Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 128, Issue 4, pp 789–802 | Cite as

Virtue: The Missing Ethics Element in Emotional Intelligence

  • Michael Segon
  • Chris Booth


The Emotional Competency Inventory (ECI) framework of Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis has gained significant impact in business leadership and management development. This paper considers the composition of the various versions of the ECI and its successor the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory to determine the nature of any appeal to ethics or moral competence within these frameworks. A series of concerns regarding the ethical limitations of the frameworks are presented with arguments supported by the relevant literature across the Emotional Intelligence (EI), competency theory and ethics fields. Based on a review of the ECI competencies in terms of their definitional constructs, it appears possible for an unethical manager or leader to demonstrate EI competence. Several cases involving high-profile business leaders, who were once lauded but later found to have acted unethically, are analysed. The authors consider the capacity of unethical leaders and managers to fulfil EI competence an issue of concern. The inclusion of an ethical management cluster and a number of competencies based on virtue ethics is proposed to meet this concern. Such an inclusion would address the critical issue of the purpose to which an EI competence is applied. Argument supporting the value of a virtue ethics approach as opposed to utilitarian or duty-based ethics approaches is also presented. Finally, a proposed exemplar of an ethically informed ECI framework is included for consideration.


Emotional competency Emotional intelligence Moral competence Virtue ethics Ethical management 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Graduate School of Business and LawRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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