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In a lecture about a month ago author Mary Pipher recounted a question she was asked after spending some time lecturing at a university. The university was in the process of creating a class for all freshman to take; a common educational experience that all students on campus would share that particular year and which…

Planning for the Future

imageIn a lecture about a month ago author Mary Pipher recounted a question she was asked after spending some time lecturing at a university. The university was in the process of creating a class for all freshman to take; a common educational experience that all students on campus would share that particular year and which all professors would know they shared and so could draw upon for their own purposes and connections to make across the curriculum. Many of these “freshman studies” are innovatively created and taught usually in the liberal arts vein where even the professors who teach it are not well versed in the particular subject matter and so in essence are modeling themselves what it is like to be a lifelong learner. It was in this context the question was put to Mary Pipher. In essence she was being asked what subject matters would she focus on? Are there any great works that all students could benefit from reading? How is it you would design and implement this kind of curriculum? Not being one that ever “designed a curriculum” before she was hesitant to answer, but they insisted. Her answer surprised me just a bit. In fact I think her answer surprised her just a bit. She paused, thought about it for a moment, and said, “I think if it were I, I would teach them all emotional intelligence.”

Although not a direct reference to the title of his book, Daniel Goleman’s work in emotional intelligence as playing a large role (dare I say the largest) in determining future successes has a lot of merit. As a high school counselor specializing in helping students plan for their futures if it includes college in a predominantly white upper middle class neighborhood where in fact 90 percent of each year’s graduates do go on to college, I know all too well the game of “I’m number one”; “the class rank and where I go to college determines my future game”; the “ACT/SAT and rank is who I am” game, etc, etc… Students are clinging to all these false indicators, as if they are the marks to strive for. Don’t get me wrong. Before I go any further I want to be clear that working hard, taking challenging courses, and striving for good grades are worthy attributes that will get students far. But padding one’s schedule with extra classes by going to summer school to take extra PE in order to up one’s rank is ludicrous; as if by just rising on the illustrious class rank list makes one that much better of a person. College and success after college has way more to do with what you made of your experience that where you had that experience and thus an old college counselor’s advice rings true; “(the choice of a) college is a match to be made and not a prize to be won.” Students who just play the games they think are going to get them into college and hence a prosperous and rewarding life are in for a rude awakening.

I am reading “Emotional Intelligence” and “Primal Leadership” for a couple of important reasons. Foremost I agree with Mary. As I see it, those students with that spark, and go on to experience true success (a real loaded word and one I should define further but I am already going long) are the ones that possess these skills. Secondly so many feel that it’s just the top 10 percenters who are worth a hoot and need to focus attention on helping. Bull hockey because you are probably talking about those with perhaps a lot of IQ and a lot of the game players I eluded to earlier; not that they could use a lot more help and attention in the area of EQ. There is a sea of middle 50 percenters who go largely ignored. Finally, selfishly I am starting a leadership center in the high school where I work to address these issues. All around the country I have consulted with a lot of folks who teach or have experience in this area (The University of Illinois Leadership Center to name just one) and all speak of these works as seminal in their creation of their mindset and creation of these programs. Leadership is not training in being the formal leader of a group, but is about possessing the skills needed when situations arise. (Much more on this later). I look forward to sharing comments with any other readers out there.

Posted by Joel Schettler on July 01 2004 • Book Club

Primal Leadership

imageI thought it might be time to do something a bit different with the site. In order to invite more participation from everyone out there, I thought I would use the site as a book club of sorts. You will see the book listed on this site that I have selected to have everyone read: Primal Leadership written by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. If anyone knows anything about the field, they will know that this book has almost become a standard on the subject.

I chose the book for a couple of reasons. One, I am familiar with the subject matter, as I worked as an editor on a trade magazine that covered workforce and human resource issues. Also, my brother is at work establishing a leadership center at the school where he teaches, and he is using the text as a guide. I thought we would read the book together, and invite your commentary as well.

To prime the well, so to speak, I am including an interview that I had the pleasure of conducting when I worked at Training magazine. While I will include posts on the book that “we” are reading together, I will also continue to include regular posts dealing with other biblio-topics. This Q&A was first published in September 2002. Let me know your thoughts:

I recently spoke with Primal Leadership co-author Annie McKee about the state of corporate leadership in America today. McKee teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education, and is the co-chair of Teleos Leadership Institute in Philadelphia, where she makes the case for developing emotional intelligence in the workplace. McKee has been a leadership consultant to some of the world’s largest corporations, such as Merrill Lynch, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Unilever.

How well do you believe corporate America’s leaders are leading in light of current issues in the headlines? What’s most needed right now?

It’s a mixed bag. You have unbelievable pressures that started several years ago, came to a head last September and escalated around the world. On top of that you have market and business pressures unlike anyone has experienced in more than a decade.

A number of our leaders are simply not prepared for the challenges and pressures they face on a daily basis.

On the other hand, individuals that understand and accept that the world is radically different now and can look inside themselves for strength, integrity and their own values to guide their decisions—I think some of them are doing astoundingly well.

What are the most important leadership competencies in your opinion?

The most important leadership competencies are self-awareness and what we call empathy. Those two competencies are foundational for the others: influencing, communication and change management. Being able to understand yourself—understanding your values, strengths and weaknesses, and how to manage your hot buttons—differentiates a great leader from a good leader. And empathy—by that we mean the ability to read other people and truly understand what motivates them, what their needs are, what they care about, whether they work inside your organization or outside your organization—in fact is a foundational competency for vision.

How well are companies supporting leadership development, as far as it relates to training programs? Are they teaching the right things?

Most companies fall far short of the mark in leadership development. Most of the training programs that I’ve seen, and that’s internationally, are quick fixes for pretty simple problems—like management training, negotiation skills and communications workshops—all of which are important, but they are superficial. And, generally speaking, they are not engaging or designed well. Many of my training colleagues are true professionals, but unfortunately many of them are not.

Leadership can be learned. People can get better at leading others. It takes hard work, time and true desire on the part of the individual and support from the organization, but it is possible.

What will be the most critical leadership challenge facing managers over the next five years?

We know which leadership competencies really matter, and we are more courageous stating what they actually are. Five years ago, you couldn’t talk about self-awareness or empathy as a leadership competency because people might turn up their noses. That’s not true today.

Posted by Joel Schettler on June 29 2004 • Book Club