Using emotional intelligence to identify high potential: A metacompetency perspective

Nicky Dries, Roland Pepermans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to demonstrate the utility of using some indication of emotional intelligence (EI) to identify high potential in managers. Presupposed correspondences between the EI personal factors model (Bar-On, 1997) and Briscoe and Halls (1999) metacompetency model of continuous learning are elucidated.

Design/methodology/approach: The study sample consisted of 51 high potentials and 51 regular managers, matched onto one another by managerial level, gender and age. All participants completed an online survey containing Bar-Ons Emotional Quotient Inventory (1997), Blaus career commitment scale (1989) and a self-anchored performance item.

Findings: EQ-i subscales assertiveness, independence, optimism, flexibility and social responsibility appear to be covert high-potential identification criteria, separating between high potentials and regular managers. Furthermore, high potentials display higher levels of job performance and, supposedly, less boundaryless career attitudes.

Practical implications: Using emotional intelligence, or at least some of its subscales, in identifying high potential may well contribute to the validity of such processes. Furthermore, the importance of cultivating positive emotions at work is spelled out in relation to high-potential identification and development policies and retention management.

Originality/value: In the majority of studies on high potentials, direct supervisors serve as research samples or a non-empirical, rather normative approach is taken to the matter. The empirical study presented in this paper is rather unique since it departs from the viewpoints of high-potential individuals, thus delivering added value to the study domain.

Paper type: Research paper
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-770
Number of pages22
JournalLeadership and Organisation Development Journal
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Emotional intelligence
  • Metacompetency
  • High potential
  • Protean careers
  • Career commitment
  • Self-reported performance


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