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The Trait Emotional Intelligence of College and University Presidents: A Foundational Descriptive Quantitative Study Open Access

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Higher education is an immense sector with more than 20.4 million students, 4 million employees including 1.6 million faculty members, and estimated aggregate expenditures exceeding $400 billion not including the for-profit institutions. Colleges and universities are among our nation’s most important social institutions, knowledge generators, and economic drivers, and they have a vital role in the shaping of our global world. There are intense external and internal factors, and many stakeholders with diverse and often competing perspectives, with which college and university presidents must effectively engage in their critical leadership role. This research identified and described the trait emotional intelligence of college and university presidents. The study was grounded in the functionalist paradigm. Core components of the theoretical framework were the trait emotional intelligence theory (Petrides & Furnham) and the concept of effective leadership (Kouzes & Posner). Using a census strategy and survey research design, 300 presidents participated and completed the TEIQue-SF. Key findings and conclusions included: (1) the majority of college and university presidents have high well-being, self-control, emotionality, and sociability factor and global trait emotional intelligence, (2) the majority of college and university presidents have higher emotional intelligence than the general population, (3) the majority of college and university presidents demonstrate leadership effectiveness, and (4) there are opportunities to enhance trait emotional intelligence in a subgroup of college and university presidents, thus enhancing the leadership effectiveness of those presidents.The new empirical knowledge about the emotional intelligence of college and university presidents provides a foundational springboard for future research to elucidate and expand knowledge in the areas of authentic leadership, charismatic leadership, the full range of leadership (transformational/transactional), leadership effectiveness, and higher education. Also, this new knowledge may be helpful to learning more about how to work with loosely coupled systems, change organizational culture, identify and deal with perceived resistance to change, and leadership development (Burke, 2011). Findings of this study may be beneficial to college and university presidents, boards of trustees/regents, search firms, higher education associations, and consultants.The study achieved a large study sample. Strategies contributing to the successful recruitment of the large sample are described and are transferable to other studies—especially dissertation research—and other study populations.

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