Emotional Intelligence & School Leadership

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss the different reasons improving emotional intelligence (EQ) would be helpful to those in leadership positions in schools. We will discuss strategies for increasing EQ to better relate to students, teachers, parents, and administrators.

Who needs EQ?

Whether it's at the administrative or school board level, among teachers and academic faculty, or even within the student body, schools have multiple leadership positions that would benefit from people who have developed their skills at managing and articulating their emotions as well as recognizing the emotional states of others.

IQ vs EQ

Measurements of intelligence have historically only included academic knowledge, such as verbal, mathematical and reasoning skills. One's IQ, or intelligence quotient, is meant to identify potential aptitude for learning in these areas. Such forms of assessment have been criticized for not taking a broad enough view of what it means to have intelligence and that looking at other types of knowledge is also important.

EQ measures emotional intelligence the way IQ measures academic potential
image of a brain word cloud

For example, people with a high IQ often struggle with human interpersonal interactions. This indicates that they may have a low EQ, or emotional intelligence, which measures one's ability to interact socially with others and to identify and articulate the emotional state of oneself and others. When measuring intelligence, including indicators of one's ability or inability to effectively interact with others and self-soothe will determine a kind of intelligence that goes beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic.

EQ Improves Interactions

For those in a position of leadership in schools, having a well-developed EQ can help with facilitating and leading diverse populations. By its nature, a leadership position involves being able to garner trust and develop rapport with a variety of people. Effective leaders can identify and articulate their own feelings as well as those of others. This way, they can adjust their leadership style accordingly to meet the needs of the groups they work with.

For example, a leader of the parent-teacher organization would need to interact effectively with both parents, administration, and teachers to reach the common goal of providing the best education for the students. Having a high EQ would help if there was ever a conflict about instructional practices that would create dissidence within these groups.

In the case of student leadership in schools, like running for student government or holding officer positions in student organizations, a high EQ can enhance the leadership skills these students already have. By showing empathy and relating well with others, markers of a high EQ, an ambitious candidate would garner more support. Student leadership is important because these young leaders are in a position to have great influence over the student body.

A high EQ can be critical for a safe school atmosphere. When someone is in a mental health crisis, such as a panic attack or a trauma situation, it is important that someone in a leadership position knows how to respond with compassion and understanding to diffuse the situation and calm him or her down. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about 20% of the population suffers with mental health issues in a given year. It is likely that those in a leadership position would encounter such a situation that needs the skills of a high EQ, so additional training to reinforce these skills is a good idea.

Improving EQ

There are several strategies to improve one's EQ for the benefit of those in school leadership. By using one's listening skills and being compassionate and nonjudgmental, one can practice the necessary skills to improve EQ.

One of the listening strategies is to focus on what someone is saying when they speak. Too often, people pretend to listen when they are actually trying to think of what they want to say when it's their turn. When someone repeats themselves over and over, it usually means they feel that no one is listening. Try to repeat back what they say in your own words to check for understanding and clarity. Recognize that sharing can be challenging and reassure them with focused attention. For example, respond to someone who is upset with, 'It sounds like you are having a difficult time. Do you want to talk?'

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