Although they represent 99.7% of all employers in the American domestic workforce, the annual failure rate of small businesses is alarming. Given this high failure rate, research is needed to better understand the characteristics of leaders who create and sustain success in small businesses. The two-part purpose of this sequential, explanatory mixed-methods study was to (a) measure the emotional intelligence of small business leaders in Southern California and (b) explore the leaders’ perceptions of the effect and value of EI in the workplace. Following the collection of quantitative data using an online version of the Wong and Law Emotional Intelligence Scale (WLEIS) to measure small business leaders’ EI, qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews with the study's 12 survey respondents. The interviews were designed to explore the leaders’ perceptions of the effect and value of EI in the workplace. Analysis of the quantitative survey data showed that 75.0% of the leaders rated in the high EI category for the EI total score, and five correlational tendencies (p < .15) were found: higher total EI with having had more leadership positions, self-emotion appraisal score was higher for women and for those with a social sciences background, and older respondents had higher others’ emotion appraisal and regulation of emotion scores. Results from the qualitative analysis suggested that male participants’ EI affects the workplace to a greater extent than that of female participants. Additionally, older participants had higher rates of association between EI workplace effect and others’ emotion appraisal and regulation of emotion. Moreover, those participants who held a higher number of small business leadership positions had greater associations between leader value of EI in the workplace and all four WLEIS scales than those who held fewer leadership positions. Recommendations for future research included comparative studies of different types of professional development programs designed to enhance small business leaders’ EI and further research to better understand how gender moderates the relationship between EI and specific performance outcomes that are known to contribute to overall business success.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Small business -- Management; Leadership -- Psychological aspects; Success in business -- Psychological aspects

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Rhodes, Kent;