November 3, 2007

The Two Minute Talks

As a final exercise for the session on Emotional Intelligence, the students were asked to prepare and present a talk about a situation that best illustrated their use of EI. This was a most impressive activity in that, to a person, the students were engaged with their audience, used humor and indicated that they cared about the story they were telling. In addition, each speaker reflected a desire to have the others present really know and understand their story, a fundamental requirement of public speaking. Finally, the content of the stories gave the strong impression that each student came away from this exercise with a good notion of Emotional Intelligence.

Well done!

Ron Frazzini

October 18, 2007

Emotional Intelligence

The discussion of this week's LeaderQuest meeting was focused around emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is defined as an ability to understand and work with the emotions of one's self and others. There are many interesting questions about emotional intelligence in regards to leadership.

  • What is the difference between intelligence as measured by an IQ test and emotional intelligence? Are there any similarities? Are either of them necessary to be a good leader?
  • Is a capacity for emotional intelligence important in our daily lives? In what ways?
  • What are the benefits of being emotionally intelligent in a leadership position?
  • Are there any drawbacks in "utilizing" emotional intelligence when making decisions?
  • How does a discussion about emotional intelligence connect to discussions about values, morals and ethics?
  • What faculties or attributes do you think are necessary to be a good leader? Does emotional intelligence fit into that list? How?
  • Think of several people you know. Who do you perceive as the most emotionally intelligent? What about them leads you to believe this? Who is not as emotionally intelligent? Why?

October 16, 2007

A Deeper Look at Leadership

We began LeaderQuest last Wednesday by building complex structures out of simple household items in teams of four. What was interesting wasn't necessarily just the structures that were created, but the team work that was involved. Each team had to battle each other team to build the best structures in order to win a prize.

There were several important questions that arose from this exercise. The first couple are related to working on projects and decision making in general: A) When are you done? and B) What is "good enough?"

Additionally, we had another discussion of "What is Leadership?" and we asked participants to take sides on whether or not leadership/leaders are: extroverted or introverted, born or made, spiritual or secular, coercive or noncoercive versus only noncoercive, outcomes or process focused, ethical and unethical or only ethical, about powerment or power, and positional or nonpositional. All of these are worth further discussion. It may be especially important to try to research the other side on issues where you identify specifically with one side or the other.

We had an extensive discussion of the difference between indecisiveness and apathy/relativism. On the relativistic or apathetic side, people seemed to believe that those making decisions either refused to make a decision because they saw both sides or are apathetic and just don't seem to care at all. On the indecisive side, people seemed to believe that they wanted to make a decision, but were pulled too strongly in both directions to feel as though they could make a good one. From there, we asked: How do you eventually make a decision? There will be times when making a decision is unavoidable, so at that point, what do you do? Is there a process to make that decision that can be used on a regular basis? Another important question would be: What is the reason for being indecisive? Does this do some sort of psychological work for the indecisive person? Are there times when it is valuable to be indecisive? Times when it is not valuable? What are those times? How do you analyze the risks involved in making one choice or the other?

October 4, 2007

Values and congruence

Values and congruency are a difficult topic to cover. As we discovered during the LeaderQuest meeting, knowing what you value and acting on those values isn't easy to do all the time. Even knowing what it is you truly value is difficult to think about and is often a process that is reevaluated throughout the course of your life.

This discussion also raises some interesting questions. Can you ever really discover what you value by placing words upon it? At some point, doesn't it just become word games? Toward the end of the discussion about values, when people were forced to have only a few values and to choose from those their "top" value, many people spoke about how their "top" value encompassed all of the other ones or, "without this value, none of the other values would matter, so that is why I chose this one."

The Greek philosopher and poet Heraclitus said, "The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become." Is it possible, then, to every really articulate what it is you value in a few words? Or is it a constant cycle of evaluation, a striving toward some greater goal of which we are unaware? It is worthwhile to think of the value of knowing in words the things you value and those that you do not. Does it help you to make decisions and choose your actions?

During part of our discussion, we talked about President George W. Bush. Many people said that they felt he was congruent even if they didn't agree with his actions. Others said he was not congruent because some of his actions have not been congruent to the values we'd expect from the office of the President of the United States. So is Bush incongruent or is it more of a question of whether his values or actions are "right" or "wrong?" When you are in a position of power, what takes precedence, your values or the expected values of the office you hold? Do you surrender your values entirely in a position of power? If so, who decides what your values are. If not, what happens when your values conflict?

Is it possible for your values to be wrong? Who decides whether these are right or wrong? Is it possible for two or more of the things you value to be incongruent with each other? What then? How do you resolve that conflict?

Another good exercise I have seen used in discovering values is asking the question, "What do you want people to say about you when you die?" Although this question sounds morbid, it is often easier to uncover the things that are most important to you (or you wish were most important to you).

September 25, 2007

Additional Myers-Briggs Thoughts

We had a great discussion of the Myers-Briggs last week! As Ron pointed out, it is certainly worth giving more thought to the way in which we use the results of a test like the Myers-Briggs. We were left with a lot of really important questions that are worth considering:

  • Should we work with our strengths as defined by our Myers-Briggs type? Should we appeal to the strengths of others when we know their MBTI type? Or should we try to develop our weaknesses and the weaknesses of others. For example, if we are a J, would it be helpful to try to behave in ways that are more P in order to learn what that is like?
  • Should we try to balance our MBTI types out and move toward the center?
  • Is it helpful to know each other’s MBTI type or does it create more barriers to getting work done? Are there certain situations in which it is more helpful than others? What are its limitations?
  • In general, what are the strengths and limitations of the MBTI?

September 21, 2007

Thoughts on the Myers Briggs Evening

This was a great discussion on personality type and what importance the group attached to knowing these indicators. I wanted to leave the subject with a thought I feel is important based on some years of business experience that focused on new developments.

There is a danger, as LeeAnn pointed out, in "typecasting" individuals before having a fairly thorough understanding what their specific talents are. For example, we had an abundance of those who would be designated as "Sensing," the other side of "Intuitive." The job of the leader of the moment was to get these "Sensing" folks to be intuitive, creating ideas that were new, possibly in directions that were also new to the company. This for the most part usually went well, creating new concepts that were influenced by the boundaries we knew had to apply, something that an intuitive might not accomplish. Although that sounds like a dichotomy, in the context of a business environment it worked quite well.

It also worked the other way in that the leader of the moment needed to temper the intuitive within accepted restraints. The skill of the leader in both these cases is one of degree, that is determining how much boundary to put on the intuitive, and how much to remove from the sensor. Development of that skill is one we will hopefully consider in the coming weeks.

September 18, 2007

LeaderQuest Retreat, 9-14 to 9-16, 2007

I think we all learned a lot from last weekend's retreat. I for one know that I took a lot away from many of the activities we did. We had a fantastic discussion around the question "What is Leadership?" that I hope we will continue the rest of the semester.

We began the discussion with leadership mad-libs. Leadership is like a __adjective__ ___noun___. Some answers were:

  • flushed toiled
  • loose leash
  • neverending journey
  • helping hand
  • tour guide

Using these mad-libs as a guide, small groups formed and performed leadership skits centered around these topics.

From there, we moved to a discussion of leaders, leadership quotes or issues involving leadership. Specifically, the ones we discussed were:

  • "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." - Dwight Eisenhower
  • "Consensus is the negation of leadership" - Margaret Thatcher
  • "The most important belief we acquire is the belief in ourselves and the most important belief we transfer is belief in others." - Given to LeaderQuest by John Speer
  • Bill Gates
  • Mother Teresa
  • The War in Iraq

Discussing these items led to a lot of questions:

  • Does a person have to be wealthy in order to be a leader? Do they need to be visible to be important?
  • If we do not like the idea of consensus (which most of the group did not)
  • What role ought the U.S. to play in Iraq? What role do we as individuals and as leaders have in shaping U.S. policy in Iraq? Is voting the end of our responsibility?
  • How do we resolve conflicts in which we hold two competing values, like the conflict between multiculturalism and feminism or secularism and the right to religious beliefs?

A favorite quote of mine in relation to this issue is "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality" -- Max dePree, CEO. I think Mr. dePree makes a good point: How can we lead unless we can define the reality around us? If we cannot answer these difficult questions, it is very difficult to lead responsibly: What is good? What is evil? What is justice? What are our moral obligations? What is meaning? What is happiness? If we cannot answer these questions for ourselves, we will be left incapacitated in the face of difficult decisions we will eventually have to make.

We also questioned the perceptions we hold of others. Mother Teresa was a person that most of us hold in very high esteem. Yet, there have been a lot of questions about the "goodness" of the work that she actually did. One such questioner, Christopher Hitchens, actually wrote a book on the topic called The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.

There are many other interesting resources in relation to leadership and making decisions. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, a book written by Malcom Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, is a book about the way in which we make decisions. The book Leading Through Conflict by Mark Gerzon discusses how to make effective decisions in a world full of conflict.

Anne Phillips helps us adopt a new look on the debate of multiculturalism versus feminism in the book Multiculturalism without Culture. She gives a great example of how we can step outside of our current paradigms and analyze conflict in a way that brings both sides together rather than divides them further apart.

Participants were also interested in learning how to do more to effect the world around them. Although I hope that LeaderQuest provides a venue in which to learn about this, there are other places that participants can look for this information such as the The November 5th Coalition and Public Achievement.

For inspiration this week, I look to a web site called which follows the principles of microfinancing created by Muhammed Yunus in order to provide micro-loans to entrepreneurs around the world in an effort to eradicate poverty.

Additionally, I came across a fantastic book called Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize Winning Economist. The book changes the paradigm from economic development to development that considers:

  • Development is the expansion of capabilities... having the freedom to choose between different ways of thinking.
  • Enrichment of humans lives.
  • Being able to choose how you want to live.

LeaderQuesters on Purpose, 9-12-2007

To begin what I am sure will be a series of stimulating and powerful discussions in LeaderQuest this year, Laurie Blank, the LeaderQuest Coordinator, posed the question, "What is purpose?" Students broke into smaller groups to discuss the question further. Some of their responses were:

  • Purpose is the bigger picture, what you believe you can do when you wake up in the morning
  • Purpose is the foundation which can be built upon
  • Purpose is the meaning of its [some object or being's] existence
  • Purpose is a drive to get something accomplished

At the end of our discussion Wednesday, we were left with several important questions that are worth revisiting:

  • What does it mean to be meaningful?
  • Is there such thing as a "good" or "bad" purpose? If so, how do we differentiate between the two? If not, how do we judge actions to be good or evil?
  • What is the value of discussing purpose? Alternatively, what can we do with a definition of purpose?

Many great philosophers, thinkers and leaders have thought extensively about these problems. Albert Camus' book The Myth of Sisyphus addresses the question of meaning in life. Modern day philosophers like Peter Singer (who came and spoke at the U a couple of years ago) writes very accessibly about morals and how we might come to conclusions of what is morally good or bad.

In deciding what we believe, it helps to look at these problems from different perspectives. A great novel that really gets at the idea of perspective is The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

As we begin to explore questions like: "What is purpose?" we will start to see that answers are not so easy to come by. Why is it so difficult to find answers to these questions? Why might it be valuable to ask these questions?

Participants can also reflect on questions such as: Who are the “leaders? in the room? Were there people that dominated conversation? People that didn’t speak much at all? Why is this? Is it a problem? Is it something we should address? If so, how? What role do the people that don't speak play? What role should they play?

To get even more out of LeaderQuest, I would challenge students to keep a daily journal as they explore these questions. Journaling helps to learn and relearn from our experiences. We are able to remember and recall more of what we learn and we are better able to formulate our thoughts and ideas. For those that are interested in public speaking, journaling is an excellent way in which to become more articulate about your thoughts, ideas and convictions.