Ceo at work

The Character of Leaders

Last month I wrote about the character of leaders.  Ironically, I included the following quote as my lead. 

“People will not follow a leader with moral incongruities for long.  Every time you compromise character you compromise leadership.  The foundation of firm leadership is character.”   Bill Hybels

I found out, shortly thereafter, that Bill Hybels, of Willowcreek Church fame, had gone through his own “fall from grace” in the near past.  Initially, I was somewhat embarrassed that a friend of mine had to point this out to me, but then thought that it was a perfect illustration.  Whatever incongruities that exist between our words and our actions will often ‘reveal’ themselves – sometimes in a very public and costly way (think of Bill Clinton, Joe Paterno…Bill Hybels).

If you know me, you know that I don’t get any special pleasure when the ‘mighty’ fall.  In fact, I am deeply saddened by their fall as a further illustration of us as a living paradox – within us is the capacity for great ‘light;’ within us is also ‘darkness.’ In my desire to follow the ‘light’ in me, it has been helpful to acknowledge my darkness.  It encourages me to follow the light.

This month we start a two to three part series on how our emotional intelligence contributes to our capacity as a leader.  While the subject of Emotional Intelligence has gained a lot of traction over the past 10 years, it is still not widely understood.  I hope this exploration will help you to better understand why and how EI is such an important predictor of success.

As always, thank you to those of you who take the time to provide me feedback.  A special ‘thank you’ goes out to Jeff for pointing out that Bill Hybels had been ‘defrocked.’ I appreciate all input, even when it is harder on the ego.

Be well and do your best work,


Emotional Intelligence in Our Lives

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” -Daniel Goleman

I was taught that Emotional Intelligence “is a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, and cope with challenges.”  These sets of skills have been found to be far greater in their ability to predict success.  IN fact, IQ has been found to be about an 8% predictor of success and EI is found to be a 25 – 70% predictor of success based on the requirements of the job.

There are five major scales of Emotional Intelligence, each with three subscales.  The five blocks are Self- Perception, Self- Expression, Interpersonal, Decision-Making, and Stress-Management.  We will cover the first two in this writing.

Our look into Emotional Intelligence starts with how we see ourselves, the Self-Perception Realm (EI scales and subscale definitions taken from EQ Edge by S.J. Stein and H.E. Book).  This realm is a combination of Self-Regard – the ability to respect and accept ourselves; Self-Actualization – realizing our potential capabilities (improvement over a life time); and, Emotional Self-Awareness – the ability to recognize our feelings, differentiate between them, know why we are feeling what we are feeling, and recognizing the impact our feelings have on others.

Plato is credited with saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  The other day I was listening to Jane Fonda being interviewed about the upcoming HBO documentary about her life.  She indicated that her ability to be happy, at peace, and as productive as she is all stem from her reflecting on where she came from, what that meant to her, and what to do with that going forward.  In other words, she spent time examining her life.

I have found that correlation in my own life.  I have also found that people that have wisdom attained that wisdom by being introspective.  While I’m sure there are ‘degrees’ of introspection, I believe that our ability to have perspective on our life events, what they mean, and how we wish to proceed knowing what we know impacts how we come to see ourselves.

What follows are some possible strategies that can be used to improve development in each realm and their subscales (strategies used with permission from ADVISA’s “Emotional Intelligence Development Guide”).  They are used in the context of work since we are talking about developing leaders.

Strategies for Self-Perception Realm

  • Self-Regard
    • Take an inventory of who you are – what you do well, where there is opportunity for development. Share this with someone you trust.  It is helpful to have your boss or someone with greater authority be part of the feedback loop.  Welcome the feedback you receive.
      • Select one or two areas of strength that you can leverage to a greater degree.
      • Select two or three areas of opportunity for development.
      • Create a development plan for all development that is Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely.
    • Seek out more people who affirm your skills, self-worth, and contribution
    • Keep a log about things that you can take pride in; don’t be embarrassed to feel or express pride.
  • Self-Actualization
    • Ask yourself how satisfied you are with the things that you are presently doing, including your interests. Where there is dissatisfaction what might you do differently?
    • Make a list of all things that really interest you. What additional information or knowledge do you need.  Set aside time each week to pursue those things of greatest interest.
  • Self-Expression
    • Identify and practice an emotional management technique related to specific emotions by which you are frequently impacted (i.e., anger, sadness, frustration, etc.)
    • Make a point of watching other people’s reactions during intense interactions. Listen to words others use that may have emotional content.  This will allow you to perceive and understand your own and other people’s emotional information more accurately.  Which people/reactions are more effective?  What do others do that is more effective that you don’t do?

That ‘seeing of ourselves’ leads to how we ‘express’ ourselves in the world; how others see us (Self-Expression Realm).  This Realm is made up of: Emotional Expression which involves openly expressing our feelings, both verbally and non-verbally; Assertiveness – the ability to express our feelings, the ability to express beliefs and thoughts openly (voicing opinions, disagree, and take a definitive stand even though it may be emotionally difficult, even if you have something to lose by doing so), and the ability to stand up for personal rights (not allowing others to bother you or take advantage of you); Independence – the ability to be self-directed and self-controlled in your thinking and actions and to be free of emotional dependency.  As you can appreciate, the better developed our EI is in our self-perception, the better we are able to express ourselves ‘out there.’

Strategies for Self-Expression Realm

  • Emotional Expression
    • Identify opportunities to express emotion when in the past you may not have. Remember, the greater the breadth of emotional expression you can use, the easier it is for others to get to know you.  They see you as more human.
    • Identify opportunities to express positive emotion. “I’m excited about the work we are doing, and will do, and what it will mean to our client;” or something more personal – “I am really looking forward to going out to dinner with my wife this evening.”
    • When expressing emotions to others watch their reactions. If they aren’t responding the way you expected ask them how they feel about what you are sharing.  Look for immediate opportunity to align your thoughts, feelings, with what you are expressing.
  • Assertiveness
    • Create scripts for yourself to follow to practice expressing yourself assertively. Look for these opportunities in your planned conversations with direct reports, peers, and your boss.
    • Know your audience – are they more assertive or less assertive; are they more people oriented, or more task oriented? That knowledge of their personality will determine what your best approach might be.  In general, in your meetings with others at work know why you are there, what you want, your feelings about the subject if that’s appropriate, and what you want from the others.
    • Practice your assertiveness skills outside of your job. This will afford you a chance to receive feedback from trusted people about your assertiveness skills.  This will allow you to make changes that may also benefit you at work.
  • Independence
    • Examine a few of your past decisions. What did your decision-making process look like?  Who did you connect with to seek advice or a differing point of view?  Did you incorporate the input that was given to you?  Why or why not?
    • Make a list of situations in which you feel more independent and situations in which you are more dependent; then ask yourself how it makes you feel to be more independent or more dependent and try to understand why.
    • Identify thoughts and feelings that may prevent you from being more independent.

As you can see from the first two realms of EI (and the six subscales), self-awareness is the key component.  Our awareness helps us ‘show up’ in the world differently.  This awareness helps determine how we behave (manage ourselves) across a broad spectrum of life ‘situations.’  This in turn impacts how we influence others.  While this interrelatedness may not be a “Rubik’s Cube,” it is indicative of the need for development in each realm to be more successful.

To your journey and living out the best version of you…