Year

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

University of Wollongong. Faculty of Education

Abstract

It is widely accepted that the success of higher education institutions is dependent on effective competent leaders and leadership. It is also recognised that leadership in a higher education context is uniquely different to leadership in other settings. However, the capacity for effective leadership in the higher education context is still evolving and it is this emergent quantum that is the primary focus of this research study.

There is growing evidence to support the proposition that emotional intelligence is strongly linked to effective leadership in the higher education setting (Scott,Coates & Anderson 2008). A premise that emotional intelligence can influence an individual’s job satisfaction is also well supported (Abraham 2000; Carmeli 2003;Barsh 2009). However, a comprehensive review of relevant literature implies that there is a gap in the evidence to substantiate these hypotheses. This study addresses these gaps by explicitly examining the relevance and inter relationships between emotional intelligence, leadership practice and job satisfaction in a higher education context. The purpose of this study was to identify and articulate the relevance of these three constructs for effective leadership in higher education. A leadership competency framework consisting of five effective leadership practices was developed to guide this research investigation and to provide a scaffold for presenting the ensuing outcomes. An aim of the study was to generate a sound evidence-based framework for designing leadership capacity development initiatives that will strive to enhance the capability of current and future leaders and leadership in higher education.

A mixed mode case study approach comprising eleven cases was used to investigate four research questions: (1) What is the relevance of emotional intelligence for leadership in a higher education context? (2) What aspects of emotional intelligence should be included in leadership capacity development initiatives in a higher education context? (3) How can emotional intelligence for leadership in a higher education context be developed? (4) Is there any relevance between job satisfaction and emotional intelligence or leadership practice in a higher education context? Qualitative and quantitative data was collected through interviews, surveys and a parametric test designed to assess individuals’ emotional intelligence. Data analysis focused on establishing themes emerging from the qualitative data to address the research questions and expand upon the quantitative findings. Comparative, correlational and statistical analyses were employed to scrutinize the qualitative and quantitative data in an effort to explicitly answer the four research questions.

The findings of this study suggest that emotional intelligence is a highly relevant construct for effective leadership in higher education. The emotional intelligence competencies related to self-awareness, self management, social awareness and social skills found to be most applicable for effective leadership in higher education. Empathy was identified as a major element that underpins the effectiveness of emotional intelligence for leadership. The ability to be able to appreciate an individual’s motivations and concerns and appropriately manage these to evoke a desired and productive outcome was found to be synonymous with highly effective leadership practice. A synthesis of the emotional intelligence competencies and abilities identified as most pertinent for effective leadership practice in higher education resulted in the generation of twelve emotional intelligence capabilities. These capabilities are presented as an articulation of the relevance of emotional intelligence for effective leadership in higher education. Emotional intelligence was also found to be significantly aligned to job satisfaction and emotionally intelligent leaders who had positive job satisfaction were found to be more effective. A framework has been designed to illustrate the specific elements and inter relationships between job satisfaction, emotional intelligence and effective leadership that this research study identified.

The most appropriate means of developing emotional intelligence for leadership in higher education is by way of a cyclical continuum of learning that focuses on fostering an awareness of emotional intelligence leadership concepts, promoting the practice of these concepts in an authentic context and engaging in reflective practice to highlight leadership concepts that do and don’t work and why. An important feature of a leadership capacity development initiative in higher education is that it must be relevant to the higher education environment. An evidence-based curriculum for leadership development that is suited to the higher education context is an additional outcome of this study. This curriculum has been informed by a synthesis of the most relevant emotional intelligence abilities and competencies for each of the leadership competency framework practices. This synthesis focused on generating a suite of content outcomes and knowledge and skill objectives that should be included in leadership capacity development initiatives in a higher education context. Finally, several recommendations are proposed, as a consequence of this research study, for the enhancement of current and future leaders and leadership in higher education.

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