Friday, August 19, 2011

What makes a leader?

At the recommendation of David Capener I got hold of a copy of HBR's 10 Must Reads: On Leadership. A collection of papers from the Harvard Business Review. The first chapter is by Daniel Goleman, you can read it online here What makes a leader?.
"Every businessperson knows a story about a highly intelligent, highly skilled executive who was promoted into a leadership position only to fail at the job. And they also know a story about someone with solid-but not extraordinary-intellectual abilities and technical skills who was promoted into a similar position and then soared. Such anecdotes support the widespread belief that identifying individuals with the "right stuff" to be leaders is more art than science. After all, the personal styles of superb leaders vary: some leaders are subdued and analytical; others shout their manifestos from the mountaintops. And just as important, different situations call for different types of leadership. Most mergers need a sensitive negotiator at the helm, whereas many turnarounds require a more forceful authority. I have found, however, that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence."
What is this Emotional Intelligence?
1. Self-awareness - knowing yourself.
2. Self-regulation - self-control, restraint when things don't go well etc.
3. Motivation - drive to achieve
4. Empathy - ability to understand other people and their feelings
5. Social skill - the ability to win others over and move them.

Which is both interesting and probably quite obvious. I'm wondering how this impacts the work I do. My team's work is two-fold, firstly front-line evangelism with students, and secondly leading leaders into leadership. Encouragingly he says we can grow in these areas. I know I need to, and I want to help my team to do the same themselves, and to serve young leaders in that.My approach to leadership development is seeking to be gospel-shaped, so where does Emotional Intelligence fit into that?

Seems to me that Strong Gospel-Shapedness isn't far off strong Emotional Intelligence? Gospel-shapedness is bigger and broader bit there is certainly major overlap. Those shaped by the gospel are aware of themselves and others, they're people who, being caught up in the love of God, become other-centred. Leading for the good of others and the purposes of the gospel to see the love of God further spread.

Goleman calls it EI but it looks like the fruit of the Spirit... does that mean every Christian could lead? Perhaps! Though perhaps not in every context - motivation to succeed is costly and we all make choices - to favour family or money or power or geography etc. But those becoming like Christ surely become influencers. And that influence isn't ruthless and unpersonal, as with EI it is relational as well as robust. How does a leader with strong EI lead - for the good of others and the work they're involved in...  through partnerships and trust and respect, even with love.

It may be that every leader needs emotional intelligence, but of course not everyone with strong emotional intelligence will be a leader. Or that leadership will not be in every context. Sometimes another is leading, but bringing our strengths to that situation will serve that leadership well. Much of what I'm reading in this HBR book is simply helpful wisdom for everyone - worked out and applied to leadership but useful and easily applicable to all kinds of contexts.

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