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19 Apr 2024

Case Study: The Power of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Emotional intelligence (EQ) emerges as a critical determinant of success in leadership effectiveness. This case study from the Harvard Business Review illuminates how EQ can transform leaders and their organisations, underscoring its profound impact on team dynamics, decision-making, and organisational culture.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence encompasses the ability to recognise and manage one's own emotions and empathise with and influence the feelings of others. This skill set enables leaders to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics, inspire trust, and foster collaboration—an indispensable asset in today's competitive business environment.

Case Study: Daniel Goleman's Research

Daniel Goleman's seminal research, featured in Harvard Business Review, provides compelling insights into the tangible benefits of emotional intelligence in leadership. Goleman studied over 500 executives and found that EQ was twice as important as technical skills and IQ for roles at all levels of an organisation. Leaders with high EQ consistently demonstrated superior performance in team leadership, customer service, and financial performance.

Transformative Leadership at Johnson & Johnson

A standout example of EQ's transformative power in leadership is seen at Johnson & Johnson during the tenure of former CEO James Burke. Burke's leadership during the Tylenol crisis in 1982 exemplified his exceptional emotional intelligence. Faced with a severe product tampering issue that threatened public safety and the company's reputation, Burke responded swiftly and decisively. His empathetic communication with stakeholders, swift actions to protect consumers, and transparent handling of the crisis mitigated the immediate fallout and reinforced public trust in the brand. Burke's EQ-driven leadership saved lives and set a precedent for crisis management and ethical leadership in corporate history.

Key Elements of Emotional Intelligence in Action

  1. Empathy and Communication: Burke's ability to empathise with the concerns of consumers and stakeholders enabled him to communicate effectively and reassure the public during a crisis.
  2. Adaptability and Resilience: Leaders with high EQ, like Burke, demonstrate resilience in navigating challenges and adapting to changing circumstances without compromising core values.
  3. Decision-Making: EQ equips leaders with the ability to make well-informed decisions that consider both logical analysis and emotional impact, as evidenced by Burke's crisis management approach.

Impact on Organisational Culture

Emotional intelligence enhances individual leadership capabilities and shapes organisational culture. Leaders prioritising EQ cultivate a workplace environment characterised by trust, open communication, and collaboration. This fosters employee engagement, enhances innovation, and drives organisational performance.


The case study of Johnson & Johnson underlines the transformative influence of emotional intelligence in leadership. Leaders who harness EQ effectively inspire trust, foster resilience, and drive organisational success despite adversity. As businesses navigate an increasingly complex and interconnected global landscape, investing in emotional intelligence emerges as a strategic advantage and a fundamental imperative for sustainable leadership excellence.


In conclusion, the case of James Burke at Johnson & Johnson illustrates that emotional intelligence isn't just a desirable trait—it's a critical component of effective leadership that can shape the course of organisations and inspire a culture of resilience, innovation, and ethical conduct. Leaders who embrace and cultivate EQ are poised to lead their teams and organisations to new heights of success in the modern business world.

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