Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Lynn K. Harland
Social intelligence is a personality trait that refers to an individual's ability to correctly interpret their environment and take the appropriate action. Recent research (Gilbert, 1994) found social intelligence to be an important and significant predictor of leader effectiveness across multiple situations. Because the social intelligence construct can account for effective leadership behavior across multiple situations, it may represent a reconciliation of the trait and situation theories of leadership.
The purpose of this study was to continue this line of research on social intelligence and leadership by examining the role of social intelligence in creative problem solving. Problem construction is the first phase of this process where the goals, objectives, and constraints of the problem situation are determined (Mumford, Reiter-Palmon, & Redmond, 1994). Because leaders must solve problems in a complex social environment, it was proposed that social intelligence would be a significant predictor of a leader's ability to effectively construct and solve social problems. Socially intelligent leaders may be more effective across multiple situations because they "ask the right questions" and, therefore, arrive at a better solution for the organization.
In this study, 120 Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets from two mid-western universities took an academic intelligence test, a social intelligence background data measure, a leadership activities scale, and performed two problem solving exercises with open-ended, ill-defined problems. In the problem solving exercise, the cadets were asked to write as many problem restatements (a measure of problem construction) as possible and then to write one solution to each problem. The problem restatements and solutions were rated for appropriateness and originality. In addition, the number of restatements provided (fluency) was calculated for each cadet.
Overall, this study had three major findings. First, academic intelligence was an important predictor of problem restatement appropriateness and originality. Additionally, there was a strong problem effect in that the cadets consistently performed better on one of the two problems than the other. However, the social intelligence background data measure did not significantly predict the appropriateness or originality of the problem restatements and solutions as hypothesized in this study.
Koch, David Michael, "Social intelligence, problem construction, and leadership: The trait approach revisited" (1997). Student Work. 267.