Exercising Emotionally Intelligent Leadership: Tips and Tools | Carrie Grimes | 9 Min Read

May 11, 2023

How can we build skills to become more emotionally intelligent school leaders?

This article is the second in a series, investigating the ways in which emotions serve as powerful forces within our school communities, and can be leveraged effectively by school leaders to contribute to organizational and individual outcomes. 

In a recent article, I shared my experiences and perspectives on theory related to emotionally intelligent leadership (EIL).  In my twenty-five years working in educational settings, as a teacher, counselor, administrator, and leader, I’ve come to experience the “schoolhouse” (whether in-person or virtual) and each classroom within it as spaces that are overflowing with emotions. The study of the social experiences and affiliated behaviors which are derived from these emotions occupies a vast array of scholarship; social scientists posit that our social emotions serve as a kind of “glue” within shared spaces, which has the capacity to drive phenomena such as collective effervescence (Durkheim, 1912; Collins, 1998), change, conflict (Turner, 2010), and one’s sense of belonging (Baumeister, 1997). 

The way our community members feel when they are at school has significant implications for school sustainability. Decisions to re-enroll, renew an employment agreement, refer other families to the school, and volunteer time are all correlated with the degree of feelings of satisfaction about the school.  In the domain of independent schools, we can extend these implications to wider social circles, given our multi-generational constituencies. Alumni, retired faculty, parents, grandparents, and alumni parents all embody various feelings about our schools. Cultivating a heightened awareness about the currents of emotion which may be undulating within the community can support strategic efforts related to managing important conversations and school communications.  These communications, in turn, have the capacity to influence stakeholder engagement decisions and loyalty behaviors, such as making a major gift or participating in important school events.  The research reveals “that emotions are, for better or worse, the dominant driver of most meaningful decisions in life”; hence, it behooves leaders to strengthen their skills in and understanding of EIL (Keltner & Lerner 2015).

In my last article, I provided an initial framework for building capacity for emotionally intelligent leadership by suggesting the adoption of the lens of an emotions scientist. At the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, scholars such as Marc Brackett and David Caruso have proven the ways in which this kind of perspective-taking can empower leaders…

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Carrie Grimes

Dr. Carrie Grimes is an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations and is the Director of the Independent School Leadership master’s program at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development. Her research focuses on social identity and community within independent school settings and adult professional learning environments. Prior to her appointment at Vanderbilt, Carrie served on the faculties at Johns Hopkins School of Education and the University of Maryland College of Education. Carrie spent 20 years in independent school leadership, including roles in administration, teaching, counseling, and institutional advancement in schools and programs in California and Maryland. Carrie holds a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in Applied Psychology from New York University, and a doctorate in education from Vanderbilt.