, and 360 report forms, associated with the EQ-i 2.0 model and assessment [EQi 2.0 now the successor model and assessment to the Bar-On model of emotional intelligence mentioned in this post]. Contact me to inquire about sample examples of the EQ-i 2.0 assessment reports via email at dan@adlitemsolutions.com and to arrange a time to join me for a no obligation discussion and assessment of your own or your firm’s interests or needs regarding emotional intelligence workshops, training, continuing education, or coaching. See this related post on PsycholawlogyEmotional Intelligence Memo to Management: EI as a Buffer of [Lawyer] Stress in the Developmental Job Experience – for more information about taking first steps.

Article Source: Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2016). Leader emotional intelligence and subordinate job satisfaction: A meta-analysis of main, mediator, and moderator effects. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, 13-24. http:dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.06.056 (copy currently available here)

Additional Sources: Ashkanasy, N. M., & Daus, C. S. (2002). Emotion in the workplace: The new challenge for managers. The Academy of Management Executive, 16(1), 76-86 (copy currently available here) | George, J. M. (2000). Emotions and leadership: The role of emotional intelligence. Human Relations, 53(8), 1027-1055 (copy currently available here )

Image Credits: Effective leader here | Female music director emotion here | Businessman thumbs up here | Female leader here |

Dan DeFoe

Owner and Lead consultant at Adlitem Solutions
I'm an attorney with 20+ years of experience and have an MS degree in organizational development psychology. I provide normal personality and emotional intelligence assessments, assessment interpretation and feedback, and professional development planning and training activities for lawyers, judges, other legal services providers, and their organizations.

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