What is leadership?

Q: My question for you: If you had to write a definition of leadership what would it be?

A: Leadership is Influencing people to take action.  In the workplace, leadership is the art of getting work done through other people.  Leadership can be widely distributed within an organization – most everyone leads at some time or other, if not all the time.  And it’s highly situational: anyone might step forward to lead, given the right circumstances.»

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Chess, anyone?

Q: I have a chess school for young kids (from 4 years old) and our great challenge is how to deal with their emotions and feelings related to winning and losing, i.e., how to face the results. Our principal goal is to improve thought habits through chess and pre-chess, but it is not easy when kids have to face competition. How can we improve our work in this way? (We are a professional chess player and a neurobiologist.)

A: This sounds like a wonderful way to help kids develop both their analytic skills and some key emotional intelligence abilities, like self-management. »

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Growth stages of EI

Q: Are there growth stages defined regarding emotional intelligence? I’m thinking about Erikson, Maslow, Kohlberg and so on. The question therefore looks to understanding how early parenting and education might impact the development of mature emotional intelligence and what might lead us to a better understanding/development of creative emotional qualities.

A: Yes, the stages are well-defined, and have been known to developmental psychologists for many years.  So an EI ability like empathy begins with early roots in infancy, grows among toddlers, and develops further as a child brain matures throughout childhood and the teen years. This is the basis of social-emotional learning, which uses school-based programs to ensure that every child gets the EI lessons they need at the right time and in the right way to foster their emotional and social development.»

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Positive vs. negative work environments

Q: I ran across a site citing you as saying “positive work environments outperform negative work environments.” Do you have any research or studies that support this?

A. I wouldn’t put it exactly that way. You need to be more specific about what you mean by “positive” and “negative”. For example, in my books I’ve reviewed much research on workplace climate that shows a more positive emotional atmosphere fosters better performance, and so does positive mood on teams. And then there’s the crucial emotional impact of an emotionally intelligent leader in creating that positive emotional climate.   Much of this research is reviewed in the new collection of my writings, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence.»

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A successful virtual office

Q: My industry has a severe shortage of engineers, especially locally. Our recruiting difficulties have caused me to consider making my company a “virtual office,” so that I can recruit the top engineers from around the country without having to overcome the large hurdle of relocation. I’ve read what you’ve written about the emotional barrenness of emails and about the improvements seen in work effectiveness seen when people communicated in-person, even as informally as a “hello” over the water cooler. Can you provide some guidance on how to set up a successful “virtual office” or point me towards some recommended reading?


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Going along to get along

Q: Are people who go along to get along unethical? Meaning practicing avoidance.

It depends. There is much to be said for a spirit of cooperation, and getting along – top-performing teams, for example, thrive on harmony. On the other hand, when this means turning a blind eye to major ethical wrongs, then avoiding action is unethical.  We need people willing to speak the truth, even to power.»

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Leaders, followers and EI

Q: Is it possible to measure a leader’s EI from a follower’s perspective? Which is the suitable survey for a leader’s EI?

A: Getting followers’ reports on a leader is one of the best ways to guage her performance. Even if objective metrics like hitting quarterly numbers look good, how a leader hits the target matters enormously in the long run: a tyrannical boss may reach short-term objectives, but the attrition of talent and drop in morale will hurt longer term. There are, for example “kiss-up-kick-down” types who are charming to their own boss but hell to work for.  The best tool for getter followers to rate a boss is a confidential 360-degree questionnaire, one they can fill our anonymously, and with the data from everyone aggregated so no one can be identified.»

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“Design emotional maturity”

Q: I have read 3 of your books and I am writing my graphic design thesis investigating my “design emotional maturity” and how it will help me to overcome my fears in order to create better communication work. How can our emotional intelligence affect our performance as a designer?

A: The answer is in your question: fear itself, in all its forms, is the enemy of great performance – not just in design, but in any domain. The fundamental reason: when the brain’s circuitry for fear, worry, and anxiety takes over, it paralyzes the executive functions of the brain, the parts we use for thinking, creating, and execution of our plans. »

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What motivates you, Dr. Goleman?

Q: What has motivated you to accomplish so much in your lifetime? I am doing a short presentation focusing on bringing your name from the text book to real life, so any interesting facts from your childhood till now would be greatly appreciated.

A: I credit much of my motivating drive to my parents, both college professors. My mother was inspired early in her life by the example of Jane Adams, who founded one of the first “settlement houses,” dedicated to help impoverished immigrants make their way in fulfilling their dreams. As my mother was growing up in Chicago in the early years of the 20th century, herself the child of immigrants, she decided to follow in the footsteps of Adams, and so became a social worker in the early years of that profession. »

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Howard Gardner & multiple intelligences

Q: I am currently doing a research on Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences and I hope to ask if you feel that the identification of Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Intelligences in Gardner’s theory is, in essence, Emotional Intelligence?

A: Yes. When I wrote Emotional Intelligence, I was building on Howard Gardner’s model of multiple intelligence. As I noted in the book, my model of emotional intelligence unpacks what Gardner calls the “intrapersonal” and “interpersonal” intelligences. In my theory, self-awareness and self-regulation are the intrapersonal abilities, and empathy and social skill the interpersonal.»

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