Fourth Age Communiqué - Leadership for the rest of us

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Primal Leadership Styles

Ultimately it is all about the results. If you cannot show bottom line value, the resistance you will likely encounter to either your credibility — or your checkbook — when it comes time to ask for a budget increase could be significant.

The business case for driving results through effective leadership is compelling: the primal leadership model does, in fact, demonstrate how leadership styles affect behavior, which in turn affect results.

The six leadership styles, as discussed by Goleman, reflect the varying nature of leadership, based on the environment and the business climate. Although there is no “wrong” style, several are far more effective over time than others.

The styles are as encapsulated as follows:

  • Commanding: “Do as I say.”
  • Visionary: “Come with me.”
  • Affiliative: “People come first.”
  • Democratic: “We all have an equal voice.”
  • Pacesetting: “I set high standards.”
  • Coaching: “Personal development is key.”
Knowing your team, the business climate, and the current situation takes emotional intelligence. To resonate in any circumstance requires a fluency of leadership style.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Don't get hijacked!

One of the easiest ways to evaluate your emotional intelligence is to record your emotional hijacking frequency.

To be emotionally hijacked is to allow emotion to overwhelm common sense and rational thinking. Stemming from our “fight or flight” instincts, the amygdala is ever vigilant for danger. Because a hijacking essentially causes a person to act without thinking, many who experience it are later heard to say they had no idea what came over them.

When the amygdala encounters a conflict brewing, it triggers a rush of adrenaline that floods the central nervous system. This adrenaline flow causes us to respond before we have time to evaluate the context of the request, and override when necessary.

Although the nervous system is programmed to respond to danger with little or no inter-neural communication, preventing hijacks
before they occur is both possible and learnable. Bringing out conscious thought to accompany unconscious feeling is the pathway to self-awareness.

Goleman refers to such hijacks as depression, radical mood swings, rage and anxiety attacks as toxic emotions. He further cites evidence of their damaging consequences to our general well-being and physiological health. Having the presence of mind to recognize and monitor our emotions as they attempt to disrupt our work and personal lives is the first step toward self-awareness. And it is the foundation for effective emotional intelligence.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

If mamma ain't happy ... ain't no one happy

Ever wonder how this aphorism can be so spot on accurate? Studies in neuroanatomy show a significant correlation between the emotions we feel and how we interrelate with others. One sure sign of successful emotional interaction is how well we find ourselves “in sync” with others. The reverse is equally true, as we know from Mama: we can be just as receptive to cold pricklies as we can to warm fuzzies.

Researchers call this phenomenon “mirroring” — or mimicking others’ emotional patterns. And although it certainly occurs during friendly, positive interaction with others, this tendency is far more commonplace (or at least visible) when interpersonal conflicts flare up.

The common denominator in how we receive and respond to the vibes around us is the “open loop” nature of our limbic system. Unlike the circulatory system, which is self-regulating, Goleman says our emotional centers require input from (and output to) external sources.

Translation: we not only feed off others’ energy, it is a requisite for psychological well-being. Goleman goes on to say we rely on connections with other people for our own emotional stability. This can manifest itself in taking on another person’s sour attitude, or feeling more lighthearted when someone laughs. Studies further show we tend to “norm” with those around us very quickly: from within minutes of encountering strangers to up to two hours within team interactions. Finally, mirroring is not a phenomenon limited to our vocabulary; we are just as prone to emotionally mirror someone nonverbally (including, but not limited to body language) as we are from hearing their vocal inflections.

A key learning for the EI leader, then, is to recognize the vibes each individual in a team brings to bear with it. Positive environmental attenuation, or vibes that make people feel good about themselves and their work and bring out their best, Goleman refers to as resonance. The opposite is negative feelings, or lack of harmony, which Goleman refers to as dissonance. The goal then becomes to reinforce a positive work environment with appropriate levels of positive affirmation.

So the next time you find yourself asking, “what’s eating Mom?”, you’ll know why it might have started eating at you too.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

EI: The critical link

“The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” - Muhammad Ali

In the midst of an economic upswing, never has the need for emotionally connecting with those who follow us to lead them to higher vistas been more important than in the hyper paced marketplace of the 21st century. As we witness a cautious growth cycle beginning to take hold, companies who once hired with the promise of lucrative stock options alone are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain top talent based on financial rewards alone.

Although there is an increasing shortage of technical talent, top free agents will no longer flock strictly to where the money “is.” As talented individuals find they can work anywhere, for anyone, for essentially the same (competitive) wage, the differentiating factor now is much more about climate, or, “what’s in for me?”

There is a certain economic vindication to the rise of free agents in business. To be sure, the economies of scale are dramatically lower than those of the average sports franchise. But for the discriminating professional, there remains sufficient opportunity to be deliberate about choosing that next career step.

There is a business case to be made not only for attracting and retaining top talent, but also for getting results once you have landed them. Knowing how to recruit, then place people in the right positions to excel and drive successful business returns, is all about knowing first what makes a person tick, then understanding how best to integrate their skills, talents and goals into the greater organizational value proposition.

Put another way, to effectively capture the heart and mind of the free agent, a leader must know what motivates them. It is Goleman’s notion that successful people are primarily empathic that makes his body of work so compelling: without a firm emotional foundation, people can neither grow nor be creative in their own right.