Increasing Leadership Capacity through Emotional Intelligence

Increasing Leadership Capacity through Emotional Intelligence

Wanda S. Maulding Green (University of South Alabama, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1968-3.ch003
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The role of the leader is plagued with decision-making. It has been said that the average school administrator easily makes over 100 decisions a day. Each of these decisions carry with it some modicum of stress, however insignificant. The additive affect can certainly take its toll. From the encounter of a late bus to the meeting with an angry parent, the school leader is inundated with a myriad of circumstances that can put the leader on a roller coaster of emotion. How does one balance it all? One viable solution is considering ways to improve on one's emotional intelligence. This article informs the reader on the basis of emotional intelligence, its origins, and how mastering it can lead to increased leadership success.
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Although characterized as ‘the happiest job’ in America by USA Today in 2015, one might prefer to call it ‘the most rewarding.’ The rewards of the principalship are great. Watching children progress from ‘inquiring minds’ to productive young citizens has rewards “money just can’t buy.” This reward, however, does sometimes come at a high cost. ‘America’s happiest job’ comes with a huge price tag of stress. Sixty to seventy-hour work weeks, including staggering amounts of paperwork and regular interactions with hundreds of people can take its toll.

Many of those interactions can be very emotionally taxing. In a 2014 interview with the Huffington Post, James Bailey, a principal of 17 years states, “it’s the coolest, hardest, most emotionally and physically demanding, and rewarding job in the world …” He adds, “the toughest part of the job? Dealing with adults!”

Take for example, the junior high school student with marijuana in her bookbag. Delivering that news to a parent can be as stressful to the leader as the situation in which a physician has to deliver heart-breaking news to a family. The difference; a doctor is asked a myriad of questions by a family searching for hope. A principal, on the other hand, may be met with a parent lashing out in denial or disappointment due to their child’s behavior. As equally unsettling are teachers’ unhappy with a specific evaluation or disciplinary decision who may seek out the administrator with angry words and icy stares.

How does the principal handle these types of situations and more? Unfortunately, most principals learn by what is typically referred to as ‘trial by fire.’ Currently, very few educational leadership preparation programs incorporate trainings on how to handle emotional and confrontational adults. There is, fortunately, the occasional ethics course that helps the novice rigidly plant their feet into a strong belief system. However, at times, may cause the novice to encounter even stronger emotions when that set of beliefs is challenged.

In each of the above scenarios, the recurring theme is emotion. When asked the most difficult issue to deal with in the k-12 setting, most administrators quickly respond, ‘dealing with difficult (or emotional) adults.’ With the knowledge of one of the most pressing issues administrators face today, and the resources available on emotional intelligence, the solution appears to be obvious; educating aspiring, novice, (and even sometimes seasoned) administrators on the principles of emotional intelligence is critical.

Subsequently, the purpose of this chapter will be to inform the reader on how these emotional situations can be reduced and practically eliminated via knowledge of and training in the concepts of emotional intelligence. Specifically, the reader will be further informed regarding the role of emotional intelligence in principal readiness and success. Specific information will be given regarding the tools that may be utilized to assist the principal in assessing and improving his/her emotional intelligence (EI).

Chapter Objectives:

The learning objectives for this chapter include:

  • 1.

    To gain an understanding of the basic principles of emotional intelligence,

  • 2.

    To extend a basic understanding of the learning mechanisms of the brain in relationship to emotional intelligence versus cognitive intelligence,

  • 3.

    The ability to recognize the differing categories of emotional intelligence,

  • 4.

    An appreciation for the implications of poor emotional hygiene on the medical condition of the leader, and

  • 5.

    To apply the knowledge gained herein as a grounding for further investigation into and utilization of the premises of these learnings to improve one’s own emotional intelligence.



Leadership is second only to teaching in the success of today’s students (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2016). How does this happen? It happens as a leader sets clear directions with high expectations. School reform rarely takes place without the support and gentle nurture of the school leader.

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