Anthony Gell- Empathy, lets pick up on that for a second. Daniel, in your first book you mentioned about empathy and how important that is and obviously there’s different types of empathy. But talk about the spectrum, if you’ve got on one level of the spectrum you’ve got the sociopath and on the other one you’ve got somebody that’s just absolutely besotted by other people’s feelings, is it important to have a balance? Obviously you can be too far toward the sociopath spectrum, but can you be too far [the other] way?
Daniel Goleman- Yeah, you see that in people for example in the helping professions- nurses, say- who are taking care of people who are suffering, who are in pain, who are angry. Who pick up those emotions and can’t metabolize them. It changes their internal state instead of them changing the patients’ state, because of, you could say, this too empathic stance. What’s missing there is self-management, self-regulation as we say. That is to say, the people who are most effective don’t tune out in order to protect themselves, and turn off to other people. They stay open but they’re able to pass that through, to manage their own inner state at the same time as they’re being receptive. That’s the best.
AG- OK, that’s great. So you can be in an empathetic situation but not allow it to be to heavily on your shoulders, take it too personally.
DG- It’s more than that. It’s that you don’t let it change your state. You stay stable in the positive state you need.
AG- And therefore you wouldn’t be as stressed as you would be.
Anthony Gell- Daniel, you talk a lot about empathy in leadership and how important it is, and you bring up different types of empathy including cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, etc. Could you give insight as to how empathy is so central to leadership success?
Daniel Goleman- Empathy is one of the critical components of social intelligence and leadership abilities. But in the conversation I did with Paul Ekman, who is a world expert on empathy, in the Wired to Connect series, I realized there are 3 kinds of empathy. Each has strengths that are critical for effective leadership, but in different ways, and some of them have liabilities.
1st is cognitive empathy. That means I understand how you think about things. I can see from your perspective. That can be effective for giving performance feedback, or communication, because I know how to put it to you in a way you’ll be able to hear, that makes sense to you. That’s the upside. The downside, is the people who only have cognitive empathy and have twisted motivation, if you will, can use it to manipulate people. If you only care about yourself and you don’t care about the other person, you can use that to your advantage. You see that in narcissistic leaders, you see it in Machiavellian types. You see it in outright sociopaths. They use their understanding of the other person to manipulate them because they don’t have the second kind of empathy.
2nd kind of empathy is emotional empathy. “I feel with you.” If I don’t care how you feel then I don’t mind making you feel terribly. Or I don’t mind taking great advantage of you. But if I feel your distress it’s much harder for me to do that. Emotional empathy is also critical for leadership, for any job where you relate to people. Client management, sales management, teamwork. Because emotional empathy creates chemistry, creates the sense of being in report with other people, creates simpatico. And it’s in those moments when things go at their best. Top performing teams have this sense of harmony and emotional connection with each other, for example. So emotional empathy is absolutely critical. However, downside here, is that if you are the person in HR who has to go around and tell everybody that they’re fired, or you’re a nurse working in pediatric oncology and all day long you are with children who are in great pain, who are going to die, these are powerful situations emotionally and you pick up what others are feeling. If you can’t metabolize that, if you can’t manage it yourself it can lead to an emotional exhaustion which is prelude to burnout. And you feel “I’ve got to get out of this field, I can’t do this anymore.”
The counter to emotional empathy, and what allows you to use it effectively, is emotional self management skills, which is one of the 4 parts of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is self awareness, self management, empathy, and relationship skills. So the different components work together.
3rd type of empathy is empathic concern. This is the felt sense that when I see that you’re in trouble I spontaneously want to help you out. This actually is what makes leaders outstanding. These are the leaders who, for example, take the time to help people develop further strengths. Take the time to give feedback. They see that, and are concerned about, helping people get better, learn to do better. And that of course strengthens whole organization. It’s also what makes people outstanding organizational citizens. These are the people who aren’t just “me first and that’s all I care about,” but are good team players, willing to help out other people and so on. In a dark time economically, the leaders who will be most effective have all three capacities going at full strength.
Anthony Gell- Do you have any thoughts on what is the difference that makes the difference between a great CEO and just one that’s destined for mediocrity?
Daniel Goleman- You know, there’s only one study that I’ve ever seen that really systematically looked at CEO’s where the data was released to the public and it was done by the us insurance industry, comparing CEO’s of comparable insurance firms, with same products, same size, same market, etc. And they looked at leadership styles that the CEO’s used and they found that if those leaders used 4 or more of the 6 leadership styles effectively and appropriately, their firms had stronger growth and profit, quarter for quarter, than firms where the CEO’s tended to rely on the leadership styles that had negative impact.
AG- Interesting. So if a CEO was more congruent in terms of their natural style and personality with one or two, should they force themselves to focus from self-awareness on the other two?
DG- These are leadership tools, and you need to, as a leader, I would recommend, learn styles you may not be as comfortable with if they’ll have a positive impact, because that’s going to help you be a better leader.
Anthony Gell- Daniel, you once wrote a famous article on leadership after studying companies like PepsiCo. Can you tell us about that article?
Daniel Goleman- I wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review in ‘98 called What Makes a Leader, and it really was an extension of a book I wrote about working with emotional intelligence. The Review asked me to talk about the competencies or abilities that you see in star performing leaders. That article, by the way, has become the number one most requested reprint, I think, in the history of review. It really struck a chord, and I think it did because it articulated something people had sensed, but not been able to put into words. Basically what I argued is that there are 4 kinds of strengths you see in the best leaders.
1st is self awareness. People have the capacity to reflect on them selves, to monitor themselves. This matters in many ways. One is for making good decisions, it turns out, that you need to capture felt sense of “feels right, doesn’t feel right.” And mix it in with hard data on a business decision. Or in a life decision. Should I keep this job or should I take a risk and take another job? That’s not a decision for which you can make a list of pros and cons, you need to have a gut sense. Because there are un-graspables. Things that you can’t put into words, that part of your brain knows but only can tell you in a gut sense. Literally a gut sense. That’s the way we’re wired. So people who make good and better decisions, business leaders, anyone, have this capacity for self awareness.
There’s another way that it’s important, and that’s as an ethical guide. The answer to the question, “Is what I am about to do in keeping with my ethical guides?” is not one that comes in words, it comes again in a gut sense, and then we put it into words. So this is critical for ethical navigation, both individually and for a company.
2nd component is self management. How we handle our emotions. Can we keep our distressing emotions from crippling or interfering with our capacity to think well, make good decisions? Can we stay focused and motivated? Positively working toward goals even when things are tough? Are we adaptable, flexible in making responses? All comes from internal self management.
3rd part of emotional intelligence abilities for leaders is empathy. Do we sense how other people are thinking about a situation? Do we know how they feel? Can we establish report? Do we care? Are we concerned? Do we want to help others? All of those are critical leadership abilities.
Finally there are the relationship skills, the obvious, more visible leadership competencies like effective communication. Can we inspire people? Can we motivate people? Can we articulate a shared mission that speaks to people’s hearts? Are we authentic leaders, able to negotiate, collaborate? Can we model collaboration so people can see and hear that the leader is showing how to be a good team player. All of those are highly effective leadership abilities.
The Best leaders have strengths in 6 or more of those. Any leader can develop them if they have the proper help.
AG- you talk about leadership style and the impact on the workplace, and you mention that there are 6 styles of leadership. Can you just give us an outline of the styles and how each have an impact on workforce?
DG- If you think about it at primal level, the real task of the leader in terms of the brain is to help people get, and stay, in the optimal internal state for working at their best. And many leaders shoot themselves in foot by ignoring the fact that in any human group the most powerful person in the group is the one people pay most attention to, put most importance on. What that most powerful person says and does has the most impact on the internal state, the emotional state of everyone else. So if you’re looking for best results from people that work for you, you’re responsibility is to drive the state that is going to help people be at their best. And to avoid leading in a style that puts people in their worst state for performance.
What are the styles that help? There are 4 styles at least that have the most positive impact on people.
1st is “the visionary.” Someone who articulates a goal that motivates us all and that creates a very positive state. A very hopeful, forward looking, goal oriented way of working.
2nd is someone who is a “coach.” Someone who really cares about the people he or she is leading, and helps people get better or get closer to their own career goals. For example, giving them an assignment that will help them grow, learn how to do something that they are going to need along the way. People appreciate that enormously. And that too creates a positive climate.
3rd is being affiliative. Understanding that having a good time together is not a waste of time. That it creates a kind of social capital that means we can have stronger connections, and will be able to work better together.
4th is the consensus leader. One who feels that “I may not know the best way to move forward, I may need to ask other people.” All that has a positive impact.
Finally, two that don’t work so well. One is a pace setter. One who just leads by example and is very critical of how other people aren’t as good as they are. And then command and control, a coercive style leader. Someone who doesn’t mind blowing up at people, for example, who thinks nothing of it. Or humiliating them. Those two ways of impacting are the worst possible, because all people are going to focus on after that interaction is how awful it was, how much they hate the boss.
AG- Isn’t there a time and place for command and control style leadership?
DG- Being very strong and just ordering people to do things, under normal circumstances has a very negative impact, but in a genuine emergency it’s quite appropriate.
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