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?

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.