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Aspiring Leaders - Research by Masters Students

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A Qualitative Exploration of the link between Emotional Intelligence and Authentic Leadership in Education

Edel Maher
University of Limerick
Authentic Leadership (AL) is a relatively new construct that has garnered considerable attention from scholars and practitioners. While there has been a surge in studies addressing the link between Authentic Leadership and Emotional Intelligence (EI), these studies have been predominantly focused on business leadership and not centred in an Irish, educational context. Due to the interpersonal nature of leadership, there is a growing body of research that considers EI necessary for successful, effective leadership, as it has been identified that emotions affect organisational behaviour. Leading a team is challenging, as teams are recognised as being cauldrons of bubbling emotions. Understanding the nature of emotions and how to manage them is therefore essential to successful, authentic leadership. The purpose of this research study is to explore the link between Emotional Intelligence and Authentic Leadership in an educational setting. The study involved an interpretivist qualitative approach and was applied through semi-structured interviews and focus groups to elicit and explore senior and middle leaders’ perceptions of the role of EI in AL. Twelve leaders from both primary and post-primary school settings participated in this research study. The results indicate a strong link between Emotional Intelligence and Authentic Leadership within Irish schools. Specifically, leaders who were considered by their staff to be Authentic, were cited as possessing high levels of Emotional Intelligence. In addition, EI is said to be central to AL, as both constructs encompass similar characteristics. The findings suggest the following overlapping similarities: self-awareness, transparency, empathy and the use of emotional labour. This study has highlighted the potential value of restructuring school leadership training programs to place a greater importance on EI competencies. By recognising and developing the EI of aspiring leaders, it can work to enable them to lead their schools authentically to desired, successful outcomes.


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