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How is School Leadership Connected with Emotional Intelligence?

In the last year, school principals have been put under unrelenting pressure on top of their own position in their school. A raft of circulars, changes and cuts have hit the primary and secondary school sector and I can sense that there is a lot of anger out there. Principal are at snapping point. Or, maybe, they’ve snapped and are ready to snap again. The new Career Entry Professional Programme, circular on literacy and numeracy, save out small schools and DEIS, cuts to new teachers wages and cuts to capitation grants have left me wondering how we cope with this.

It got me thinking about an article I read a while back when I was studying Emotional Intelligence. It really is worth a read but for your benefit and because I’m a nice girl, I’m going to summarise and present the main points and gift wrap them up for you in this article!

First, of all, let’s have a recap. What is emotional intelligence and does it really matter? Isn’t is a load of psycho babble? Just another soft skill?

Well, first a whistle stop tour of emotional intelligence. Sit back, grab a cuppa or something stronger and enjoy!

Where was it mentioned first? Leuner, some German guy who liked the alternative way of solving issues…

The first time the term Emotional Intelligence (EI) was mentioned was when it appeared in a German document called Praxis der Kinderpsychologie und Kinderpsychiatrie written by Leuner in 1966. Leuner was a German psychiatrist and in this paper he speaks about women who reject their social roles due to them being separated at an early age from their mothers. He suggests strongly that they had a low level of “Emotional Intelligence” (EI) and prescribed LSD for their treatment.

Moving quickly on…

Mayer, Salovey and Caruso

In the early 90s, Jack Mayer, Peter Salovey, David Caruso started to really look into EI seriously. But, it was Daniel Goleman who made the term commercial in the late 90s when he wrote the “Emotional Intelligence” book, which is excellent, by the way.

He suggests that we are in a social mess and we need to teach EI in our schools. On top of everything else. He’s right though. Vision Works publishes some amazingly brilliant teacher resources for this area. Expensive but a must in a primary school.And, for you sceptics, check out the research here. Forget standardised English and Maths tests, let’s standardise Emotional Intelligence for our kids. After, all it’s the most important predictor of life and work success. But, more on that later.

But, it might still sound a bit wishy washy to you? How can we measure EI, we can easily measure intelligence but what about emotions and intelligence? Can they be measured?

Yes, they can, in a short answer. A self assessment and 360 type approach might be the best way as there is a huge amount evidence that EI can be measured and that it does improve work and school performance.

See this research article here. (O’Boyle, Humphrey, Pollack, Hawver, Story, 2010)

Daniel Goleman

Goleman’s definition of EI is “abilities such as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope.”

Reuven Bar-On

Reuven Bar-On’s definition of EI  says that it is “an array of non-cognitive capabilities, competencies, and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures.”

Bar-On went on to develop a skill-based assessment called the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) that looks at and assesses five broad types of EI-these are intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence, adaptability, stress management and general mood

Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso

These guys use a structure where EI symbolises a system for in-putting and processing emotional information. It has 4 main areas-emotional perception/identification, emotional facilitation of thought, emotional understanding and emotional management. They use a performance-based instrument instead of a self-reporting one called the MSCEIT (Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test).

I’d now like to look at the link between school leadership and emotional intelligence. I was forwarded on an article on this very subject a while back. It makes for interesting reading, here’s the main points.

  • A group of principals and vice-principals were assessed on  their EQ level in Ontario in 2005. They were also asked to self score themselves in the area of leadership, using 21 simple “I” statement, they were asked to rate them from 1-10.
  • On top of this, supervisors and staff rated the named principal using the same criteria and scoring system.
  • Results showed that the self scoring and staff/supervisor scoring tallied in a major way.
  • Above average emotionally intelligent principals tended to be stronger in4 scales. These were emotional self awareness, self-actualisation, empathy and interpersonal skills.
  • Female principals scored higher in interpersonal skills but there were no other differences noticed between the sexes.
  • The study also referred to Humphrey’s defintion of task-orientation leadership and relationship orientation leadership. People often think that being a leader (relationships)is more important than a manager( task) when in fact, they are intertwined. It found that task-orientated EI skills like emotional awareness, self-actualisation, problem solving, flexibility and impulse control were the most important ones. In the relationship-orientated skills, the emotional inteligence skills that were the most important in an effective school principal were empathy, interpersonal skills, flexibility and problem solving.
  • Note that problem solving and flexibility were in both task and relationship orientated emotional intelligence skills for an effective school leader.
  • So, what did these reports recommend? That professional development programs for school leaders needed to focus on developing these EI skills and competencies by using EI assessment tools in the recruitment and succession planning of incoming and outgoing principals.
  • The study can be found here.

So, effective leadership is not based on making things easier or giving more capitation grants to schools. Of course, these things would be nice but it is more important for principals to keep their own mental and emotional level healthy. Book yourself in for an EI assessment and work on a practical skill-based emotions pathway. It will help your staff, family and the children.

Last Update: August 17, 2017  

February 28, 2012   53   simon    Leadership  
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Comments (2)

  1. Peterlydon 28th February 2012 at 11:29 pm Reply

    Phil Beadle challenge the Marshmellow Test saying that it is a sign of normal intelligence in a child to eat the marshmallows immediately. One wonders whether separating EI from societal norms of behaviour is necessary or simply a distraction form reduced parental imposed norms of behaviour. The corollary being that we must teach EI in?…you guessed it..schools!

  2. IT Support 29th February 2012 at 8:08 am Reply

    I think in psychology the more high your EI is, the more stable is your personality.  Adapting to changes is easier for you.  

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