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Trait EI Theory in Leaders at Network Rail

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Fri, 23 Feb 2018


This investigation addresses the problem of leadership attributes variance in different levels of management. With the environment work force changing in terms of relationships the linkages of self perceived emotional intelligence traits of 52 individuals in junior, middle and senior management at Network Rail are gathered using the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue) developed by Dr.Petrides at UCL.

The investigation exposed a lower level of Global emotional intelligence of senior management in comparison to junior and middle management. However the findings also showed that senior management outperformed on traits that are closely linked with Network Rails Leadership development framework. The other variations and patterns in the data bring up the topic of optimism bias, the neuroscience of change and overcoming the immunity to change.

Recommendations outline the intentional change model that could be adapted in order to develop effective leadership traits and be linked with the current talent management programme at Network Rail.




1.1 Project Overview

This study will look for the existing evidence and links between emotional intelligence (EI) and Leadership development in the construction environment.

This study will focus on the trait EI theory (Petrides & Furnham, 2006) and look to establish common traits in leaders at Network Rail. The study will look for commonalities in terms of traits and competencies in the organisations leaders.

The Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue) (Petrides & Furnham, 2006) has been selected post literature review for it’s ability to test for Emotional Intelligence traits that most closely link with what is defined as leadership in academic literature.

A lot of interest has surrounded the concept of Emotional Intelligence, and the alleged links it has to improving an individual’s ability be successful.

Linking and harnessing EI to individuals and their leadership performance is hard to scientifically establish. The investigation focuses upon common attributes that can be developed.

Trait Emotional Intelligence (TEI) does not necessarily seclude what Goleman (1998) describes as those EI abilities that you are born with, such as the ability to tune in-emotionally (emotional awareness) to others, and read how they are feeling (social awareness). But this investigation will aim to look at the harder factors of EI that can be developed for and provide added value and competitive advantages to organisations.

The investigation of EI and Leadership aims to uncover value that can be used to develop leadership performance. The practical or applied focus is the construction industry. The discovery of the common traits will then be compared to what currently exists in Network Rail’s (NR) current leadership framework.

Recognising that NR and most large organisations already do acknowledge the link between EI and Leadership, the investigation will look at the construction industry specifically. As the construction environment is described as one which is based on human interactions yet suffers from disputes, fierce competitiveness and fragmentation (Walker and Hampson, 2003). The study then into EI and improved Leadership performance would be relevant into helping overcome these barriers to improved working relationships.

1.2 High Level Project Plan

  1. Literature review of emotional intelligence models.
  2. Selection of EI testing survey.
  3. Milestone One – rolling out EI test survey 15/06/09 – 19/06/09.
  4. Analysis of EI test results
  5. Assessment of leadership focus groups, survey and EI test results.
  6. Leadership framework analysis.
  7. Milestone Two – Realisation of gaps that exist within the leadership framework and proposal of enhanced leadership framework – 06/07/09.
  8. Milestone Three – Draft Copy Complete – 06/08/09.

1.3 Project Road map

Chapter 1 has introduced the problem area that this research is looking to add knowledge to.

The second half of chapter 1 will draw in the reader to the more specific problem area that this project is addressing, and how this problem will be researched.

A review of the existing EI models and an effective approach for this investigation will be sought and shall be addressed in this chapter also.

Chapter 2 will set out the research methodology that has been adopted for this research, considering the nature of the project and the relative social complexities and privacy issues associated with emotional intelligence tests will be addressed here.

This will follow on to the actual analysis section, chapter 3 where a cross section of the results will be displayed, and quantitatively analysed. The results of the study shall be shown in chapter 4.

The evaluation of the study and future recommendations or work will be concluded in chapter 5.

1.4 Literature Review


1.5 Introduction

The scope of the literature review will define emotional intelligence from the various academic perspectives, distinguishing an accurate and succinct description of the term, which is considered relatively new.

The Literature Review will compromise of the following:

  • Brief History of EI
  • A discussion of the current EI models and the attributes that are linked to them
  • Focus: The elected EI Model “TEIQUE”.
  • How EI is linked to improved leadership performance.
  • Leadership Responsibilities.
  • The need for EI competencies and Leadership in the Construction Industry.
  • The current problems within Network Rail.

1.6 What is EI?

Though the term EI has in recent years broadened, the original definition of EI is:

“The ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions,” Salovey and Mayer (1990 pg 189).

Popularised by Goleman (1995) in his books and speeches in recent years EI may give the impression of being a very new concept, psychologists have of course established its presence much earlier than this. A time line has been produced to give an idea of how EI has grown and expanded (Figure 1).

In 1920 a psychologist named Thorndike referenced in Khilstrom and Cantor (2009) established three forms of intelligence one of them being social intelligence. Thorndike stated that this was “the ability to function successfully in interpersonal situations”.

Gardner (1983) then proposed social intelligence as one of 7 multiple intelligences which actually mapped out the beginnings of EI by stating that social intelligence comprised of interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Gardner (1983) believed however that we have multiple intelligences rather than a general intelligence and was clear on this notion.

It was not until 1990 that the term emotional intelligence was first officially coined by Salovey and Mayer, their definition is still regarded as the most accurate description of EI.

1.7 The Problems with EI Currently

Murphy (2006) critiqued the problems of Emotional Intelligence addressing the three common problems found on the subject.

(1) EI is poorly defined and poorly measured (Locke, 2005, Eysneck, 2000 and MacCann et al, 2004).

(2) EI is a new name for familiar constructs that have been studied for decades. (Locke,2005).

(3) Claims about EI are overblown, (Landy, 2005).

Though this investigation is not a study into the definition of EI, the reader must be made aware that EI is a contended description, and one that does receive positive and negative attention.

EI is often linked to popular psychology which dilutes the validity of the concept adding value in organisational environments. It is this association coupled what Landy (2005) comments as “the lack of measurability, providing weak evidence to suggest EI tests have any predictive value”.

This has caused many to completely dismiss its label, with Locke, (2005) adding that EI should be re-labelled and regarded as “Emotional skills”.

1.8 The various models of EI

Since Savoley and Mayer first introduced the term EI, a few authors have expanded or taken a slightly different perspective on what constitutes as EI.

These models do vary somewhat on how they define EI with stretching definitions that often encompass other related areas. Therefore EI does not have one set model that all academics can agree contains all the attributes that pertains to what is defined as EI.

As this investigation is narrowing on the EI attributes and traits with leadership performance, the model that best-fits this particular study will be selected.

Therefore a brief synopsis of EI models will be reviewed, and a set of attributes provided by a psychologist (Qualified Corporate Trainer) and Network Rails Leadership Development team will assist in identifying the correct model to follow.

This will enable the administering of the survey to be appropriate for the organization and for the purpose of the research.

Emotional Intelligence models are categorised into 3 areas, and this research will analyse a model in each of the following areas.

  • Ability EI models
  • Mixed models of EI
  • Trait EI model

1.9 The ability EI model

In 1997 Savoley and Mayer introduced a four branch model which has since transpired to involve the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT).

This four branch model pertains to the following:

  1. Perception, Appraisal and Expression of Emotion
  2. Emotional Facilitation of Thinking
  3. Understanding and Analyzing Emotions; Employing Emotional Knowledge.
  4. Reflective Regulation of Emotions to Promote Emotional and Intellectual Growth

The ability test views EI as a form of intelligence, testing the participant on the above four branches, showing a score for each of the branches and a total EI score.

The model has recently received quite mixed reviews with a recent study carried out by Føllesdal (2008) which details a study of 111 business leaders based in Norway. In this study business leaders were compared with how their employees described their leader; however no correlation of empathy to being effective leaders, or behaviors for transformational leadership were found. Three papers were completed, all questioning the validity of the MSCEIT, which critically lead to a questioning of the validity of the EI model in general.

1.10 Mixed models of EI

Goleman (1998) originally developed this model and describes the mixed model of emotional intelligence as the bedrock for emotional competencies, which actually pertains to the ability to realise what another person is feeling, which Goleman boldly states is a skill that you are born with.

He goes on to comment that emotional competence is quite different, this pertains to a personal and social skill set. This personal and social skill can lead to a superior performance in the world of work, and this skill can be learnt and developed to increase performance.

The Mixed Model theory describes five domains of EI. Each area has its own set of behavioural attributes and describes these as EQ, unlike IQ which is difficult to change, emotional intelligence can be developed through education and training interventions (Goleman, 1995).

  1. 1. Knowing your emotions.
  2. 2. Managing your own emotions.
  3. 3. Motivating yourself.
  4. 4. Recognising and understanding other people’s emotions.
  5. 5. Managing relationships, i.e., managing the emotions of others.

There are various measurement tools that are based on the Goleman model, the main model is termed “The Emotional Competency Inventory (ECI)”, and later updated to the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI). The second is Intelligence Appraisal, often taken as a self-report or a peer assessment termed a 360-degree assessment.

1.11 Trait EI model

Trait EI is not to be confused with the first ability model presented, as this model concentrates on self-perception.

It is recognising that behavioural disposition and self perceived abilities can be quite different, and by using a self report which in contrast to the ability based model can be scientifically tested much easier than the ability model which tests actual abilities rather than traits. This framework also known as Trait Emotional Self Efficacy (TESE) links well with personality tests.

This model has been favoured by recent academics and especially critics of the ability model. The Trait EI model is credited with a more accurate testing rules than the ability model, which has been termed “a psychometrically meaningless scoring procedure” (Petrides, et al 2007).

The Trait EI model is tested using the TEIQUE (Trait emotional Intelligence Questionnaire), the model is freely available and its open access status means that it’s transparency for testing welcomes scientific challenges. This approach the author feels is a positive step towards developing EI tests further to contributing to a more accurate construct of emotional intelligence.

The Trait theory however does differ in its interpretation of EI, with the following differences outlined:

Ability EI is defined as a cognitive-emotional ability that relates to emotions that are only measurable through what Petrides (2007) calls maximum performance tests. These tests are linked with extensive psychological emotional testing that requires large sample sizes. Indicating that tests currently established in the mixed models and ability models of EI really may not have much substantial predictive value, aligning the view point of Petrides and Furnham (2004) with Locke (2005).

Rather trait EI describes what Petrides (2007) calls emotion-related “behavioural dispositions” and “self perceived” abilities, and can therefore be measured through self-report questionnaires.

It is the focus on self perception of traits and leadership performance that allows this investigation to conclude a more accurate research hypothesis.

The TEQUI has 20 variables with 15 traits grouped into four categories; this is explained in further detailed in the methodology chapter (3.8).

1.12 EI as a core competency in organisations

“When it comes to improving organizational effectiveness, management scholars and practitioners are beginning to emphasize the importance of a manager’s emotional intelligence” (Sosik & Megerian, 1999 pg 367).

Despite the shortcomings in establishing EI as a concept, this study recognises that EI is a core competency and the focus will be on what attributes of EI should be developed in order to contribute to improved leadership performance, and to use the findings to improve the current leadership framework in Network Rail.

Organisations are starting to recognise the emerging role EI has in the workplace, (Fisher and Ashkanasy, 2000). An investigation completed by Cooper and Sawaf (1996) in to an Executive’s EQ has exposed evidence that Emotional intelligence is a pre-requisite in leadership and successful organisations should implement strategies to develop this core competency, in order to provide its workforce with a competitive advantage.

This competitive advantage has a huge hidden immeasurable value (Cooper and Sawaf, 1996) which if nurtured correctly will ultimately lead to protect organisations working collaboratively for win-win scenario’s.

EI has not only been used in organisation training, but can now be seen in a variety of scenarios. Selling life insurance was seen as a delicate sales pitch, that often lead to low responses. However, with specific training given to shed a positive light on the subject, sales were positively effected as the quality of interactions improved with comfort levels increasing with clients, this study focused on the topic of “self awareness” (Druskat and Druskat, 2006).

Kaplan et al (2001) comment that recurring blind spots in managers that are striving to attain higher levels of EI are setting unrealistic goals to subordinates, relentlessly striving, and ruthlessly driving others too hard is not an example of a leader with a good level of EI. Kaplan et al (2001) explains that the hunger for power and the need for recognition are also not traits that leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence should demonstrate.

1.13 Linking emotional intelligence with leadership development and performance

This requires more thinking than the generic training that is currently delivered to an organisations employees, but a study on what attributes successful leaders tend to possess.

The evidence that EI exists in leadership is not questioned with both Goleman, (1995) and Savoley and Mayer (1990) agreeing that it is the ability to combine emotional and cognitive capacities to handle life’s emergent circumstances (referenced in Higgs and McGuire, 2001) , coping with setbacks and dilemmas, and effectively interacting with others requires a form of intelligence.

Goleman (1998) has commented that leaders have to make decisions about strategy, employee’s and situations. It is the leader’s ability to make effective decisions that determine the performance of good leaders. Goleman has taken five components from the EI realm and listed them as integral these are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Communication
  • influencing skills
  • Commitment
  • Integrity

“Managers who do not develop their emotional intelligence have difficulty in building good relationships with peers, subordinates, superiors and clients” (Goleman, 1998 pg 95) outline’s the importance of relationship management and the mistake of being task focused in the work environment.

Sosik & Megerian, (1999) carried out a study which addressed how self-awareness components can improve transformational leadership. Transformational leadership is defined by Burns (1978) as a process that assists leaders and followers to enable each other to advance to a higher level of moral and motivation.

The study founded empirical support for EI being the foundation of leadership. Sosik and Megerian (1999) went on to comment that if leaders became more self-aware the implications of their own feelings and thoughts could be better managed and understood, and would lead to improved interactions with sub-ordinates.

In Druskat and Druskat (2006) it was referenced that Spencer (2001) found that in a study of 28 construction project managers that EI competencies was most strongly related to their job success.

Druskat and Druskat (2006) then supported this with a study carried out by Mount (2005) on 74 project managers which demonstrated that nearly 70% of Project managers put their success down to the emotional competencies of the individual.

And Finally Butler and Chinowsky (2006) carried out a study in construction with 130 construction executives. Interpersonal skills and empathy were the two most important EI behaviours to be identified in this investigation. The key findings mentioned that additional attention during the development of construction industry executives would be favoured to overcome what the industry suffers with currently.

1.14 Examples of how competency development can bring positive change

Self-confidence a form of self awareness is defined by Pryke and Smyth (2006) as having a “strong sense of Self worth and capabilities”. Although these attributes can often be wrongly identified with arrogance, it is the ability to inspire those around you to subscribe to an idea.

This attribute was chosen alongside other emotional competencies to change a problem in an organisation. The problem related to staff retention, with the firm not managing to maintain its division presidents for no longer than two years.

This new recruitment strategy hired based on self confidence characteristics, influencing skills and what is termed Inspirational leadership (Goleman, 1998). Though Goleman has not been transparent on what the recruitment questions were specifically, the results are clear. With retention dropping from 50% to 6% with using this new hiring process (Pryke and Smyth, 2006).

Self-control is another form of self awareness, and relates to effective communication and integrity. Druskat and Wolff (2001) comment that self control is not a question of dealing with a “necessary evil” by dealing with emotions as they bubble up and then suppressing them as soon they appear. It is a process of consciously bringing emotions to the surface and understanding how they can affect others.

“Construction industry suffers with managing emotion in the work place”

Walker and Hampson (2003) have termed the Construction industry as one that is characterised by disputes, fierce competitiveness and fragmentation – all major obstacles to development.

With this environment regarded as fact by many practitioners and academics, the relationship approach is seen as an effective stance to deal with the pressures of this complex environment (Pryke and Smyth, 2006; Walker and Hampson, 2003).

1.15 Responsibilities of good leaders

It is suggested that leaders that have emotional intelligence tend to align personal and subordinate goals to accomplish company goals. Belasco and Stayer (1993) have suggested responsibilities a leader should possess, the author has taken these suggestions and developed actions and traits in a waterfall format, as they are suggested steps that could be undertaken.

1.16 Leadership Traits and Trait Emotional Intelligence

The following principals in the above system have been aligned with traits tested for in the trait emotional intelligence test (TEIQUE). For a full description of the TRAITS the official TEIQUE interpretation can be found in the appendix and a condensed version is found in section 2.8.

1.17 Current Problems at Network Rail

The problem owner is of course NR, and the problem is the legacy attitude of the workforce, with the Q12 survey (a survey comprising of 12 questions to gather employee engagement) uncovering some very disheartening results. In 2003 the Gallup organisation reported that NR had fallen in the bottom quartile and stated “they had never seen results this low before”.

With 30% of NR’s 33,000 branded “actively disengaged”, indicating a lack of loyalty and/or allegiance to the firm and its aims and 50% “not engaged” (Gallup , 2006) it was clearly evident that this problem had to be addressed.

With little progress made in 2006, NR introduced a cross-functional management team to implement a plan of change. This agenda addressed management behaviours, unions, communications, basic/root causes, benchmarking, best practices and analysis techniques (Warwick Business School, 2006).

Furthermore NR introduced a Leadership Framework to provide guidelines for its middle and junior management (Managers Handbook, 2006). These values are implemented through annual reviews, corporate training and the American 360-degree anonymous peer review.

A series of positive responses by the executives is a move in the right direction; however this dissertation wishes to expand on the leadership framework and make some sensible suggestions. Specifically leadership in project management, with NR considered the biggest employer of project professionals in the UK (Telegraph, 2008).

1.18 Chapter Summary

This investigation therefore considers the current problem that exists within NR, and attempts to discover the self perceived emotional intelligence of its junior, middle and senior management. The next chapter will detail the correct approach that should be taken in order to administer this sensitive test. The current leadership framework though has been investigated at this stage has been brought into discussion in chapter 4 to explain some of the unexpected and expected results of the trait questionnaire.




The following chapter aims to discuss the research methods the author employed to answer the questions derived from the critical literature review.

The over arching research question is:

“Does trait emotional intelligence increase with management seniority?”

With the following sub-hypotheses used to investigate this statement:

H1 – The Higher the position level and/or level of seniority the higher the Global Trait EI.

H2 – In the Self Control factors of trait EI the older individuals will score higher.

H3 – In the Emotionality factor of trait EI, females will score higher than males.

2.1 Previous Research

The author’s research builds empirically on previous work carried out within the area of Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. An indication as to what research was previously carried out will be given to give further justification to the research methods that were used.

There have been a few studies in the area of emotional intelligence and leadership, with the majority of investigations implementing a single and multi strategy approach.

The area of emotional intelligence and its effect on leadership in construction is quite limited with studies all adopting similar approaches. Authors such as Butler and Chinowsky (2006) and Walker (2003) conducted emotional intelligence surveys. Their research targeted a select management type within the construction industry enabling a statistical grounding for stronger analysis.

The research discussed took a positivist approach but it can be seen as somewhat unreliable as the emotional intelligence surveys taken were not self perceived tests of emotion. The basis of their EI tests claims to test genuine EI rather than realistically outline that the tests taken are hypothetical in nature; and in reality if not tested using high performance test techniques then the tests are somewhat invalid (Petrides , 2003) with the potential for certain individuals to exaggerate or omit certain truths. This could lead to a weak correlation in EI data for various levels of management.

Sunindijo et al (2007) used a mixture of quantitative and qualitative research methods completing direct interviews and EI tests developed by TalentSmart, with over 90 construction management executives.

Due to the success of previous research methods outlined above, the author adopted a survey based methodology to gather primary research. Taking the format of Butler and Chinowsky (2006) by identifying various management types and using an emotional intelligence survey that calculated self-perceived EI, the survey selected TEIQUE (Petrides, 2003) recognises that individuals may wish to portray a positive impression (PI), or may have a skewed Negative Impression (NI) and also give varied answers measured by an Inconsistency Index (II). The trait survey has adopted a similar concept and additionally recognises that all traits are self perceived rather than indefinite EI scores.

In keeping with Butler and Chinowsky (2006) Sunindijo et al (2007) and Walker (2003) the author distributed questionnaires to the target audience.

The underlying assumptions of the research methods chosen formed the basis of the rest of the chapter.

2.2 Research Philosophy and Strategy

In order to extend on existing social interpretations found within the literature, a philosophy for this investigation has been used. The concept of empiricism was seen as a relevant philosophy to adopt, as the research findings add to the current body of knowledge (Remenyi et al 1998, pg 31).

The questioning nature of this investigation however aimed to have a perspective of realism recognising that research questions can be interpreted quite differently. With Fisher et al (2004) commenting that the “subjective nature of research and the inevitable role of values in it” should be considered carefully. A primary attribute of realism is that it is common for researcher’s findings to complement existing explanations.

Using this philosophy and drawing on existing presumptions and assessments, the author is able to validate which can be transferred easily. The TEIQUE survey was the ideal as its philosophy and theme married well to the concept of realism and positivism. As the developer of the survey does take the following notion “working with an observable social reality and that the end product of such research can be the derivation of law like generalisations, similar to those produced by the natural sciences” (Remenyi et al, 1998).

However as this investigation is one of very few in the construction industry, the realism aspect is emphasised as the appropriate philosophy. With this form of study often brandished as fuzzy, the pre-existing frameworks in Networks Rails organisation alongside networks, concepts, hypothesis and theories (Czeller, 2003) are used “to create theoretical predications concerning peoples experiences” (Bryman and Bell, 2003).

2.3 Research Approach

An inductive approach is appropriate due to the perspective of theory being the outcome of research (Bryman and Bell, 2003). The deductive approach has been disregarded subject to criticism due to the nature of the methodology being rigid, and the inability to construct any alternative explanations.

The author wishes to build on the current body of knowledge. With concepts explored such as;

  • ? The relationship between self perceived emotional intelligence and leaders in an organisation.
  • ? The possibility of traits of emotional intelligence in junior, middle and senior management varying.
  • ? The gaps in this trait analysis to form recommendations for a review of the leadership framework at Network Rail.

Thus implementing research methods that can build understandings on these current theories was fitting. However if new issues and understandings arose then they can still be discussed and placed within context.

2.4 Data Collection Methods

The data collection method applied was a questionnaire. The advantages and disadvantages of using this research method discussed further on in the chapter.

The single method approach was chosen as it incorporated complementary research, with a questionnaire that is tried and tested in many organisational environments.

The TEIQUE questionnaire was aimed at three groups of management in the infrastructure investment arm of Network Rail. The groups were junior, middle and senior management.

The data collection commenced during the early parts of June, with 100 papers based surveys being administered by the author. The distribution of the questionnaire aimed for a 60% response rate with an even split of junior, middle and senior management.

The potential issue is that as Network Rail is a pyramid organisation, the number of senior and middle management is far fewer than junior, and thus could be reflected in the response split. To avoid this happening, more surveys have been distributed specifically to senior and middle management, as they would be more inclined to ignore surveys due to time commitments.

2.5 Justification of questionnaires

The use of an emotional intelligence survey and short questionnaire was down to two major reasons. Initially in order to carry out an emotional intelligence test successfully, the participant had to meet certain criterion which was driven from the literature review and forums that the author attended (see appendix for f

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