You are currently viewing Emotional Intelligence and Projects – A Research Study (part 1)

Emotional Intelligence and Projects – A Research Study (part 1)

My writing has taken a back seat for the last year or two while I have focused on delivering a couple of large-scale client programs and exploring troubled project recovery.  Those are both topics of interest to me and I plan to write more on those shortly.  For now, I am excited to continue to explore emotional intelligence and how that plays out in teams.  I’ve taught a course titled Leading Teams with Emotional Intelligence and I am in the process of finalizing a distance learning coursebook for Prodevia Learning.  I will be sharing some of the material from that book here including this post.

Emotional Intelligence and Projects Cover We are going to start with a look at some recent research on emotional intelligence and project management as documented in the book, “Emotional Intelligence and Projects“.  This 2010 book was written by Nicholas Clarke and Ranse Howell and documents a research project they carried out on 67 project managers.  The research project was seeking:

  1. To identify the relationships between emotional intelligence abilities and specific project manager competencies identified as critical within project contexts.
  2. To identify relationships between emotional intelligence and transformational leadership behaviors.

I have posted in the past on another study of project management and emotional intelligence by Ralph Mueller and J. Rodney Turner.  The research by Clarke and Howell followed on that research but took a decidely different approach.  The following table is a summary of some of the key differences in the two studies:

Aspects of the Research Clarke and Howell Turner and Mueller
Instruments Used MCSEIT,

Empathy (Mehrabian and Epstein)

Leadership Dimensions Questionaire
Underlying EQ Model Mayer and Salovey Proprietary Model, loosely linked to Daniel Goleman’s
Study Size 67 Project Managers 400 Project Managers
Dependent Variable PM Competencies, Transformational Leadership Project Success

As noted, Clarke and Howell based their work on the MCSEIT which was derived from the Salovey and Mayer four-branch model of Emotional Intelligence:
a) accurately perceive emotions in oneself and others
b) use emotions to facilitate thinking
c) understand emotional meanings, and
d) manage emotions

The MCSEIT is an ability based test of emotional intelligence as compared to the self-reported competency model used by Turner and Mueller.  Clarke and Howell also measured empathy using an instrument from Mehrabian and Epstein.

They studied the relationship of those emotional intelligence measures to competencies that previous research has shown to be important to success as a project manager:  communications, teamwork, attentiveness, and managing conflict.

Another important aspect of this study was that the researchers attempted to control for personality, general intelligence level, and PM certification.  I was a little puzzled at first by the control for personality – I mean, is it like the difference between a Rodney Dangerfield and a George Clooney?  If my personality turns out to be ineffective, does this mean I cannot be a project manager?  Not to worry – the control for personality is to try to isolate any characteristics that may be inherent and unchangeable from those characteristics, like EQ, that can be trained.

The Bottom Line

Are you interested in what Clark and Howell found in their study?  Well then stay tuned to my next post where we will look at the results and the implications of the study.