Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Association between Emotional Intelligence and Entrepreneurship as a Career Choice: A Study on University Students in South Africa

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Association between Emotional Intelligence and Entrepreneurship as a Career Choice: A Study on University Students in South Africa

Article excerpt


Entrepreneurship can be seen as an emotional process as it provides an emotional context within which to study this topic (Cardon, Foo, Shepherd & Wiklund, 2012). The concept itself has become increasingly popular among academics and policymakers across the globe (Keat, Selvarajah & Meyer, 2011). The level of dynamism in the working environment has led to an upsurge of opportunities for new entrepreneurial initiatives, making self-employment lucrative (Mortan, Ripoll, Carvalho & Bernal, 2014). In principle, implanting entrepreneurial intention in the minds of students helps build future entrepreneurial behaviour (Tiago, Faria, Couto & Tiago, 2015). Furthermore, Malebana and Swanepoel (2015) noted that South Africa needs more entrepreneurial intention studies to guide the development of interventions that could fuel entrepreneurial activity in order to reduce unemployment. As the centrality of emotions in business is becoming more apparent, the focus is slowly shifting to questioning how emotions affect entrepreneurial judgement and behaviour, hence the need to examine emotional intelligence within the context of entrepreneurship and business management at large.

Problem statement

Despite wide acclaim, entrepreneurship is still significantly low in South Africa (Fatoki & Chindoga, 2011 ; Luiz & Mariotti, 2011 ; Muofhe & Du Toit, 2011). This is particularly true for the Eastern Cape province (Mkatshwa, 2012). This province is the poorest, despite its investment in tertiary institutions (Pejovic et al., 2012). In actual fact, this province has less entrepreneurial involvement when compared to other provinces (Mkatshwa, 2012). In line with this, studies estimate that the majority of graduates (who have a considerably high intelligence quotient, commonly referred to as IQ) join the employment-seeking pool as opposed to establishing creative and successful entrepreneurial ventures that could strengthen the economy (Altbeker & Storme, 2013 ; Farrington, Gray & Sharp, 2011 ; Fatoki, 2010). Meanwhile, those who have a low IQ are forced into accepting poor educational prospects, menial jobs and a relatively unrewarding economic standing (Zeidner, Matthews & Roberts, 2009).

Moller (2005) suggested that the problem lies with the education curricula, as they fall short in teaching learners how to meet challenges in the world of emotions or how to become more creative, how to solve problems or how to make better decisions. Naturally, educational systems focus on cognitive intelligence, aimed at developing abilities and skills measured by IQ, yet IQ (a measurement of inert intelligence) may very well have little to do with success (Moller, 2005). Critics have argued that consideration needs to be given to alternative life-success factors (Zeidner et al., 2009) such as emotional intelligence, which can be learnt and increased as suggested by Goleman (1995).

This necessitates the need to examine these life-success factors and how they can be influenced to encourage entrepreneurial behaviour. Against this backdrop, questions arise: Should the education system move from being cognitive intelligence-based to being emotional intelligence-based in order to encourage students towards successful entrepreneurship? If so, has emotional intelligence been the missing link in entrepreneurship? While literature has generally identified emotional intelligence as an important contribution to positive life outcomes, there is still a debate on its applicability and relevance to entrepreneurial outcomes. This study therefore bridges that gap by assessing the role that emotional intelligence plays in the development of entrepreneurial intentions by students in a province riddled with lagging entrepreneurial activity.

Objectives of the study

The primary objective of this study was to investigate the association between emotional intelligence and entrepreneurial intent among university students in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. …

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