Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligenceby Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee
Daniel Goleman's international bestseller Emotional Intelligence changed our concept of "being smart," proving that emotional intelligence--how we handle ourselves and our relationships--matters more than IQ or technical skill in educational success. His next bestseller, Working with Emotional Intelligence, proved that career success also depends/i>/i>… See more details below
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Daniel Goleman's international bestseller Emotional Intelligence changed our concept of "being smart," proving that emotional intelligence--how we handle ourselves and our relationships--matters more than IQ or technical skill in educational success. His next bestseller, Working with Emotional Intelligence, proved that career success also depends primarily on emotional intelligence.
Now, Goleman teams with Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, experts on emotional intelligence research, to explore the consequences of emotional intelligence for leaders and organizations. The authors argue that a leader's emotions are contagious, and must resonate energy and enthusiasm if an organization is to thrive.
Through analyses and examples, the authors show that resonant leaders excel not just through industry savvy but by leveraging emotional intelligence competencies like empathy and self-awareness. They also adopt varying leadership styles--from visionary to coaching to commanding--as the situation demands.
Identifying the ways in which resonant leadership can be learned, the authors show how leaders can groom personal and organizational emotional intelligence to ignite outstanding performance. This audiobook transforms the art of leadership into the science of results.
The authors of Primal Leadership write that humankind's original leaders earned their place because their leadership was emotionally compelling. In the modern organization, this primordial emotional task remains. Leaders must drive the collective emotions in a positive direction and clear the smog created by toxic emotions, whether it is on the shop floor or in the boardroom.
When leaders drive emotions positively, they bring out everyone's best. When they drive emotions negatively, they spawn dissonance, undermining the emotional foundations that let people shine. The authors of Primal Leadership explain that the key to making primal leadership work to everyone's advantage lies in the leadership competencies of emotional intelligence; how leaders handle themselves and their relationships. Leaders who exercise primal leadership drive the emotions of those they lead in the right direction.
Matters of the Heart and Mind
Gifted leadership occurs where heart and head - feeling and thought - meet. These are the two things that allow a leader to soar. The authors write that all leaders need enough intellect to handle the tasks and challenges at hand. However, intellect alone won't make a leader. Leaders execute a vision by motivating, guiding, inspiring, listening, persuading, and creating resonance. As a result, the manner in which leaders act - not just what they do, but how they do it - is a fundamental key to effective leadership. The reason lies in the design of the human brain.
The brain is an open loop. The authors explore how we rely on connections with other people for our emotional stability. Scientists describe the open-loop system as "interpersonal limbic regulation," whereby one person transmits signals that can alter hormone levels, cardiovascular function, sleep rhythms, and even immune function inside the body of another. Other people can change our very physiology and our emotions.
The authors describe how the continual interplay of limbic open loops among members of a group creates a kind of emotional soup, with everyone adding his or her flavor to the mix. Negative emotions - especially chronic anger, anxiety or a sense of futility - powerfully disrupt work, hijacking attentions from the tasks at hand.
On the other hand, when people feel good, they work at their best. The authors write that feeling good lubricates mental efficiency, making people better at understanding information and making complex judgments. For example, insurance agents with a glass-is-half-full attitude make more sales, in part because they are able to withstand rejection better than their more pessimistic peers.
A study on 62 CEOs and their top management shows just how important mood is. The CEOs and their management team members were assessed on how upbeat - energetic, enthusiastic and determined - they were. They were also asked how much conflict the top team experienced. The study found that the more positive the overall moods of people in the top management team, the more cooperative they worked together and the better the company's business results. The study concluded that the longer a company was run by a management team that did not get along, the poorer the company's market return.
The authors write that every large organization has pockets of resonance and dissonance. The overall ratio determines the organization's emotional climate and performance. To shift the ratio toward resonance, cultivate a dispersed cadre of emotionally intelligent leaders. To do that, the authors write, leadership training must be the strategic priority and be managed at the highest level. Commitment must come from the top. That's because new leadership means a new mindset and new behaviors, and in order for these to stick, the organization's culture, systems and processes all need to change.
Let's say that as a leader, you get it. You've set the stage by assessing the culture, examining the reality and the ideal. You've created resonance around the idea of change, and you've identified the people who will take top leadership roles. The next step is to design a process that lets those leaders uncover their own dreams and personal ideals, examine their strengths and their gaps, and use their daily work as a learning laboratory. The authors explain that this process must also be self-directed and include the following elements:
- A tie-in to the organization's culture.
- Seminars emphasizing individual change.
- Learning about emotional competencies.
- Creative learning experiences.
- Relationships that support learning, such as executive coaching.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
Using many in-depth examples of how the concepts of primal leadership work and how the power of emotional intelligent can be used to effect organizations, Primal Leadership delivers many poignant messages about a topic that deserves more attention. The book's focus on real-life scenarios and modern business problems keeps its intellectual ideas grounded in reality, and helps it develop and demonstrate its pertinent ideas. The numerous examples it uses to illustrate these ideas turn this book into an exciting examination of fresh concepts and valuable learning. Copyright (c) 2002 Soundview Executive Book Summaries
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The Leadership Repertoire
Resonance stems not just from leaders' good moods or ability to say the right thing, but also from whole sets of coordinated activities that comprise particular leadership styles. Typically, the best, most effective leaders act according to one or more of six distinct approaches to leadership and skillfully switch between the various styles depending on the situation.
Four of these styles—visionary, coaching, affiliative, and democratic—create the kind of resonance that boosts performance, while two others—pacesetting and commanding—although useful in some very specific situations, should be applied with caution, as we shall see.
To find out how particular leadership styles affect an organization and its emotional climate, we drew from research on a global database of 3,871 executives in which several key factors that influenced the working environment were assessed.1
Analysis went one step further to look at how the climate that resulted from various leadership styles affected financial results, such as return on sales, revenue growth, efficiency, and profitability. Results showed that, all other things being equal, leaders who used styles with a positive emotional impact saw decidedly better financial returns than those who did not. Perhaps most important, leaders with the best results didn't practice just one particular style. Rather, on any given day or week, they used many of the six distinct styles—seamlessly and in different measures—depending on the business situation. Imagine the styles, then, as the array of clubs in a golf pro's bag. Over the course of a match, the propicks and chooses from his bag based on the demands of the shot. Sometimes he has to ponder his selection, but usually it is automatic. The pro "senses" the challenge ahead, swiftly pulls out the right tool, and elegantly puts it to work. That's how high-impact leaders operate too.
Although these styles of leadership (see the chart) have all been identified previously by different names, what's new about our model of leadership is an understanding of the underlying emotional intelligence capabilities that each approach requires, and—most compelling—each style's causal link with outcomes. The research, in other words, allows us to see how each style actually affects climate, and therefore performance. For executives engaged in the daily battle of getting results, such a connection adds a much-needed dose of science to the critical art of leadership.
We'll look first at those four leadership styles that foster resonance, then at the two that too readily generate dissonance when not used effectively.
The Visionary Leader When Shawana Leroy took over as director of a social work agency for impoverished families in a large city, there were clearly problems—most a legacy from her predecessor, a longtime civil servant with a penchant for rules and regulations. The agency's mission attracted talented employees and fostered tremendous commitment—at least when they first came on board. Typically, though, that enthusiasm got lost as workers became mired in the byzantine rules established for carrying out their jobs. The mission became hard to find behind the regulations. Despite increasing needs for the agency's services—and complaints from funders—the pace of work was slow and effectiveness abysmal.
As a first step, Leroy talked to employees, one-on-one, to find out what worked and what people were proud of in the agency. People seemed relieved to have a chance to talk about how meaningful their work felt, and about the frustrations they faced trying to get things done. Leroy found she was not alone in feeling a commitment to the mission of helping poor families, and she gambled that this vision would sustain people during the changes to come at the agency.
By starting the conversation on this positive note, Leroy gave people a sense of the dream they wanted to reach for, and why. She got people talking about their hopes for the future, and she tapped into the compassion and dedication they felt. She then articulated this vision whenever the opportunity arose, voicing the shared values that had brought them all there.
As a next step, Leroy called on people to question whether they were really living the mission of helping the poor, and she guided them in looking at how what they did, day to day, affected the agency's ability to meet that goal. That process of inquiry had another payoff: building people's sense of initiative and their belief that they had the answers inside themselves.
Examining the agency's problems got down to specifics, as it must: which management practices were getting in the way, which rules made no sense, and which outdated systems needed to go. Meanwhile, Leroy made sure she modeled the principles of the new organization she wanted to create: one that was transparent and honest; one that focused on rigor and results. Then, as the process moved from talk to action, Leroy and her team tackled some of the most rigid bureaucratic practices and changed them with the support of almost all staff. With her at the helm, the agency's emotional climate changed to reflect her passion and commitment; she set the tone for the entire organization.
The Leadership Styles in a Nutshell
HOW IT BUILDS RESONANCE: Moves people toward shared dreams
IMPACT ON CLIMATE: Most strongly positive
WHEN APPROPRIATE: When changes require a new vision, or when a clear direction is needed
HOW IT BUILDS RESONANCE: Connects what a person wants with the organization's goals
IMPACT ON CLIMATE: Highly positive
WHEN APPROPRIATE: To help an employee improve performance by building long-term capabilities
HOW IT BUILDS RESONANCE: Creates harmony by connecting people to each other
IMPACT ON CLIMATE: Positive
WHEN APPROPRIATE: To heal rifts in a team, motivate during stressful times, or strengthen connections
HOW IT BUILDS RESONANCE: Values people's input and gets commitment through participation
IMPACT ON CLIMATE: Positive
WHEN APPROPRIATE: To build buy-in or consensus, or to get valuable input from employees
HOW IT BUILDS RESONANCE: Meets challenging and exciting goals
IMPACT ON CLIMATE: Because too frequently poorly executed, often highly negative
WHEN APPROPRIATE: To get high-quality results from a motivated and competent team
HOW IT BUILDS RESONANCE: Soothes fears by giving clear direction in an emergency
IMPACT ON CLIMATE: Because so often misused, highly negative
WHEN APPROPRIATE: In a crisis, to kick-start a turnaround, or with problem employees
The Visionary Resonates
Shawana Leroy, of course, exemplifies the visionary style, which strongly drives emotional climate upward and transforms the spirit of the organization at many levels. For instance, visionary leaders articulate where a group is going, but not how it will get there—setting people free to innovate, experiment, and take calculated risks. Knowing the big picture and how a given job fits in gives people clarity; they understand what's expected of them. And the sense that everyone is working toward shared goals builds team commitment: People feel pride in belonging to their organization.
Visionary leaders reap another benefit: retaining their most valued employees. To the extent that people resonate with a company's values, goals, and mission, that company becomes their preferred employer. A smart company realizes that it's vision and mission offers its people a unique "brand," a way of distinguishing itself as an employer from other companies in the same industry.
Moreover, by framing the collective task in terms of a grander vision, this approach defines a standard for performance feedback that revolves around that vision. Visionary leaders help people to see how their work fits into the big picture, lending people a clear sense not just that what they do matters, but also why. Such leadership maximizes buy-in for the organization's overall long-term goals and strategy. This is the classic mold of leadership, the one most often described in business school courses.
Consider the example of Bob Pittman, then-CEO of Six Flags Entertainment. Hearing that the janitors at the amusement parks were being surly to customers, Pittman decided to get a grounds-eye view of the problem: He went undercover as a janitor.2 While sweeping the streets, he began to understand the problem. Although managers were ordering janitors to keep the parks immaculate, customers kept the workers from accomplishing that mission by continually littering in the parks, thus creating headaches for janitors.
Pittman's visionary strategy was to have managers redefine the janitors' main mission: It would now be to keep customers happy. And since a dirty park would make things less enjoyable for customers, the janitors' job was to clean up—but in a friendly spirit. With this reframing, Pittman tied the small part the janitors played into a larger vision.
Of the six leadership styles, our research suggests that overall, this visionary approach is most effective. By continually reminding people of the larger purpose of their work, the visionary leader lends a grand meaning to otherwise workaday, mundane tasks. Workers understand the shared objectives as being in synch with their own best interests. The result: inspired work.
What Makes a Visionary
Inspirational leadership, of course, is the emotional intelligence competence that most strongly undergirds the visionary style. (For a fuller description of the EI competencies, see Appendix B.) Using inspiration together with the EI triad of self-confidence, self-awareness, and empathy, visionary leaders articulate a purpose that rings true for themselves and attune it to values shared by the people they lead. And because they genuinely believe in that vision, they can guide people toward it with a firm hand. When it comes time to change directions, competencies in self-confidence and in being a change catalyst smooth the transition.
Transparency, another EI competence, is crucial too; to be credible, leaders must truly believe their own visions. If a leader's vision is disingenuous, people sense it. Moreover, transparency means the removal of barriers or smokescreens within the company. It's a movement toward honesty and toward sharing information and knowledge so that people at all levels of the company feel included and able to make the best possible decisions. While some managers might have the misimpression that withholding information gives them power, visionary leaders understand that distributing knowledge is the secret to success; as a result, they share it openly and in large doses.
Of all the EI competencies, however, empathy matters most to visionary leadership. The ability to sense how others feel and to understand their perspectives means that a leader can articulate a truly inspirational vision. A leader who misreads people, on the other hand, simply can't inspire them.
Because of its positive impact, the visionary style works well in many business situations. But it can be particularly effective when a business is adrift—during a turnaround or when it is in dire need of a fresh vision. Not surprisingly, the visionary mode comes naturally to "transformational" leaders—those who seek to radically change an organization.3
Powerful as it is, however, the visionary style doesn't work in every situation. It fails, for instance, when a leader is working with a team of experts or peers who are more experienced than he—and who might view a leader expounding a grand vision as pompous or simply out of step with the agenda at hand. This kind of misstep can cause cynicism, which is a breeding ground for poor performance. Another limitation: If a manager trying to be visionary instead becomes overbearing, he can undermine the egalitarian spirit of team-based management.
These caveats aside, any leader would be wise to grab for the visionary "golf club" more often than not. It may not guarantee a hole in one, but it certainly helps with the long drive.
The Art of the One-on-One: The Coaching Style
She was new at the firm, and eight months pregnant. Staying late one night, she looked up from her work and was startled to see her boss standing outside her door. He asked how she was doing, sat down, and started to talk with her. He wanted to know all about her life. How did she like her job? Where did she want to go in her career? Would she come back to work after she had the baby?
These conversations continued daily over the next month, until the woman had her baby. The boss was David Ogilvy, the legendary advertising executive. The pregnant newcomer was Shelley Lazarus, now CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, the huge ad agency that Ogilvy founded. One of the main reasons Lazarus says she's still there, decades later, is the bonds she forged with her mentor Ogilvy in those first after-hours conversations.4
Ogilvy's leadership included a large dose of the coaching style: having a deep conversation with an employee that goes beyond short-term concerns and instead explores the person's life, including dreams, life goals, and career hopes. Despite the commonly held belief that every leader needs to be a good coach, leaders tend to exhibit this style least often. In these high-pressure, tense times, leaders say they "don't have the time" for coaching. By ignoring this style, however, they pass up a powerful tool.
Even though coaching focuses on personal development rather than on accomplishing tasks, the style generally predicts an outstandingly positive emotional response and better results, almost irrespective of the other styles a leader employs. By making sure they have personal conversations with employees, coaching leaders establish rapport and trust. They communicate a genuine interest in their people, rather than seeing them as simply tools to get the job done. Coaching thereby creates an ongoing conversation that allows employees to listen to performance feedback more openly, seeing it as serving their own aspirations, not just the boss's interests.
As Patrick O'Brien, president of Johnson Outdoors, an outdoor recreation company, told us, "Getting to know people individually is more important than ever. If you have that one-hour personal conversation at the start with someone, six months later, on a Friday at 4 p.m., they're jumping with you."
The Coach in Action
What does able coaching look like in a leader? Coaches help people identify their unique strengths and weaknesses, tying those to their personal and career aspirations. They encourage employees to establish long-term development goals, and help them to conceptualize a plan for reaching those goals, while being explicit about where the leader's responsibility lies and what the employee's role will be. As we discussed earlier, people tend to gravitate toward the aspects of their job they like the most, namely, the aspects that tie in to their dreams, identity, and aspirations. By linking people's daily work to these long-term goals, coaches keep people motivated. Only by getting to know employees on a deeper, personal level can leaders begin to make that link a reality.
Coaches are also good at delegating, giving employees challenging assignments that stretch them, rather than tasks that simply get the job done. (That kind of stretching, by the way, has a particularly positive impact on a person's mood; there's a special sweetness to success that pushes people beyond their abilities.5) Further, coaches usually tolerate a short-term failure, understanding that it can further an employee's dreams.
Not surprisingly, coaching works best with employees who show initiative and want more professional development. On the other hand, coaching will fail when the employee lacks motivation or requires excessive personal direction and feedback—or when the leader lacks the expertise or sensitivity needed to help the employee along. When executed poorly, the coaching approach looks more like micromanaging or excessive control of an employee. This kind of misstep can undermine an employee's self-confidence and ultimately create a downward performance spiral. Unfortunately, we've found that many managers are unfamiliar with—or simply inept at—the coaching style, particularly when it comes to giving ongoing performance feedback that builds motivation rather than fear or apathy.
For example, leaders who are also pacesetters—focused exclusively on high performance—often think they're coaching when actually they're micromanaging or simply telling people how to do their jobs. Such leaders often concentrate solely on short-term goals, such as sales figures. That solution-oriented bent keeps them from discovering employees' long-term aspirations—and employees, in turn, can believe that the leader sees them as mere tools for accomplishing a task, which makes them feel underappreciated rather than motivated.
When done well, however, coaching boosts not just employees' capabilities but also their self-confidence, helping them function both more autonomously and at a higher performance level.
What Makes a Coach
Coaching exemplifies the EI competence of developing others, which lets a leader act as a counselor, exploring employees' goals and values and helping them expand their own repertoire of abilities. It works hand in hand with two other competencies that research shows exemplify the best counselors: emotional self-awareness and empathy.
Emotional self-awareness creates leaders who are authentic, able to give advice that is genuinely in the employee's best interest rather than advice that leaves the person feeling manipulated or even attacked. And empathy means leaders listen first before reacting or giving feedback, which allows the interaction to stay on target. Good coaches, therefore, often ask themselves: Is this about my issue or goal, or theirs?
Coaching's surprisingly positive emotional impact stems largely from the empathy and rapport a leader establishes with employees. A good coach communicates a belief in people's potentials and an expectation that they can do their best. The tacit message is, "I believe in you, I'm investing in you, and I expect your best efforts." As a result, people sense that a leader cares, so they feel motivated to uphold their own high standards for performance, and they feel accountable for how well they do.
Sometimes coaching takes the form of an active mentoring program. And at "built-to-last" companies, which have thrived over decades, the ongoing development of leadership marks a cultural strength as well as a key to continued business success.6 In a time when more and more companies are finding it difficult to retain the most talented and promising employees, those companies that provide their people nourishing development experiences are more successful in creating loyal employees. In short, the coaching style may not scream "bottom-line results," but, in a surprisingly indirect way, it delivers them.
Relationship Builders: The Affiliative Style
Joe Torre might be called both the heart and soul of the New York Yankees. As the manager of that venerable baseball team as it won yet another World Series in 1999, Torre was credited with tending ably to the psyches of his players as they went through the emotional pressure cooker of the drive to win the championship. In a job often filled by notorious exemplars of unruly tempers and insensitivity, Torre stands out as an exception, exemplifying the teamwork and collaboration competence in action.
Take the celebration on the field right after the final 1999 game. Torre sought out particular players to embrace, especially Paul O'Neill, whose father had just died at age 79. Though he had barely received the news of his father's death, O'Neill chose to play in the decisive game that night—and burst into tears the moment the game ended. Later, at the victory party in the clubhouse, Torre made a point of acknowledging O'Neill's personal struggle, praising him as "a warrior."
Torre sought out two other players, as well—both of whom also had lost family members during the season. One, Scott Brosius, had repeatedly been praised by Torre over the previous months for willing himself to stay upbeat when at work with the team, even as he worried about his father's terminal illness. Finally, Torre used the spotlight that the victory celebration offered to go to bat for two players whose return the following year was threatened by contract disputes. He singled out both players for praise, to make a point to his own boss, the club's owner, that they were just too valuable to lose.
To be sure, Torre is no softy: He's firm with reprimands when needed. But he's also open about his own feelings with those he leads. The year his brother was near death while awaiting a heart transplant, Torre did little to hide his concern, sharing his worries with his players—as he did about his own treatment for prostate cancer the spring before his team won the pennant.
Such open sharing of emotions is one hallmark of the affiliative leadership style, which Torre exemplifies. These leaders also tend to value people and their feelings—putting less emphasis on accomplishing tasks and goals, and more on employees' emotional needs. They strive to keep people happy, to create harmony, and—as Torre did so well—to build team resonance.
Although limited as a direct driver of performance, the affiliative style has a surprisingly positive impact on a group's climate, behind only the visionary and coaching styles in impelling all measures upward. By recognizing employees as people—for example, offering them emotional support during hard times in their private lives—such leaders build tremendous loyalty and strengthen connectedness.
When does the affiliative style make sense? Its generally positive impact makes it a good all-weather resonance builder, but leaders should apply it in particular when trying to heighten team harmony, increase morale, improve communication, or repair broken trust in an organization.
Many cultures place tremendous value on strong personal ties, making relationship building a sine qua non of doing business. In most Asian cultures—as well as in Latin America and some European countries—establishing a strong relationship is a prerequisite for doing business. This step comes naturally to leaders who exhibit the affiliative style.
What Makes an Affiliative Leader
The affiliative style represents the collaborative competence in action. Such leaders are most concerned with promoting harmony and fostering friendly interactions, nurturing personal relationships that expand the connective tissue with the people they lead. Accordingly, affiliative leaders value downtime in the organizational cycle, which allows more time to build emotional capital that can be drawn from when the pressure is on.
When leaders are being affiliative, they focus on the emotional needs of employees even over work goals. This focus makes empathy—the ability to sense the feelings, needs, and perspectives of others—another fundamental competence here. Empathy allows a leader to keep people happy by caring for the whole person—not just the work tasks for which someone is responsible. A leader's empathy makes the affiliative approach a booster of morale par excellence, lifting the spirits of employees even as they trudge through mundane or repetitive tasks. Finally, the affiliative style sometimes also relies on the EI competence of conflict management when the challenge includes knitting together diverse or even conflicting individuals into a harmonious working group.
Despite its benefits, the affiliative style should not be used alone. The style's exclusive focus on praise can allow poor performance to go uncorrected, and employees may perceive that mediocrity is tolerated. In addition, because affiliative leaders rarely offer constructive advice on how to improve, employees are left on their own to figure out how to do so.
Perhaps that's why many affiliative leaders—including Joe Torre—use this style in close conjunction with the visionary approach. Visionary leaders state a mission, set standards, and let people know whether their work is furthering the group goals. Ally that with the caring approach of the affiliative leader, and you have a potent combination.
Let's Talk It Over: The Democratic Style
The private Catholic school, located in an impoverished neighborhood of a large metropolitan area, had been losing money for years. No longer able to afford to keep the school going, the archdiocese ordered Sister Mary, who headed the Catholic school system in the area, to shut it down.
But rather than immediately locking the doors, Sister Mary called a meeting of the teachers and staff and explained the details of the financial crisis that threatened the school. She asked for their ideas on ways to help keep the school open, and how to handle the closing, should it come to that. And then she simply listened. She did the same thing at later meetings for school parents, for the community, and then during a successive series of meetings for teachers and staff.
By the end of a round of meetings that lasted several months, the consensus was clear: The school would have to close. Students who wished to attend a school in the Catholic system would be transferred. Although the final outcome was no different than if Sister Mary had immediately closed the school herself, the process she used made all the difference. By allowing the school's constituents to reach that decision collectively, Sister Mary received none of the backlash that would have accompanied such a move. People mourned the loss of the school, but understood its inevitability. Virtually no one objected. Compare Sister Mary's approach with that of a priest who headed another Catholic school, also given the order to close. The priest immediately shut the school down—by fiat. The result: Parents filed lawsuits, teachers and parents picketed, and local newspapers ran editorials attacking his decision. The disputes kept the school open a full year before it could finally close down.
In contrast, Sister Mary's democratic style of getting buy-in from her constituents built feelings of trust and respect—and, in a word, commitment. By spending time one-on-one and in meetings listening to the concerns of employees (or, as with Sister Mary, of stakeholders such as parents), the democratic leader keeps morale high. The resulting impact on climate is positive across the board.
When to Be Democratic
A democratic approach works best when, like Sister Mary, the leader is uncertain about what direction to take and needs ideas from able employees.
That seems to have been the case with Louis Gerstner Jr., who became chairman of IBM in 1993 when the company was on the brink of death. An outsider to the computer industry, Gerstner had to rely on a democratic style, turning to more seasoned colleagues for advice. In the end, even though he had to cut $9 billion a year in expenses and lay off thousands of employees, Gerstner led a sensationally successful turnaround, charting a new strategic course for the company. Looking back, Gerstner mused that his day-to-day decisions had been based on "getting some good advice from my colleagues who knew a heck of a lot more about IBM and this industry than I would ever know."8
Even if a leader has a strong vision, the democratic style works well to surface ideas about how to implement that vision or to generate fresh ideas for executing it. For example, David Morgan, CEO of Westpac Bank in Australia, spends up to twenty days each year meeting with various groups of his top 800 people, 40 at a time. "It's a session where they give me feedback," Morgan told us. "I want to know how it really is. If it was ever true that someone sitting in an isolated corner office could run this business, it's not true today. The greatest risk is being out of touch with what's going on."
For such feedback sessions to be useful, the leader must be open to everything—bad news as well as good. "You have to listen to some pretty tough stuff," Morgan adds. "But the first time I chop someone's head off for telling me the hard truth, that's when they'll stop talking to me. I have to keep it safe for everyone to speak up. There's no problem we can't solve if we can be open about it."
Of course, the democratic style can have its drawbacks. One result when a leader overrelies on this approach is exasperating, endless meetings in which ideas are mulled over, consensus remains elusive, and the only visible outcome is to schedule yet more meetings. A leader who puts off crucial decisions, hoping to thrash out a consensual strategy, risks dithering. The cost can be confusion and lack of direction, with resulting delays or escalating conflicts.
It almost goes without saying, of course, that seeking employees' advice when they're uninformed or incompetent can lead to disaster. Similarly, consensus building is wrong-headed in times of crisis, when urgent events demand on-the-spot decisions. Take the case of a CEO we observed whose computer company was threatened by a changing market, yet he persisted in seeking consensus about what to do. As competitors stole customers—and customers' needs changed—this CEO continued to appoint committees to consider alternative responses. Then, when the market suddenly shifted because of a new technology, the CEO froze in his tracks. Before he could convene yet another task force to consider the situation, the board replaced him.
What Makes a Democratic Leader
The democratic style builds on a triad of emotional intelligence abilities: teamwork and collaboration, conflict management, and influence. The best communicators are superb listeners—and listening is the key strength of the democratic leader. Such leaders create the sense that they truly want to hear employees' thoughts and concerns and that they're available to listen. They're also true collaborators, working as team members rather than top-down leaders. And they know how to quell conflict and create a sense of harmony—for instance, repairing rifts within the group.
The EI competence of empathy also plays a role in democratic leadership, especially when the group is strongly diverse. Without the ability to attune to a wide range of people, a leader will be more prone to miscues.
The first four leadership styles—visionary, coaching, affiliative, and democratic—are sure-fire resonance builders. Each has its own strong, positive impact on the emotional climate of an organization. The last two styles—pacesetting and commanding—also have their place in a leader's tool kit. But each must be used carefully and with skill if it is to have a positive impact. When pacesetting or commanding leaders go too far, relying on these styles too often or using them recklessly, they build dissonance, not resonance—as we shall see in the next chapter.
Excerpted from Chapter 4, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee, Harvard Business School Press, 2001. Copyright 2001 President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.
2. Bob Pittman at Six Flags: Quoted in Alden M. Hayashi, "When to Trust Your Gut," Harvard Business Review, February 2001, 59–65. 3. Transformational leaders: James McGregor Burns, Leadership (New York: Harper & Row, 1978). So, too, with "charismatic" leaders, who articulate a strategic vision informed by a sensitivity to stakeholders' needs; see Jay A. Conger, The Charismatic Leader: Behind the Mystique of Exceptional Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989). 4. Shelley Lazarus and David Ogilvy: "A Job and a Life Intertwined," The New York Times, 23 May 2001, C3. 5. The sweetness of success at stretch tasks: Cynthia Fisher and Christopher S. Noble, "Affect and Performance: A Within Persons Analysis" (paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Toronto, 2000). 6. James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (New York: HarperBusiness, 1994). 7. Anxious affiliation: Stephen P. Kelner, "Interpersonal Motivation: Cynical, Positive and Anxious" (Ph.D. diss., Boston University, 1991). 8v Lou Gerstner on the 1993 Quoted in Steve Lohr, "IBM Chief Gerstner Recalls Difficult Days at Big Blue," The New York Times, 31 July 2000, C3.
2. Bob Pittman at Six Flags: Quoted in Alden M. Hayashi, "When to Trust Your Gut," Harvard Business Review, February 2001, 59–65.
3. Transformational leaders: James McGregor Burns, Leadership (New York: Harper & Row, 1978). So, too, with "charismatic" leaders, who articulate a strategic vision informed by a sensitivity to stakeholders' needs; see Jay A. Conger, The Charismatic Leader: Behind the Mystique of Exceptional Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989).
4. Shelley Lazarus and David Ogilvy: "A Job and a Life Intertwined," The New York Times, 23 May 2001, C3.
5. The sweetness of success at stretch tasks: Cynthia Fisher and Christopher S. Noble, "Affect and Performance: A Within Persons Analysis" (paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Toronto, 2000).
6. James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (New York: HarperBusiness, 1994).
7. Anxious affiliation: Stephen P. Kelner, "Interpersonal Motivation: Cynical, Positive and Anxious" (Ph.D. diss., Boston University, 1991).
8v Lou Gerstner on the 1993 Quoted in Steve Lohr, "IBM Chief Gerstner Recalls Difficult Days at Big Blue," The New York Times, 31 July 2000, C3.
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