Studying Leadership Skills

I’m reading the best selling book by Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. It’s been on my bookshelf for years and I  obviously read much of it because I can see faint highlighting in yellow. I don’t think I finished it though. And I certainly didn’t put the ideas to action. This is something I plan to change.

I’m reading Covey’s book because I am studying emotional and social intelligence and I am trying to understand leadership as I look at many different perspectives. As I look around me, I see “leaders” who are not leaders at all. They are managers, at best. I like how Covey puts it:

Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

You can quickly grasp the difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.

The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong Jungle!” (p. 100)

I definitely see the difference, now can I make a difference? To help me with this process, I study and take notes on the leadership skills I would like to emulate. For instance, recently I wrote to a very busy person who is the chair of a job search. She took the time to write me back and I know she must get hundreds, if not thousands of applicants. I can see already that she has climbed the tallest tree.

I write down skills I would like to emulate and they are in a notebook for me to review on a regular basis. For the situation above, I wrote: Be kind to those who ask something simple of you. Even if you are busy, your kind response can make their day. Applicants sometimes just want to know where they stand and the only way to find out is to ask you.

A couple of weeks ago a person in the position of leadership went around the table and said something about each person under her authority. I think the idea was to say something kind that would build the person up and make them feel good about themselves. Unfortunately this individual didn’t spend the time to get to know everyone under her authority (around 20 individuals) but the ones she spoke of whom she did spend time with, were very touched. I thought that was a very effective leadership skill. I wrote it down. I will review it and I will remember it.

And I’m just getting started.

Inspiring Work Through Others

I participated in a workshop last week at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in beautiful Cleveland, Ohio. Presented by the lovely and talented Ellen Burts-Cooper, PhD., we learned strategies on how to get work done by inspiring others.

First we talked about Emotional Intelligence, which is working on ourselves; then we moved on to Social Intelligence, which takes the skills of emotional intelligence and applies it to social situations. Both of these phrases were coined by Daniel Goleman, who researched and wrote books by the same name.

An emotionally intelligent person is self-aware, self-regulated, is skillful in social relationships, has empathy toward others, and is self motivated.

A person with Social Intelligence, is an emotionally intelligent leader and his/her is successful because s/he makes others successful. By becoming involved in the growth of the people around them, a socially intelligent leader will inspire and motivate their co-workers.

Characteristics of an Socially Intelligent Leader

  • An emotional leader has empathy and a desire to motivate others.
  • S/he notices other people’s needs.
  • They are attuned to listen and care about how other people feel.
  • They appreciate the differences of others and understand how the social networks work within their organization.
  • They know how to gain support form the stakeholders around them; they engage people in discussions, listen to their interests.
  • A Socially intelligent leader provides feedback, mentor, and otherwise invest the time necessary to develop others.
  • They are the ones that bring out the best in people, solicit input from the whole team and encourages cooperation.

I think most of us think we have social intelligence but do not. It seems to be human nature to see the best in ourselves and the worst in others. So how do we really know if we have social intelligence or if we are kidding ourselves? Ellen suggested getting feedback and to look at ourselves closely. This works. A couple of weeks ago, I solicited feedback from  a coworker how I handled my job. The question was general but the answer was specific. I trust her and I am working on her suggestions.

After looking at emotional and social intelligence we went on to talk about Dr. Robert Cialdini’s work in the field of influence. Dr. Cialdini states six principles of influence:

  1. reciprocation—if you give, people like to reciprocate
  2. scarcity—people want what is scarce
  3. authority—people are more likely to listen to authoritative figures, use your credentials.
  4. commitment/consistency—people are more likely to do something they have agreed to verbally or in writing. People also value the norm, especially when it reflects our values.
  5. Social validation—people like to know what everyone else is doing before they commit, especially if they are uncertain.
  6. and liking/friendship—people like those who like them and are more likely to respond to people they like.

Of course, we discussed much more in the workshop. Ellen gave a myriad of examples. And we continued our exploration of inspiring others with discussions on the qualities and skills it takes to work through others. I encourage you to take the workshop if you get a chance. For more information, see

There is also a MOOC by Case Western called Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence. It’s free. I recommend it.