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School & District Management From Our Research Center

How Emotionally Intelligent Are School and District Leaders? We Asked Teachers

By Evie Blad & Vanessa Solis — November 06, 2023 1 min read
Collage illustration of an empathetic looking leader among images and iconography representing emotional intelligence
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Although school and district leaders believe they demonstrate emotional intelligence and strong interpersonal skills at work, teachers are less likely to agree that their administrators show those traits.

Those are the findings of a survey of 1,509 educators, including 364 principals and district administrators, conducted by the EdWeek Research Center from Sept. 27 to Oct. 13.

The findings come as schools and districts dig deep to rebuild and maintain staff morale while they continue the hard work of academic recovery.

Related Story

A woman sits alongside students in rows of classroom desks. She raises her hand alongside several students as if they are ready to answer a question.
Suzan Harris, principal of Henderson Middle School, makes her morning rounds greeting students and speaking to teachers at the school in Jackson, Ga., on Oct. 16, 2023.
Dustin Chambers for Education Week

In interviews, administrators told Education Week that they believe their own ability to navigate interpersonal dynamics and connect with staff are key parts of those efforts.

A majority of teachers said their principals demonstrate interpersonal skills at work

A majority of teachers who responded to the survey partly or completely agreed that their principals manage conflict well, seek and respond to feedback, motivate others to be successful, and demonstrate empathy.

Teachers were less likely to rate their central-office administrators highly in traits like empathy

Asked whether their district-level administrators demonstrate the same menu of traits, teachers were less likely to agree.

Still, a majority of teacher respondents partly or completely agreed that their central-office administrators demonstrate empathy (59 percent), motivate others to be successful (61 percent), and manage conflict well (56 percent).

That may be in part because teachers have fewer face-to-face interactions with central-office leaders.

School and district leaders gave themselves high marks in interpersonal skills

Fewer than 10 percent of the smaller pool of school and district administrators who responded to the survey completely or partly disagreed that they demonstrated each of the traits in the survey. That suggests a perception gap between teachers and educational leaders.

School and district leaders were most likely to say they demonstrate empathy, with 85 percent of school leaders and 79 percent of district leaders completely agreeing with the statement.

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Data analysis for this article was provided by the EdWeek Research Center. Learn more about the center’s work.

A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2023 edition of Education Week as How Emotionally Intelligent Are School And District Leaders? We Asked Teachers


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