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Emotional intelligence and board governance: leadership lessons from the public sector

Margaret M. Hopkins (Department of Management, College of Business Administration, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA)
Deborah A. O'Neil (Department of Management, College of Business Administration, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA)
Helen W. Williams (The Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 25 September 2007




The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between emotional intelligence and effective board governance.


This study applied a model of emotional intelligence competencies to the practice domains of school boards. A board self‐assessment questionnaire measured board practice domains for the presence or absence of 18 emotional intelligence competencies defined in an emotional competence inventory. Inter‐rater reliabilities were established and confirmed. Current and former school board members in two urban areas rank‐ordered the most critical emotional intelligence competencies for effective board governance and offered explanations for their most highly‐rated competencies.


Emotional intelligence is a critical factor for effective school boards. A set of six core competencies are universal across the six board practice domains: transparency; achievement; initiative; organizational awareness; conflict management; and teamwork and collaboration. Each board practice domain is also characterized by one or two key emotional intelligence competencies.

Research limitations/implications

First, one model of school board leadership was used. Future studies should examine additional models of effective board practice for their relationships with emotional intelligence in order to extend the generalizability of these results. Second, there has been some debate regarding the substantive nature of the emotional intelligence construct.

Practical implications

The six practice domains in the school board effectiveness model are fundamental elements for all boards to develop in order to become more effective governing bodies.


This paper identifies a novel application of emotional intelligence leadership competencies to the work of effective governance boards.



Hopkins, M.M., O'Neil, D.A. and Williams, H.W. (2007), "Emotional intelligence and board governance: leadership lessons from the public sector", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 22 No. 7, pp. 683-700.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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