An examination of the relationship between emotional intelligence, leadership style and perceived leadership outcomes in Australian educational institutions

Grunes, Paul (2011) An examination of the relationship between emotional intelligence, leadership style and perceived leadership outcomes in Australian educational institutions. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


In the field of leadership studies transformational leadership theory (e.g., Bass, 1985; Avolio, Bass, & Jung, 1995) has received much attention from researchers in recent years (Hughes, Ginnet, & Curphy, 2009; Hunt, 1999). Many previous studies have found that transformational leadership is related to positive outcomes such as the satisfaction, motivation and performance of followers in organisations (Judge & Piccolo, 2004; Lowe, Kroeck, & Sivasubramaniam, 1996), including in educational institutions (Chin, 2007; Leithwoood & Jantzi, 2005). Hence, it is important to explore constructs that may predict leadership style in order to identify potential transformational leaders in leadership assessment and selection procedures. Several researchers have proposed that emotional intelligence (EI) is one construct that may account for hitherto unexplained variance in transformational leadership (Mayer, 2001; Watkin, 2000). Different models of EI exist (e.g., Goleman, 1995, 2001; Bar-On, 1997; Mayer & Salovey, 1997) but momentum is growing for the Mayer and Salovey (1997) model to be considered the most useful (Ashkanasy & Daus, 2005; Daus & Ashkanasy, 2005). Studies in non-educational settings claim to have found that EI is a useful predictor of leadership style and leader effectiveness (Harms & Crede, 2010; Mills, 2009) but there is a paucity of studies which have examined the Mayer and Salovey (1997) model of EI in educational settings. Furthermore, other predictor variables have rarely been controlled in previous studies and only self-ratings of leadership behaviours, rather than multiple ratings, have usually been obtained. Therefore, more research is required in educational settings to answer the question: to what extent is the Mayer and Salovey (1997) model of EI a useful predictor of leadership style and leadership outcomes? This project, set in Australian educational institutions, was designed to move research in the field forward by: using valid and reliable instruments, controlling for other predictors, obtaining an adequately sized sample of real leaders as participants and obtaining multiple ratings of leadership behaviours. Other variables commonly used to predict leadership behaviours (personality factors and general mental ability) were assessed and controlled in the project. Additionally, integrity was included as another potential predictor of leadership behaviours as it has previously been found to be related to transformational leadership (Parry & Proctor-Thomson, 2002). Multiple ratings of leadership behaviours were obtained from each leader and their supervisors, peers and followers. The following valid and reliable psychological tests were used to operationalise the variables of interest: leadership styles and perceived leadership outcomes (Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, Avolio et al., 1995), EI (Mayer–Salovey–Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test, Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2002), personality factors (The Big Five Inventory, John, Donahue, & Kentle, 1991), general mental ability (Wonderlic Personnel Test-Quicktest, Wonderlic, 2003) and integrity (Integrity Express, Vangent, 2002). A Pilot Study (N = 25 leaders and 75 raters) made a preliminary examination of the relationship between the variables included in the project. Total EI, the experiential area, and the managing emotions and perceiving emotions branches of EI, were found to be related to transformational leadership which indicated that further research was warranted. In the Main Study, 144 leaders and 432 raters were recruited as participants to assess the discriminant validity of the instruments and examine the usefulness of EI as a predictor of leadership style and perceived leadership outcomes. Scores for each leadership scale across the four rating levels (leaders, supervisors, peers and followers) were aggregated with the exception of the management-by-exception active scale of transactional leadership which had an inadequate level of interrater agreement. In the descriptive and measurement component of the Main Study, the instruments were found to demonstrate adequate discriminant validity. The impact of role and gender on leadership style and EI were also examined, and females were found to be more transformational as leaders than males. Females also engaged in more contingent reward (transactional leadership) behaviours than males, whilst males engaged in more passive/avoidant leadership behaviours than females. In the inferential component of the Main Study, multiple regression procedures were used to examine the usefulness of EI as a predictor of leadership style and perceived leadership outcomes. None of the EI branches were found to be related to transformational leadership or the perceived leadership outcomes variables included in the study. Openness, emotional stability (the inverse of neuroticism) and general mental ability (inversely) each predicted a small amount of variance in transformational leadership. Passive/avoidant leadership was inversely predicted by the understanding emotions branch of EI. Overall, EI was not found to be a useful predictor of leadership style and leadership outcomes in the Main Study of this project. Implications for researchers and human resource practitioners are discussed.

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ID Code: 42319
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Gudmundsson, Amanda & Irmer, Bernd E.
Keywords: emotional Intelligence, leadership style, perceived leadership outcomes, Australian educational institutions
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Management
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 30 Jun 2011 02:28
Last Modified: 30 Jun 2011 02:28

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