Category: Authentic Leadership

How to spot an Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Posted on 04/21/14 by Aidan

Research has shown us that more than 90% of top leadership performers have a high amount of emotional intelligence or EI. The higher up the ladder that leaders are, the more people they impact and their EI becomes increasingly important. The person at the top sets the atmosphere that permeates the organization, including the emotional temperature.

Not only does a leader with low emotional intelligence have a negative impact on employee morale, it directly impacts staff retention. We know that the biggest reason that people give for leaving an organization is the relationship with those above them.

Below are five ways to spot an emotionally intelligent boss:

1. NON DEFENSIVE AND OPEN
Insecure leaders that demonstrate low EI become defensive and take it personally whenever they encounter anything that appears to them as criticism and a challenge to their authority. A secure leader with a healthy dose of emotional intelligence strives to listen, understand and find out what is behind behaviors and actions of those they are responsible for managing. They listen before they respond and if they don’t understand something ask open-ended questions that are meant to gather more information. As opposed to leaders with low emotional intelligence, they don’t make it about them, but look for ways to make the situation better for everyone involved.

2. AWARE OF THEIR OWN EMOTIONS
Leaders who are oblivious to their own emotions and how they are impacted by them have no awareness of how their words and actions affect others. This can have a very devastating effect on staff morale and lower productivity. Highly emotionally intelligent leaders are aware of strong emotions and avoid speaking out of anger and frustration. If they feel the urge to give in to strong emotions in their interactions with others, they give themselves a time out, waiting until their emotions have leveled off and they have had a chance to think about the situation.

3. ADEPT AT PICKING UP ON THE EMOTIONAL STATE OF OTHERS
A skilled and empathetic leader that is aware of others’ emotions is able to use that awareness to develop stronger relationships with those they manage. Even if delivering bad news, they are able to cushion the impact by simply letting the receiver know that they are aware of how they might be feeling. Leaders with high EI are able to put themselves in the place of the person receiving criticism or negative feedback, allowing them to give it in a way that might be more beneficial and less destructive.

4. AVAILABLE FOR THOSE REPORTING TO THEM
Good leaders make themselves available to those reporting to them both physically and emotionally. They are responsive to the fact that there will be times that those reporting to them will be having difficulties outside of work that will impact them. Death of family members, friends, relationship breakdowns, and all sorts of life crises will affect virtually everyone at work at times. Emotionally open and secure leaders understand are there for support during these times.

5. ABLE TO CHECK THEIR EGO AND ALLOW OTHERS TO SHINE
While possessing self-confidence, high EI leaders do not have a need to demonstrate their own importance or value. They chose their words carefully and speak and act out of concern for their staff, and the health of the organization. They do not have the need to have their ego massaged and are not looking for ways to take credit for the work of others. Understanding that people work better when they feel appreciated, they are always looking for ways to give positive feedback and rewards for a job well done. Secure in their own abilities, they are not threatened by those under them and actively seek to help them work to the best of their capabilities and rise up the organization.

This article was originally published by Harvey Deutschendorf  on fastcompany.com

Developing Emotional Intelligence delivers better Leadership at Fedex.

Posted on 02/13/14 by Aidan

fedex_imageWe all need Authentic Leadership in times of constant change. This case study about Fedex, recently published (Jan 2014) by Fedex’s Global Leadership Institute (their in-house training centre) and SixSeconds (USA) has some very interesting metrics. At Adeo we provide customised Authentic Leadership Programs which focus on developing Leaders Emotional Intelligence and reframing the role of Leadership as well as introducing leaders to new leading edge Leadership Styles.

Fedex had measured results on the benefits of Emotional Intelligence from previous programs in the mid Noughties which encouraged FedEx to increase the emotional intelligence focus of their leadership training and deliver a new  course to put EQ into action at the frontlines. All new FedEx Express managers would receive the program to provide a solid people-first foundation upon which to build their leadership careers.

The FedEx Team delivered a five-day course with a six-month follow up coaching process. In an extremely faced-paced, task-focused environment, a common challenge for managers is losing sight of the relational dynamics that ultimately sustain team performance. To build a team where people give their “discretionary effort,” task-based management is insufficient: people-leadership is required. This means forming a connection between people at an emotional level.

Emotional Intelligence LeadershipEmotional intelligence provides the insight and skill to allow for this strategic use of feelings. The program helped new managers focus on how emotional intelligence will assist them to show up as leaders by managing themselves first, taking charge of their own emotions and behaviors so they can be effective role models and influencers.

Leadership Emotional Intelligence Development Results

Initial responses to the program are extremely positive with managers showing increased ability to push the FedEx strategy and the “People First” leadership philosophy. In the words of a program participant, one of FedEx’s people stated:

“I began the week realizing that I was limiting myself with a single leadership style and an emotional intelligence level that was preventing me from reaching my full potential, particularly in stressful situations. I learned how to apply different leadership styles to meet specific situations, apply consequential thinking, and continue to improve my emotional intelligence. I am already applying this new found knowledge in my day to day work environment as well as my personal life.”

Emotional Intelligence Improvements

Overall the largest major improvements were in:

  • Decision Making where 72% made major improvements.
  • Quality of Life 60% made major improvements.
  • Influence 58% made major improvements.

At Adeo we work with Leaders in groups or one to one sessions, building key leadership skills that are proven to improve both employee engagement and bottom line results. We have witnessed huge improvements in key Leadership skills that impact performance and success in work and personal life.

Aidan Higgins

Source for Fedex Study ©Six Seconds – 6seconds.org

Seek first to understand then lead

Posted on 01/06/14 by Aidan

KeyWe meet leaders all the time, everywhere. There are some so passionate about their purpose that we would follow them at the drop of a hat, believing in their cause. I met a Social Entrepreneur recently who was so passionate about what he did that I immediately questioned the value in what I was doing and began to visualise how I could become part of his vision. He told me what he did, the positive impact it made and how he jumped out of bed each day to get to work.

It’s a vision thing folks and we know this. But it’s vision with connection, perspective and awareness that works. ironically for a “vision” thing we feel it from leaders. Rather than see it.  It comes from three centres; the body, the emotion and the mind. The mind sets the plan, the emotion fires the passion and the body exudes the belief. Walking the talk.

Great leaders work from all three centres. Sometimes not even knowing it. Ever see a great sales pitch? The best have three centre principles – passion, vision and belief. We don’t remember what people say we remember how they make us feel. Martin Luther did not say “I have a plan” he said. “I have a dream”.

Before leaders get there, they must become aware of what they believe. Handing down the party line to followers doesn’t motivate followers, it doesn’t connect. Often leaders are so focused on goals and success ( because they think it’s right and that’s all performance is)  that they forget what they believe and who they are and this limits their ability to connect with people, to engender motivation and to drive engagement. Their team becomes a box ticking group of clock watchers and bonus driven automatons.

Leaders need to remember that they as well as their people need a higher purpose, a great big powerful why. The great leader then drives autonomy, mastery and efficacy amongst followers who become greater than the sum of their parts. Happier, more engaged and more effective in everything they do.

How’s that for a vision for your organisation for 2014!

Aidan Higgins

Re-learning Leadership

Posted on 09/27/13 by Aidan

learning leadershipIt is said that we learn our parenting skills from our parents. We learn from what we observed in childhood. We are also impacted by the culture we were part of and the environment in which we lived. Parenting is often instinctual and we distinguish right and wrong from our values system which often gets severely tested, especially when our children start to have minds of their own and are developing their own system of values. The day you say “because I said so” can be a real turning point for some.

Leaders often learn the same way. Learning Leadership involves spending a lot of time absorbing behaviours from our leaders, in a culture that influences (but of which we might be unaware) and in, usually, one environmental context. Unlike most parenting skills perhaps the skills and behaviours used when we were learning leadership are not appropriate now – but as leaders we still do or “go with” what we know. In the last four decades the organisational context has flipped over every 10 years – grow, cut back, grow, cut back. On top of that each generation of workers gets more knowledgeable, more technological, has different motivations and owns more of the key competencies and skills of the organisation.

An interesting recent article in the Economist  commenting on the Anthropologist David Grabers article “Bullshit Jobs” points out that this trend will continue. As more competitive advantage will come from the interaction between skilled workers and the coming technologies more repetitive jobs will be automated. So more and more of the “power” will move from centralised control and command to the outer edges of the organisation. We have discussed this before in our story about the US Navy and their understanding of the importance of empowerment following modern changes in warfare technology.

So do leaders who have learned skills from their forebears and from older cultures and older contexts adapt? Well some do. And many don’t. There are many addictive qualities to the old authoritarian style and egalitarian behaviour. But this just doesn’t cut it in a modern organisation. Disappointing results from the US in the recent Gallup report (2013) on the US workplace noted that while it has been proven that employee engagement is absolutely key to organisational performance – poor engagement is costing the US 450 billion to 550 billion dollars annually. It also shows that different generations require different engagement (therefore leadership) practices. Often however the strategy is akin to the old saying – “When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail” – we do what we have always done because we stay inside our comfort zone.

So what do leaders do? We need to become more transformational and also more authentic. We need to update our skills but also change who we are as leaders. This can be done with gaining understanding, getting a change in perspective, observation and developing those required behaviour changes. This is not the same as those standardized management skills often sold as “Leadership Training”. The good news is that some leaders are changing. Reports from the US show that 43% of CEOs and 71% of Senior Executives say they’ve worked with a coach. And 92% of leaders being coached say they plan to use a coach again.

I work with leaders. I talk with leaders. I know fear of change is often a big obstacle. Time is also a big issue but sometimes an excuse. The feeling that you are handing over your power to others can be scary. However the power is shifting in any case and a new form of leadership is required. I often find leaders trapped by assumptions who can easily transform their leadership if shown the way. Remember the old adage “where there is a will there is a way”. But first you need the will.

Aidan Higgins

Leadership Development – is leadership doing or being?

Posted on 08/15/13 by Aidan

Leadership DevelopmentWorking in Leadership Development as I do, I find a lot of material on leadership skills. There are countless advisors pointing out what leaders need to do – top ten of this, top ten of that, the five most important the other. A lot of this information is correct and well intended too but most of this is about what a leader must “do” to become  successful. Little of it is about who to “be”.

There have been a number of Leadership models over the years, some of which now look ridiculous in the light of modern psychology and some which would never have worked leading people who have a strong sense of self and view of life  and completely reject the “I told you so” philosophy. Generations such as X, Y and the Millenials need to clearly see the vision and to trust their leaders to become engaged with the goals of the organisation. This is particularly true of knowledge workers, where the core knowledge and key competencies of the organisation are in their hands.

Many leaders at the top of organisations or leaders who are in charge of large teams are task oriented, and often they love a list to tick off to feel they are moving forward. Its all do do do – “Today I will make sure I will do some trust building exercises with my people”, and “tomorrow I will act more Authentic.” I am reminded of the old line  about sincerity … “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

Leadership Development -Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Brand

I have found over the years that good leadership development results come from working at the core  – so that improving it means working from the inside out. Working on Emotional Intelligence is one part of this – and improves leadership through awareness of the  emotional environment, awareness of the needs of others and the ability to connect with people on an emotional level. This is necessary to lead others and to gain the trust required, particularly for difficult times.

Leadership development should also focus on leadership brand,  a second key facet, which is the leader understanding what they represent and being true to that. This has been coined “leadership brand” and is something very important to followers – “What is this person about?” “Can I trust them?” “Are they all about the results or do they care about me?” “How do I know?” “Is what they say consistent with what they do?”

The pathway to success in leadership is therefore for the Leader to “Walk the Talk” to “Become” rather than to “Get” and to “Be” rather than to “Do”.

Aidan Higgins

Team Emotional Intelligence – New opportunities for Organisations.

Posted on 07/31/13 by Aidan

Author with Vanessa Druskat (centre)

Author with Vanessa Druskat (centre)

I was delighted to spend time in Dublin last month working on Team Emotional Intelligence with Vanessa Druskat, co-developer of the Group Emotional Intelligence concept in 2001 and Geetu Bharwaney of eiworld. We did some intense work on the application of Team Emotional Intelligence for the benefit of organisational teams. Vanessa is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of New Hampshire and I enjoyed working with her and gaining further insights into a topic which I have been very interested in since it was introduced to me back in 2008 when I was lecturing in Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick.

An Emotionally Intelligent team is not the same as a Team with Emotionally Intelligent individuals and brings different if overlapping benefits. The Team is considered as an organism in itself and development is structured on the team being a self organising system – dictating the norms of operation, understanding and co-operation. This is the area of Team Emotional Intelligence.

No one would dispute the importance of making teams work more effectively. But most research about how to do so has focused on identifying the task processes that distinguish the most successful teams—that is, specifying the need for cooperation, participation, commitment to goals, and so forth – the key tenets of Team Emotional Intelligence. The assumption seems to be that, once identified, these processes can simply be imitated by other teams, with similar effect. It’s not true.

The real source of a great team’s success lies in the fundamental conditions that allow effective task processes to emerge—and that cause members to engage in them wholeheartedly.

Three conditions are essential to a group’s effectiveness: trust among members, a sense of group identity, and a sense of group efficacy. When these conditions are absent, going through the motions of cooperating and participating is still possible. But the team will not be as effective as it could be, because members will choose to hold back rather than fully engage. To be most effective, the team needs to create emotionally intelligent norms—the attitudes and behaviors that eventually become habits—that support behaviors for building trust, group identity, and group efficacy.

A model for positive change will always contain the most important types of norms a group can create to enhance its emotional intelligence. Teams, like all groups, operate according to such norms. By working to establish norms for emotional awareness and regulation at all levels of interaction, teams can build the solid foundation of trust, group identity, and group efficacy they need for true cooperation and collaboration—and high performance overall.

As an Emotional Intelligence, Leadership and Teamwork practitioner I have been working with the Druskat and Wolff model for a number of years but this work added clarity and precision to the model and allows Organisations to leverage the performance advantages it brings. Think of the benefits to Project Teams, Management Teams and Leadership Teams if their performance can be improved 25% above normally functioning teams.

Aidan Higgins

Leaders ain’t necessarily so ….

Posted on 04/11/13 by Aidan

DirectionWhy should anyone be led by you wrote Goffee and Jones (HBR) in 2001. Indeed. Often new leaders spent so much time on goals and targets and using “climbing skills” shall we call them, that when they arrive where they wanted to get to they think more of the same will work. Is the guy who is best at the Sales Function the best Leader of the Sales function? Is the IT guys who best hits his targets and reduces response times the best guy to motivate and set the vision for others? Is the guy whose quality control efforts drove excellent improvements in compliance for the last number of years the best leader of the QA function? To paraphrase George
Gershwin “It Ain’t Necessarily So”…

The set of skills required to get you up the ladder is not the same set you need to be a good Leader. This is not the same thing as being the boss (the one in charge, the top dog, the numero uno the big kahuna). Often we find Leaders in organisations who are there for the wrong reasons. Often too these people mean well and work very hard. But are they managing and doing what they always did and expecting results other than what they are getting. Do they have the perspective or time to make themselves into good leaders or even great leaders. Certainly most have the raw materials.

So where to start? The first step is counter-intuitive – just STOP. It’s counter intuitive because some leading by example feel they need to up the pace and keep up a very busy work shedule and work ethic. Others are so lost in the mire of “busy-ness” and the schedule of goal setting and goal completion that they never stop doing. You need to stop – to pause – to reflect. If you are doing – you are not being – and certainly not reflecting. And you must spend time reflecting – to understand yourself, your ego, your values, your beliefs and your impact on others. Good leaders need time to empathise, to think about others, to understand, frame and adopt THEIR Vision of the Organisation (as opposed to its Mission). So to Start, first you must STOP.

These Leadership skills are all things that can be developed. To become a Great Leader in the style of the Transformational or Authentic framework you can work on these things. If you give them time. Remember back when you developed the Sales, QA or IT skills that got you to where you are – well now its time to develop these new soft skills that all the great leaders have. I often tell Clients that the top of the ladder you were on is really only the bottom of the next Ladder.

To finish, a great quote [Drawn from chapter 2.42 – 2..44 of Bhagvad Gita]

When the mind is fully occupied with thoughts of pleasure and power of the position, and when the mind is fully occupied with multiple desires and always thinking of gains that will arise, setting out great vision becomes a tough job. Because to set a great vision the mind must be great mood. The intellect of setting great vision is NOT formed in the mind of such people who are grossly attached to the fruits of action…

Aidan Higgins

Lincoln and Leadership

Posted on 02/14/13 by Aidan

I watched Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Abraham Lincoln the other day (2012 Movie) and I was struck by how his character displayed some key skills and abilities of Leadership. Hey I know it’s a just a movie, but the central character, well researched by Day-Lewis and director Spielberg, demonstrated  Leadership traits and skills that were often subtle and Authentic. I want to underline these while trying not to spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it yet.

The Vision – he has a vision for how it can be. He speaks on issues of humanity, of the higher purpose and he talks about this being about global leadership – with all the world watching -clarifying how these changes are defining democracy not just for the US but for the world.

Belief – throughout the story Lincoln shines with belief. He knows what he wants, he sees it as good and he moves heaven and earth to get it done. He communicates his belief in every word and gesture on the topic. He energizes those around him and refuses to be diverted from what he knows is right.

The Power of the Story – At every juncture he illustrates his thinking with a story. The character glows with warmth and a twinkle in his eye while telling his stories. His personal charm shines through. One or two find his stories frustrating but in the main those around him enjoy them and he uses the power of these parables to explain in a simple way what it is he is trying to do and why.

Working with the team – Lincoln works well with the strong minded individuals in his cabinet, (he had appointed his rivals for the presidential election to his cabinet  – William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Simon Cameron and Edward Bates ) seeking their opinions and using conflict to refine his thinking.  He patiently explains the why and harnesses the power within the team to deliver the vision. Mostly he uses his team to get things done. Only once does he bring his personal power and authority to bear to drive on the final attempt to achieve his goals.

Awareness and humility – he is aware of his sometimes dark moods and also keenly aware of the intentions of those around him. In crux points he is not worried about going directly to those he intends to influence and with all humility appealing to their better self.

In all a masterful bit of work by Day-Lewis in portraying a masterful Leader. I have been an admirer of Lincoln since I heard the Gettysburg address speech read to me in a documentary on the American Civil War in the context of the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was the battle with the largest number of casualties (approximately 50,000 in 3 days) in the American Civil War and is often described as the war’s turning point.

Here I is again…  The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Aidan Higgins

Business Transformation is about people, people!

Posted on 10/30/12 by Aidan

Business transformation is defined as a key executive management initiative that attempts to align People, Process and Technology initiatives of a company more closely with its business strategy and vision to support and help innovate new business strategies. Of this the People part is by far the most difficult and time consuming if its to be done right. It is important to take the time. Fudge the issue and you fudge the outcome. 

We all know about “changes of strategy” and “responses to market demand” and “downsizing” and “new company initiatives” and such. We hear them all the time in the workplace and in the media and after years of promises gone awry, sceptics deliver a sigh everytime such terms are used. In reality most initiatives fail to reach even 50% of their target goals, and Mergers for instance fail in over 70% of cases to reach a goal where the combined unit is worth more productively than the two independent units. This is because of the implementation. The plan often does not allocate sufficient time and resources to handle the soft factors which are required to address peoples concerns, motivations and critically does not give the time required to adapt.

What looks great on a spreadsheet is often a nightmare to staff who suddenly are not sure:

They have a secure job
Who they will work with (their social group)
Where they work and where they sit (their place)
Whether they will be let do their job
Having established a comfort zone that works for them they are now asked to change it and it often is not communicated to them how much. They can be left for months at a time with these stresses hanging over their head. What about motivation?

I have experienced in conversations over coffee that many execs find soft skill learning difficult to pin down. Perhaps its because it needs more than academic understanding? Perhaps its because those good with numbers can be by definition poor with people?  Is it taught well? Or is the theory too new?  Remember it was not so long ago that Taylorism was in vogue. Most of the theories I was taught in College in the late 80’s are invalid now.

My view is that for many Managers and Experts the idea of engaging with people brings them out in a sweat. They prefer the predictability of numbers or technology or knowledge to real engagement and while the predictable part of the change is expertly managed they hope this will be enough to allow them to fudge the people issues. They hope the answer to the ultimate question is indeed 42.

Aidan Higgins

Update of an article first Published in 2007

Left and right brain thinking – leadership needs both.

Posted on 08/31/12 by admin

The teams and people with whom I work are always very interested in mindfulness and innovation and the relevance of  the differences between left and right brain thinking. We also work on understanding meditation and the benefits of being “present” – leading to awareness of our leadership style and its impact on the world around us. This twenty minute video presentation by a mostly left brain – academically trained – Scientist brilliantly illustrates the differences between the left and right hemispheres in terms of thinking. Her passion for her life changing event and discoveries shine through in a most human way and her conclusions are very interesting. See what you think…

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened — as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding — she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.