Is Emotional Intelligence linked to leader traits, age, or gender?

Dr. Solimar Miranda
Fellow since Oct 2016

A non-experimental quantitative study: Predicting Emotional Intelligence ability through the investigation of Trait Emotional Intelligence, burnout, age and gender of non-profit organizational leaders.


Nonprofit organizations traditionally lack in leadership development. Prior research shows that Emotional Intelligence (EI) has been associated with effective leadership skills. This study applied a non-experimental quantitative analysis to examine the models of Emotional Intelligence (ability and trait) as related to current nonprofit organizational leaders.
Research findings indicated that trait EI is a predictor of EI ability of nonprofit leaders. Therefore, a screening process to determine future leaders may be developed based on behavioral dispositions related to the trait EI domain. Finally, the practical implications of this study provide nonprofit organizations the justification to create leadership developmental practices based in foundational psychological principles, such as EI.

Research problem and question

The purpose of this research was to determine the significance of the variables of trait EI, burnout, gender and age as predictors the EI ability of current nonprofit organizational leaders.  The current state of nonprofit organizations is characterized by high levels of stress, limited professional growth opportunities and restricted financial resources (Kahnweiler, 2011).  Due to these industry limitations, nonprofit organization executives focus on outcomes as opposed to employee enrichment.  Additionally, there is limited scholarly literature dedicated to the nonprofit industry in regards to leadership and concepts such as EI.  Thus, the significance of this research was to advance scientific knowledge while examining the significance of the concepts of EI for nonprofit organizational leaders.  The central research question of this study was: Do the variables of Trait Emotional Intelligence, burnout, age and gender collectively predict Emotional Intelligence ability in nonprofit organizational leaders?


The research analysis discovered that the only independent variable that was statistically significantly in predicting EI ability of current nonprofit leaders was Trait EI.  Meaning that identifying the overall domains of Trait EI are able to predict current nonprofit organizational leaders’ overall EI ability.  Each of the other independent variables (i.e. burnout, age and gender) did not have a statistically significant correlation with EI ability of nonprofit organizational leaders.

Practical implications

Within the United States, nonprofit organizations make up the third largest industry, accounting for about 11.4 million jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014).  Historically, nonprofit organizations cope with financial restrictions (Kahnweiler, 2011) and a lack of leadership development practices and contingencies (Carman, et al. 2010; Phipps, et al. 2010).  Therefore, this study’s findings are particularly important for the nonprofit leadership and leadership development.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) has been linked with leadership skills such as increased levels of subordinate trust (du Plessis, Wakelin, & Nel, 2015) and higher levels of employee productivity and motivation (Yabhoubi, 2011). This study indicated that Trait EI is a predictor of nonprofit leader EI ability. Therefore, a screening process to determine future leaders may be developed based on behavioral dispositions related to the Trait EI assessments.

Additionally, this study provides a foundational basis for the inclusion of EI concepts in nonprofit leadership development programs.  Employing the principles of EI may assist nonprofit organizations in identifying and addressing leadership deficiencies, and developing succession planning strategies to avert nonprofit leadership crises.

Finally, hopefully, this study will contribute to creating a culture shift in nonprofit organizations by encouraging the use of psychological principles, such as Emotional Intelligence, to increase leadership competencies and developmental practices.


Literature Review