Brain power

Emotionally intelligent leaders bolster innovation

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

Emotional intelligence is now widely accepted as a crucial aspect of successful leadership, with emotionally intelligent leaders seen as being better able to provide the kind of psychologically safe environments that encourage the best from their team.

It’s perhaps no surprise, therefore, that new research1 from Cambridge Judge Business School reveals that emotionally intelligent leaders are also ideal for innovation to flourish.

The research, which involved around 15,000 workers, found that supervisors with high levels of emotional intelligence created opportunities for growth among employees, which in turn supported their creativity.

“Creativity is crucial for individual job security and earning potential, as jobs requiring creativity are least likely to become computerised,” the researchers explain.

Supporting creativity

The researchers define emotional intelligence as the ability to perceive, use, and manage emotions.  This includes sensitivity toward others’ emotions.  Meanwhile, creativity is defined as the creation of novel and useful ideas by either an individual or a group.

Each participant was asked to rate the emotional intelligence of their boss on a range of factors, including their use of emotions for problem-solving, their ability to perceive emotions in others, and their understanding and management of emotions.

They were also asked about how many opportunities to grow they had at work, their level of creativity and innovation, and generally how their job made them feel.

“What we found was that when people described how they felt about their job in their own words, employees whose supervisors show high emotional intelligence report being primarily happy in their work,” the researchers say. “In contrast, those employees whose supervisors show little emotional intelligence say they feel frustrated and stressed at work.”

So it seems that managers who are striving to support creativity and innovation can best do so by recognizing the key role emotions play, from the anxiety of facing a challenging problem, the frustration towards obstacles in the way, and the pride at overcoming them.

“Supervisors who acknowledge that emotions matter in the creative process will be more likely to be mindful of employee emotions and create an environment in which employees experience opportunities to grow and develop their skills,” the researchers say.

Organisations should also recognise the important role played by emotionally intelligent behaviour by supervisors in employee creativity and growth, as this is important for work outcomes. The authors suggest that training in emotional intelligence for supervisors is one route companies and other organisations could take, but that such training needs to be carefully targeted to be most effective.

Article source: Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Bolster Innovation.

Header image source: Piqsels, Public Domain.


  1. Ivcevic, Z., Moeller, J., Menges, J., & Brackett, M. (2020). Supervisor emotionally intelligent behavior and employee creativity. The Journal of Creative Behavior. DOI: 10.1002/jocb.436
Rate this post

Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

Related Articles

Back to top button