Effective Leaders Know the Science Behind Their Behavior

Lynn had dreaded this meeting with her team. Frowning, she looked around the conference table and said, “I’ve got bad news. Upper management told me this team’s performance is unacceptable. We have to pull up our numbers by the end of this quarter, or heads will roll. I’ve decided to make major changes. First, all vacations for the rest of the quarter are cancelled. I expect each of you to be here focused on work. Second, you will meet your weekly goals, no matter how many hours it takes.”

Don’t Make Bad Situations Worse

Whatever you think of the content of Lynn’s message to her team, it’s clear that how she delivered it made a bad situation worse.»

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How to Coach a Dictatorial Leader

Behind his back, Allen’s staff called him “Mr. My-Way-or-the-Highway.” Full of demands, Allen ruled his department with an iron fist, making every decision big and small with little input from others. Allen’s staff had ideas for improving their workflow, but didn’t dare make suggestions. During a company-wide party, several of Allen’s direct reports cornered the head of HR, complaining about Allen’s heavy-handed leadership.

Dictator-like Leaders Don’t Always Get Results

Allen has much in common with leaders I discussed with my friend and colleagueDaniel Siegel during our Brainpower webinar series. Dr. Siegel described Michael Rutter’s classic studies of school leadership’s impact on performance.»

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Don’t Let a Bully Boss Affect Your Mental Health

How can I use emotional intelligence or Mindsight to manage a bully boss?

That’s what a Brainpower webinar participant asked me and my friend and colleague Dan Siegel during a recent webcast. I’d like to expand on the brief response I gave during the webinar.

First, let’s be clear about definitions. The Workplace Bullying Institute uses this description in their work:

“Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done, or verbal abuse.”

Obviously, someone who fits this definition can occupy any position in an organization.»

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Glad, Mad, Sad? Teams Catch a Leader’s Mood

‘When my mind is full of anger, other people catch it like the flu.’

If you’re like me, you’ve been on both sides of this experience shared by an organizational leader I know. I have been the angry person who infects the moods of those around him. And, I’ve been the one whose feelings plummet in the presence of Sad Sally or Pissed-off Pete.

What we’ve experienced is called emotional contagion. It happens whenever people interact, regardless of whether we’re with one person, in a group, or in an organization. Our brains and bodies react to the feelings of the people around us because we all have a social brain

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Daniel Goleman: Develop Your Inner Radar to Control Turbulent Emotions!!

While we can’t control when we feel anger or fear—or how strongly—we can gain some control over what we do while in its grip. If we can develop inner radar for emotional danger, we gain a choice point.

To find this inner choice point, start by questioning destructive mental habits. Even though there may be a bit of legitimacy to our grievances, are the disturbing emotions we feel way out of proportion? Are such feelings familiar? Are you ruminating? If so, we would do well to gain more control over those self-defeating habits of mind.

This approach takes advantage of an effect studied by Kevin Ochsner, a neuroscientist at Columbia University.»

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Daniel Goleman: Are You Aware of Your Self-Defeating Habits?

“When I was little my father would yell at me and call me stupid when I made a mistake. I knew he loved me, but it left me feeling I had some deadly, hidden flaw,” the head of a successful family-owned business in southern Europe confided.

And, I heard from someone who works for that company president, that’s just what he does when he has to give negative feedback: he shouts, blames, and criticizes people. It leaves them feeling as he felt: incompetent.


Such self-defeating work habits often stem from our learning early in life, and are so deeply ingrained that we repeat them over and over, despite the sometimes obvious ways in which they do not work.»

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Daniel Goleman: How Self-Awareness Impacts Your Work

Through my research in emotional intelligence and brain function, I’ve developed a model of the mind as a three-tiered building. The first tier is the foundation and where you’ll find the brain, the control center. The second tier contains the four realms of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skill.

And above that, at the top tier, are leadership competencies. These come from a methodology called Competency Modeling, one of the main developers of which was my mentor at Harvard, David McClelland. Following this model, we identify who will be best in a specific role by evaluating those who have excelled in that position—using whatever metric applies—and then comparing them with people in the same role with mediocre success.»

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Daniel Goleman: Help Young Talent Develop a Professional Mindset


There is a chasm between what business leaders expect from recent graduates, and what these new hires offer. In a Hay Group study of 450 business leaders and 450 recent graduates based in India, the US, and China… a massive 76% of business leaders reported that entry-level workers and recent grads are not ready for their jobs.

In most cases, these hires are intelligent, ambitious, and technically savvy. They have proven their ability to accomplish the work. They’re committed and passionate about rising through the ranks. So what are these new professionals missing?

They’re lacking soft skills. These are the traits and behaviors that characterize our relationships with others.»

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Daniel Goleman: How to Overcome Communication Breakdowns

A leader’s role can get a bit messy. We all know it’s not just about leading by example, living your values, and giving pep talks. A leader must also be able to identify her team’s weaknesses and find practical solutions. In my experience with organizations, a very common vulnerability is the frequent breakdown of dialogue. Why can’t we connect? Why is there so much conflict? How will this project ever move forward?

I spoke with my colleague George Kohlrieser—Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at one of the world’s leading business schools, the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland—about what gets in the way of healthy, worthwhile dialogue.»

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Daniel Goleman: How to Negotiate with Yourself

Erica Ariel Fox is a New York Times bestselling author, a negotiation lecturer at Harvard Law School, and a senior advisor to Fortune 500 companies. Foxs essay is featured in The Executive Edge: An Insider’s Guide to Outstanding Leadership, and Im adapting it here to highlight her research on self-awareness in leadership.

Accessing Your Inner World

Understanding the diverse nature of your inner world takes a lot of work. And business leaders operate in an environment of incredible complexity, uncertainty, and pressure… so they usually don’t have time to study the underpinnings of this inner world.»

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