Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Brett Geier

Second Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Third Advisor

Dr. Kevin Ivers


Emotional intelligence, school leadership, K-12 education, school principal, principalship, emotional intelligence and leadership


Leaders set the tone and mood of the organization through their attitudes and actions. This emotional climate set by the leader has been found to influence employee’s performance, including their sense of job satisfaction and commitment. In other words, what sets great leaders apart from their peers is their ability to drive the emotions of those they lead in the right direction. This ability to understand and manage one’s and other’s emotions is what is known as emotional intelligence (EI).

This qualitative study explored the perceptions of K-12 principals’ awareness of their EI in relation to how they lead, and how their EI competencies can be used to enhance their leadership practice. The sample consisted of ten K-12 principals within a Midwestern state who had at least three consecutive years serving in their position. Data was collected through virtual interviews using open-ended questions. The interview questions were developed based on Goleman et al.’s (2013) Emotional Intelligence model, which consists of 18 EI competencies clustered within four major domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. To analyze the data, qualitative coding techniques were used to develop themes and sub-themes to represent the main ideas shared by the principals.

The four major themes that emerged from the data revealed principals’ awareness of how their EI competencies play a significant role in their ability to fulfill their daily responsibilities as leaders, to the extent that principals perceive these competencies as essential to effective school leadership. As so, principals recognize that, beyond their technical and academic skills, their success as leaders is directly associated to their ability to manage themselves and relate to others, including their ability to inspire, motivate, and support individuals in the process of accomplishing goals. Furthermore, the data also revealed how principals utilize self-development strategies that require EI competencies, such as accurate self-assessment, emotional self-control, empathy, and adaptability, to enhance their leadership.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access