Book By: Janet Patti and James Tobin
Review By: Shantalea Johns, L.M.S.W
School of Social Work
Wayne State University

They’re inevitable: appointments with students that are, well, not so friendly. For example, Advisors may encounter a student who feels like incorrect information was provided at their last advising session, or perhaps a student who simply had a rough day and decided to take their frustrations out on their academic advisor.  Whether an academic advisor has been working for a few months or a number of years, advising sessions that does not go as planned, will likely have occurred.  Authors Janet Patti and James Tobin of the book Smart School Leaders Leading with Emotional Intelligence provide insight into the use of emotional intelligence as a mechanism for first recognizing your own emotions, then moving to appreciate the emotions of others as a way of handling difficult sessions with students.

This book is written for administrators in a K-12 school environment; however, academic advisors will find this book particularly helpful because it teaches how self- management, active listening, empathy responses, and optimism are proven to produce satisfactory results.  In fact, Patti and Tobin continually address how practicing emotional intelligence can set the stage for a considerable amount of dialogue and relationship- building among school leaders. This exchange can be easily translated to college institutions. 

Some who read this book would find the authors’ methods of recognizing and responding to emotions difficult to put into practice. This is especially true in short advising sessions when there is not very much time to reflect on a presenting conflict to achieve resolution. However, the examples of how to put emotional intelligence into practice are a strong component of this book. Indeed, evidence of how one could use emotional intelligence when presented with a conflict, even like the one mentioned in the opening of this review, are clearly well written.  A comprehensive understanding of strategies is summarized at the end of each chapter so the readers can take away exactly what the authors are conveying about the use of emotional intelligence. For this reason, I believe this allows for the information in this book to be applicable to those working at any learning institution.

Following this further, imagine how an advising session would unfold if academic advisors were allowed time to really reflect on their own emotions regarding a situation first, put those emotions into their proper perspective, and then move toward assessing a student’s negative emotions before even beginning to offer a solution?  As shown throughout the many examples in this book, practicing such assessments would offer teachable moments that produce real results.

It is interesting to note that advisors can take away the principals of facilitative leadership and use them to develop a vision, increase effective communication, and encourage mentorship. These are all critical skills needed to enhance one's leadership ability.  For this reason, Patti and Tobin’s approach was a precise challenge for leaders to understand how emotional intelligence is a skill that allows for professional growth.  In closing, I found it a pleasure to dive into this book, reflect on the questions presented, and to ponder the real life examples of applying emotional intelligence to administrative duties, as well as the work of an academic advisor.  

Smart School Leaders Leading with Emotional Intelligence. (2006). Book by Janet Patti and James Tobin. Review by Shantalea Johns. 444 pp. $55.61 (paperback). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt. ISBN 978-0-7575-3134-7.

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