At long last one of the most acrimonious campaign and election cycles I can remember is over and at least fifty percent of the population is unhappy.
I am hoping that over the next few weeks some of the heat of the anger and disappointment dissipates and we can move on with addressing the challenges confronting us and the world.
What we are seeing isn’t new, it has just become nastier. When our current President was elected both times I heard a lot of choruses of he’s not my President. The reality is that he was and is.
We have an election process where at the end of the day everybody doesn’t get what they want. That doesn’t entitle us to take our toys and go home.
Have you ever met a business executive that has prevailed in every decision at every stage of their career? I haven’t.
One of the reasons that our President-elect prevailed was that he tapped into the incredible dissatisfaction of many people with the status quo. A lot of people feel that their interests haven’t been represented and they haven’t benefited from the economic upturn since the 2008 recession.
I give our elected leadership collectively a D- over the last eight or ten years collectively. Instead of attending to real issues they have descended into partisan bickering. The majority party staked out positions of denying President Obama a second term (they failed) and defeating his agenda (they prevailed).
Even before the election votes were in they staked out a position indicating that had the outcome of the election gone the other way they were fully prepared to reject any nominations by the President-elect for a full four- year term. That isn’t leadership.
In my last blog post I discussed Stephen MR Covey’s three levels of trust and how bluntly Secretary Clinton failed to fully recognize and overcome her deficit of identity based trust.
I have heard some people disappointed with the election outcome indicate that Secretary Clinton didn’t prevail because of her gender. I personally think that is bullshit. I think in large part she didn’t prevail because people just fundamentally don’t feel like they know and trust her as a person and as a leader.
In my consulting practice I often assist my clients in selecting and developing leaders. I always recommend that way beyond the typical knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the tasks that there are critical attributes that leadership candidates should possess including: the capacity and commitment to develop others, emotional and social intelligence, and personal accountability among others.
The unfortunate truth is that President Elect Trump as a marketer and entertainer may have decoded the emotional intelligence threshold better than either major party, the media, or the experts.
My colleague Bruce Kasanoff discussed months ago the importance of meeting people where they live and again today in a post about what he calls a dangerous lack of empathy.
“This week's election results reminded me that you can't talk trade policy with a couple that is scared they won't be able to feed and clothe their kids.”
Being a policy wonk doesn’t reach people who are angry and scared.
I wrote a book a few years back about my opinion that one of the flaws in the Affordable Health Care Act is that it assumes a level of personal and professional competency about the very complicated health care process that the vast majority of Americans simply don’t have.
The costs of health care have risen significantly. I believe that in large part that is a function of demand and supply. People who had been denied access to care because of cost or pre-existing conditions suddenly had access.
The health care system in large part is also based on delivering health care rather than managing health and that model has been reinforced since WW2 with rich entitlement model systems provided by both the public and private sector. People didn’t and don’t accept personal responsibility for managing their own health through lifestyle and other choices.
In the business world we have a population of approaching twenty percent that are actively disengaged in their current employment environment. That means they come to work every day pissed and minimally productive. The costs of that have been well documented in terms of absenteeism, lost productivity, health care expenditures relating to mental health, obesity, and other factors.
The fact that I didn’t include turnover isn’t an accident. The studies say that the actively disengaged aren’t any more likely to leave than engaged employees! They are so angry and disenchanted they show up in your workplace and piss in the well every day. They lack the energy and drive to look elsewhere.
Why is that relevant? If people think their lives and jobs suck what kind of voter do you think they are?
Candidate Trump got that. He appealed to the anger and frustration. In truth his emotional intelligence may be higher than that of Secretary Clinton. Having high emotional intelligence doesn’t mean you are a nice person, it means you understand what motivates people.
I want to be clear that I am not endorsing Mr. Trump, neither did I find Secretary Clinton a truly compelling candidate. If I was managing the search neither of these candidates would have made it through the screen.
So where do we go from here?
I personally think that our political institutions are going to keep doing what they have been doing for the last decade- chasing their own asses about their own agendas. In other words, don’t look there for meaningful leadership.
I personally would like to see leadership emerge from the private sector. We need to redefine our leadership models and our leadership expectations
My friend and colleague Geoff Hudson Searle in his upcoming book, Meaningful Conversations, differentiates between technical intelligence; the ability to demonstrate competency at disciplines ranging from financial management to science and technology; and emotional intelligence, the ability to inspire trust and commitment by understanding the motivations and behaviors of others.
Unfortunately, most of our “leadership” development pipeline is based on the former rather than the latter. In fact, as I have shared before many candidates seeking “leadership” roles do so in order to continue to see career progression and increased earning potential. They are not drawn to leading people particularly at all.
Much of our leadership development and management modeling are based on Covey’s first two levels of trust, statutory based on power and position, and knowledge based with a foundation based in competency or what Geoff refers to as technical intelligence. The research shows competency is indeed a foundational element, but not enough to create or sustain alignment or engagement.
Emotional Intelligence, the ability to identify different emotions, to understand their effect, and to use that information to guide thinking and behavior, is critically important.
In fact, I recommend to my clients we do not hire or promote individuals into management unless they display a reasonable capability in this area.
The problem is two- fold.
First, it still isn’t necessarily well understood and applied; and second, it isn’t enough.
Justin Bariso, Founder of Insight, had a great post previously on the seven myths of emotional intelligence or EQ. He identified these –
1. DENIAL- Emotional intelligence doesn't exist.
2. Emotional intelligence is just common sense.
3. You can control your feelings.
4. More emotional people are naturally more emotionally intelligent
5. Sharpening your EQ is easy
6. Once you've got it, you've got it
7. Those with high emotional intelligence always make the best leaders
As somebody who has spent over three decades as a C level executive, HR executive, and consultant I have heard these and more.
Emotional intelligence is indeed real. If it was common sense, we wouldn’t see better than 60% of the working population not engaged or actively disengaged costing our economy billions annually!
We would all like to think we can control our emotions, in fact that is what distinguishes us from the “lower” species, but the lizard brain is alive and well. Research has shown that when our rational mind finds itself in conflict with our emotional/feeling mind the emotional mind wins 85% of the time!
Being emotional and emotionally intelligent are two different things and increasing your EQ is both hard and continuous.
People with high emotional intelligence and no conscience are called high functioning sociopaths!
The fact that you are clued into the emotions and motivations of people is no guarantee they will only use their power for good rather than evil, or that they are benevolent or nice. Just ask anybody that worked for Steve Jobs, or for me for that matter!
I mentioned earlier that I thought perhaps Candidate Trump possessed higher emotional intelligence than Candidate Clinton.
I want to be abundantly clear that I am not endorsing what I have seen thus far as his leadership skills or leadership model.
Another critical concept I would add to the mix is what the guru of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman calls Emotional Balance, the ability to keep disruptive emotions in check, to maintain effectiveness under stressful conditions.
His research indicates that this leadership competency is critical because emotions spread from group leaders to group members.
Research done at the Yale School of Management shows when the group leader is in an upbeat mood, people in the group catch that mood and the team does better. Similarly, a leader’s negative mood causes team members to become negative and their performance to plummet.
Does it matter if a boss blows up at an employee? You bet it does. Research shows that employees remember most vividly negative encounters they've had with a boss. They remember it much better than the positive encounters. After that encounter, they felt demoralized and didn't want anything more to do with that boss.
It is this particular dimension of leadership that has many concerned about President Elect Trump. His perceived volatility and downright nastiness when he feels threatened or thwarted.
Goleman calls this the crucial competence-
“We did research with over 1,000 executives from around the world, CEOs, Board members, top leaders, about the characteristics of the best leaders. The number one response is the ability to stay calm and collected. In a crisis, being able to manage your own emotions and stay calm, be able to create this island of security and not spread your tension around.”
The last concept I want to suggest is from Andrea Thompson, a retired military officer and now Director of the McChrystal Group, a management consultancy.
I’ve been asked by soldiers around the world, What’s the one thing I should know to be a better leader?” My answer remains the same: Know who you are, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Self-awareness will be that “extra something” that boosts you up the corporate ladder.
As we move up the ranks in our careers, our technical skills are usually the primary reason we get promoted. We closed the most deals or sold the most product. But as we develop as leaders, functional excellence is no longer the main component required to be high-performing and succeed as a senior leader.
Those leaders who soon recognize that their own behaviors and emotions have a domino effect on their team—and adapt accordingly—build stronger teams. Self-awareness is that “combat multiplier” that not only makes you a better leader, but those on your team better leaders, too.
Colonel Thompson spent almost 30 years as a serving officer on the United States Army including roles as the national security advisor to the House Committee on Homeland Security and executive officer and chief of staff to the Undersecretary of the Army so she has some street cred with me at least.
You could say that self-awareness is embedded in emotional intelligence or emotional balance, but I don’t think so.
I have seen leaders who are highly balanced and emotionally intelligent that just flat can’t see themselves in the mirror or worse can only be comfortable selecting and promoting people who are their mirror!
When we look at the issues Secretary Clinton faced throughout her candidacy you wonder if this is a personal weakness for her? Her inability to win and sustain a trust based relationship with a large part of the electorate?
So for me when I look at developing my leadership pipeline technical intelligence or competency is the base threshold for entry into management, as people develop into leadership roles and especially C level roles I want to see them move through the gates of emotional intelligence or EQ, self- awareness, and emotional balance.
The truth is we don’t really get the opportunity to “screen” candidates for elective office for these competencies. The “selection committee” is the electorate.
We can however build them into our models in the private sector which is why I would like to return to my premise that social leadership needs to emerge from the private sector as our Founding Father’s intended before the advent of professional politicians.
Most of these things can be to a large extent taught so no gender of ethnic group has the market cornered.
You can say that these represent high hurdles, but I leave you with this thought –
Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance.