Original Research

The influence of trait-emotional intelligence on authentic leadership

Martina Kotzé, Petrus Nel
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 13, No 1 | a716 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v13i1.716 | © 2015 Martina Kotzé, Petrus Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 May 2015 | Published: 04 November 2015

About the author(s)

Martina Kotzé, UFS Business School, University of the Free State, South Africa
Petrus Nel, Department of Industrial Psychology, University of the Free State, South Africa

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Orientation: Authentic leadership is a relatively new construct that has recently gained increasing attention resulting from challenges faced by organisations relating to ethical meltdowns, corruption and fraud.

Research purpose: This study seeks to explore the relationship between components of emotional intelligence and authentic leadership.

Motivation for the study: Several authors called for more empirical investigations into the antecedents of authentic leadership. Despite the important role that emotions play in leadership, empirical studies were lacking about the influence of different components of emotional intelligence to authentic leadership.

Research design, approach and method: Data were collected, using questionnaires obtained from 341 full-time employed applicants to MBA and leadership programmes in a South African Business School. Relationships between variables were analysed, using Pearson product-moment correlations and stepwise multiple regression.

Main findings: The results indicated that emotional intelligence has positive statistically significant associations with authentic leadership. Specifically, those who scored high on all the emotional intelligence components also scored high on authentic leadership. In addition, the emotional intelligence component of empathy was a statistically significant predictor of authentic leadership.

Practical/managerial implications: Initial findings suggest the potential value of recognising and developing the emotional intelligence of leaders to enable them to lead their organisations authentically to desired, successful outcomes. As empathy has been shown to be the most important emotional intelligence predictor of authentic leadership, leaders need to understand when subordinates perceive a leader as displaying empathic emotion.

Contribution: This study contributes to the literature and empirical research on the antecedents of authentic leadership.


Leadership; Authentic leadership; Emotional intelligence


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