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PHD - Doctor of Philosophy




Understanding Principals’ Use of Emotional Intelligence to Influence Their School Communities Abstract This qualitative hermeneutic phenomenological study sought to understand more deeply the phenomenon of principals’ use of emotional intelligence (EI) to influence their school communities. Studies about principal preparation (Singh, Manser, & Mestry, 2007; Krugliak Lahat, 2009; Hebert, 2011), suggest that principals in training do not receive guidance about how to develop the emotional capabilities necessary to influence how schools function. This interpretive study sought to reveal how participants understood EI and to identify the EI skills and strategies that participants described as essential. In-depth interviews with three experienced Massachusetts principals provided a large set of narrative accounts that were analyzed. Specific strategies (Daiute, 2014) and templates (Crabtree and Miller, 1992; Miles and Huberman, 1994) were employed to extrapolate meaning from the narratives. This data was interpreted as five major findings. Salovey and Mayer’s (1990) Four-Branch Model of Emotional Intelligence Domains was the theoretical benchmark selected and referenced. Although the small sample size does not make findings generalizable, the design makes it possible to show how the phenomena of EI use by principals connects to the larger body of scholarship concerning EI. The key conclusion drawn from the study’s findings indicate that participants broadly understood emotional intelligence to mean the acumen that enables principals to build relationships and establish trust for the purpose of improving their schools. Subthemes participants considered essential included being open, being positive, being respectful, being inclusive, being an active listener, being self-reflective, being situationally aware, and managing one’s emotions. Strategies participants described entailed creating comprehensive entry and strategic plans, modeling professional behavior, using evidence and using straightforward language. Participants’ practical recommendations comprise implementing these essential skills and strategies within leadership preparation programs, by providing for mentoring, and allowing students to discuss and apply theoretical ethical frameworks to practice. Future research could include longitudinal or mixed-method studies and studying gender differences noted in leaders’ use of EI.



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