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An exploration of the utility of a self-report emotional intelligence measure

Bailie, Karina (2005-12)

Thesis (MA (Industrial Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.


Several years of research have been dedicated to investigating the question of why intelligent and experienced leaders are not always successful in spite of having high levels of cognitive intelligence (IQ) and the suitable personality traits. Emotional Intelligence (EI) gained considerable popularity from the notion that it may underlie various aspects of workplace performance that could not be accounted for by IQ or personality and that it could be developed in promising individuals. Adjunct to this, the field of Positive Organisational Scholarship underscored the importance of cultivating positive emotions in individual organizational members and others, not just as end-states in themselves, but also as a means to achieving individual and organizational transformation; and hence optimal functioning over time. The Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test (SUEIT) is one of numerous models and measures of EI that have consequently been developed. The development of this measure was aimed at providing an assessment of the most definitive dimensions of the construct by incorporating six of the predominant models and measures into the development of EI to provide an assessment of the most definitive dimensions of the construct. The current study was aimed at addressing the need for evidence in support of a self-report EI measures’ utility to predict e.g. effective organizational leadership over and above other established constructs. Specifically the study aimed to provide support for the utility of the SUEIT to predict variance in leadership competence indicated by Assessment Centre (AC) technology results, not accounted for by other psychometric tools, namely the Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ32i), measuring personality. One of the biggest issues currently facing measures of EI is the discriminant validity from measures of personality. Research was necessary to add to the body of knowledge with regards to the relationship between EI and effective leadership, and to provide support for the incremental validity of an EI measure to predict effective leadership over and above other well-established models and measures. The theoretical arguments that underlie the rationale for this study are encapsulated in the conceptual claims made about EI and organizational leadership, the IQ-EI debate as it pertains to leadership and the relationship between EI and effective leadership (i.e. the discriminant, predictive and incremental validity of EI related to organizational leadership). The constructs of EI, personality and AC leadership competencies were operationalised through the SUEIT, OPQ32i and leadership AC technology, respectively. The sample consisted of 49 < N < 112 (variation in the sample size was due to varying amount of missing cases in the different analyses done) middle managers from a company in the life assurance industry in South Africa. OPQ32i and AC data was extracted from archival records and EI data was collected on a separate occasion by means of an online version of the SUEIT. A controlled inquiry of non-experimental kind was followed and correlational and multivariate data analysis procedures were employed, using the SPSS (version 12) statistical package. The data analysis was aimed at determining whether relationships exist between the participants’ scores on the different competencies as rated by means of the leadership AC technology and the dimensions measured by the psychometric instruments. It was also aimed towards finding evidence for the incremental validity of the SUEIT over the OPQ32i in predicting leadership competencies. The results demonstrated the existence of various relationships between EI (as measured by the SUEIT) and specific leadership competencies measured by the AC technology employed by the sponsoring organisation. Adjunct to this, partial evidence has been obtained in support of the predictive validity of EI as operationalised by the SUEIT. In several instances it was found that there are overlap in the measurement of the underlying latent constructs by the different personality and EI dimensions from which such results were inferred. In order to compare these findings (with regards to the overlap between EI and personality traits) with previous research, conceptual links were drawn with other EI and personality measures used (e.g. the Bar-On EQi and NEO-FFI). Expected conceptual and theoretical equivalence in the measurement of personality and EI were confirmed. However, evidence for the incremental validity of the SUEIT (and specifically different dimensions thereof) was still found for most of the leadership competencies. Based on the results it can be assumed that the SUEIT predicted scores on the examined leadership competencies when a measure of personality, namely the OPQ32i (already employed for this purpose) was controlled for. The results added to the understanding of what characteristics leaders in the sponsoring organization should possess to enable them and the organisation to be successful. The results provide preliminary evidence that the SUEIT could be useful to organizational decision makers, who need to select leaders that competently display leadership behaviours. It also provides preliminary evidence that EI and the SUEIT should be viewed as a useful construct and tool. The use of archival data introduced several limitations to the study and will be discussed with suggestions for future research.

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