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Posted 6.1.09

Leaders move us. They may help us cure a cancer, create jobs, or inspire hope. They may also disappoint us or deceive us into doing harm to others. Whether they are leaders of our families, project teams, organizations, or countries, they, and our relationships to them, affect our lives and work.

Think of a leader with whom you have worked in the past who brought out the best in you. This would be someone with whom it was so exciting to work, that if they took over another division of your organization, you would seek a transfer. If they started a project in your community, you would volunteer. Think of someone who brought out the best in you.

Now, think of someone in a leadership position with whom you have had to
work. You consider them a “lump.” Whatever they are paid, it is too much. The best thing you could do for your organization is to get them an executive job at your biggest competitor.

Recall experiences with each of these two people. In remembering those moments, how did they act, what did they say, how did they make you and others around them feel? What are the differences between what these two people said and did, and how it made you and others around them feel?

When Dr. Richard Boyatzis asks audiences around the world to make this comparison, the answers always come back the same. The people in leadership positions who brought out the best in you engaged you, motivated you, inspired you, talked about you and the group, listened to you, made you feel valued, helped you to see the bigger picture and feel a part of something important, challenged you, and shared their passion and excitement with you. The other people in leadership blamed others when things went wrong, talked about the task or “me” not “we,” defined the purpose narrowly, and were defensive and (or) threatening.

The differences are not subtle. The person who brought out the best in you built and maintained a relationship with you. The other person created and fostered distance. The person who brought out the best in you made you feel a valued part of something important and part of a team while he/she inspired a sense of hope. The other person made you want to protect yourself or think of things other than work. The person who brought out the best in you used emotional and social intelligence (EI/SI).

For over 40 years, Professor Boyatzis has been studying how EI/SI are critical for effective leadership and how to develop these competencies — 22 of those years here at Case Western Reserve University. With faculty colleagues and doctoral students, Professor Boyatzis has published research showing how EI/SI predict outstanding leaders within the following groups: Naval officers in the U.S.and Britain, public school principals, research & development managers, bank and financial service executives, not-for-profit executives in Spain, large and small manufacturing companies, Catholic priests, and dozens of other jobs in many countries of the world.

The longitudinal studies here at the Weatherhead School of Management with 25- to 35-year old MBAs and 45- to 65-year-old executives in other degree programs have built a unique data base showing that EI/SI competencies can be developed, and these improvements in a person’s behavior are sustained for at least seven years.

These studies have led to discovery of the key role of coaches, but not just trying to push a person to change. Coaching with compassion works best — coaching for compliance does not. Coaching with compassion involves appealing to a person’s vision, dreams, possibilities, and hope. Boyatzis’ work on Intentional Change Theory has been featured in many articles and two international best-selling books, yet it doesn’t stop there. Two fMRI studies are beginning to document the neural circuits activated by effective leaders and coaching with compassion. This should help us understand why other approaches yield such poor results in behavior change.

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