Influence of emotional intelligence on residential student leaders' enactment of leadership



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College is an opportunity for students to engage in meaningful leadership opportunities. Being a Resident Assistant presents one opportunity for students to engage in leadership. Resident Assistants (RAs) are an essential component of the undergraduate housing experience. Resident Assistants work with students during their best and most challenging collegiate moments. The college student population changes every year, but Resident Assistants are not being trained to meet the needs of a changing population. This qualitative, phenomenological study was designed to explore what influence, if any, a course grounded in emotional intelligence has on an RA’s enactment of leadership. This study was conducted at a highly selective, highly residential higher education institution in the Western United States. The site was chosen because of its highly residential nature and its offering of a course grounded in emotional intelligence offered to first year RAs. Review of literature on emotional intelligence emphasizes the important nature of the construct as well as its importance and promise for utilization by leaders (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Lam & O”Higgins, 2012; Nelson & Low, 2003). While there is some literature surrounding emotional intelligence and its use and application for RAs, it primarily explores the subject via a quantitative methodology (Jaegar & Caison, 2006; Liptak, 2005; . Through this research, I addressed this gap, utilizing a qualitative methodology, to provide accounts of the lived experiences of participants. This study also expanded the literature by providing an analysis of a course based in emotional intelligence as a possible way of incorporating emotional intelligence skills into RAs’ leadership experiences. Three findings emerged from this study. Those finding are as follows. First, that there is a perceived difference in RAs’ leadership as a result of knowledge gained in an emotional intelligence course. Second, RAs are able to apply emotional intelligence constructs into their role after reflecting and adjusting their personal leadership styles. Finally, RAs perceive certain emotional intelligence constructs as essential to their role.