Special Report
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
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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.

education week logo subbrand logo RC RGB

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

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Grad Rates Soared at a School Few Wanted to Attend. How It Happened
Leaders at this Florida high school have "learned to be flexible" to improve graduation rates.
8 min read
Student hanging on a tearing graduate cap tassel
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Opinion Don’t Just Listen to the Loudest Voices: Resources for Ed. Leaders
These resources can help school and district leaders communicate with their communities.
Jennifer Perry Cheatham & Jenny Portillo-Nacu
5 min read
A pair of hands type on a blank slate of keys that are either falling apart or coming together on a bed of sharpened pencils.  Leadership resources.
Raul Arias for Education Week
School & District Management The Harm of School Closures Can Last a Lifetime, New Research Shows
The short-term effects on students when their schools close have been well documented. New research examines the long-term impact.
5 min read
Desks and chairs are stacked in an empty classroom after the permanent closure of Queen of the Rosary Catholic Academy in Brooklyn borough of New York on Aug. 6, 2020.
Desks and chairs are stacked in an empty classroom after the permanent closure of Queen of the Rosary Catholic Academy in Brooklyn borough of New York on Aug. 6, 2020. A new study examines the long-term effects on students whose schools close.
Jessie Wardarski/AP
School & District Management Video 'Students Never Forget': Principals Call for Help After School Shootings
School leaders are lobbying Congress for more financial support for schools that experience gun violence.
2 min read
Forest High School students console one another after a school shooting at Forest High School Friday, April 20, 2018 in Ocala, Fla. One student shot another in the ankle at the high school and a suspect is in custody, authorities said Friday. The injured student was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
Forest High School students console one another after a school shooting at Forest High School Friday, April 20, 2018 in Ocala, Fla. One student shot another in the ankle at the high school and a suspect is in custody, authorities said Friday. The injured student was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
Doug Engle/Star-Banner via AP