Posts Tagged ‘self-awareness’

I am excited to announce that my book, DESIGN: An Owner’s Manual for Learning, Living, and Leading was published this month. If you feel like you have strayed far from home- from your identity or purpose- or perhaps never really discovered either, this book is for you! If you would like to learn more about it, please click on the link below! Prepare to embark on the journey of a lifetime!


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Doug Walters and I continue our six-part televised conversation. Poet David Whyte offers a complementary reflection on personal identity and function. See the poem and then the video below.

Sweet Darkness

By David Whyte

When your eyes are tired the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own.

There you can be sure you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb tonight.

The night will give you a horizon further than you can see.

You must learn one thing: the world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.


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Doug and I continue our televised conversation.

On this second segment of this program of The Reflective Leader, Dr. Tony Marchese and Mr. Doug Walters utilize the metaphor of a Personal Owner’s Manual to challenge viewers to meaningfully consider the relationship of their unique constitution to their unique contribution to this world. This program explores the deeper dimensions of human diversity and its impact when fully realized.


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Published in the West Virginia Executive, Spring 2012

By Anthony J. Marchese, Ph.D. and Douglas Walters, ABD

What is it that differentiates a good leader from one who is clearly exceptional? Why do some executives seem to be more adept at leading complex organizations in a volatile market while others struggle to maintain their composure and their position?

As organizational leadership and development specialists, we have invested thousands of hours for the past several years working closely with corporate, education and non-profit executives across the nation and world. The chief emphasis of our work has been to help them assess the extent to which their leadership positively impacts their organization and to provide an accurate assessment of the overall health of their organization through an analysis of culture, systems, employee engagement, communication and adaptability. In many cases, the health of the organization in each of these areas was directly connected with the effectiveness of leaders at the executive level. In cases where leaders were not achieving their desired goals, the cause was often not attributable to an insufficient grasp of technical knowledge or lack of familiarity with their industry. Rather, attentiveness to the development of softer skills was neglected.

Our research reveals that despite an aversion that some possess toward the exploration and development of personal and social competencies, the value of the effort to better understand who we are and how we relate to others is wholly worthwhile. In his book, “Working with Emotional Intelligence,” author Daniel Goleman explains that in a study involving 15 global businesses, it was determined that 90 percent of the difference between average and exceptional leaders was due to emotional competencies. Goleman cited a study analyzing 181 positions from 121 worldwide organizations. The findings revealed that 67 percent of the abilities considered to be most indicative of effective job performance were emotional competencies.

The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University seems unapologetic about the importance of emotional intelligence to effective leadership. A 2005 presentation revealed the following:

  •  Emotional intelligence (EI) is the differentiating factor in success;
  • Ninety  percent of the difference between outstanding and average leaders is linked to emotional intelligence;
  • Emotional intelligence is two times as important as intelligence quotient (IQ) and technical expertise combined and
  • Emotional intelligence is four times as important as IQ for overall success.

According to Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, the authors of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” emotional intelligence is your “ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” Unlike the intelligence quotient (IQ), which is primarily fixed, emotional intelligence can be drastically increased through concentrated effort. A 2003, Harvard Business Review strongly challenged business leaders to understand the explicit relationship of EI to success in the workplace. “In hard times, the soft stuff often goes away. But emotional intelligence, it turns out, isn’t so soft. If emotional obliviousness jeopardizes your ability to perform, fend off aggressors, or be compassionate in a crisis, no amount of attention to the bottom line will protect your career. Emotional intelligence isn’t a luxury you can dispense with in tough times. It’s a basic tool that, deployed with finesse, is the key to professional success.”

Emotional Intelligence consists of two primary competencies—personal and social—organized into four clusters:

Personal Competencies

Social Competencies


Social Awareness


Relationship Management

 Personal Competencies

Self-awareness is our ability to determine what makes us tick. Why do particular situations/people provoke us? Why do we respond to situations in the way that we do? To what extent might our past injuries cause us, by default, to respond in a particular way? Our kinetic lifestyles diminish the likelihood that we will automatically reserve time each day to meaningfully reflect upon the day’s events and how/why we responded as we did. Without question, an insufficient understanding of the complexity of the self and the extent to which one’s personal baggage may infiltrate the workplace and cause harm may be the leading cause of leadership failure. Every human being is comprised of experiences, both positive and painful that shape our identity and our behavior. It is paramount that leaders do whatever is necessary to delve deeply into the self, no matter how difficult to confront those individuals and experiences that may have caused harm at some point in their lives. The adage, “Hurting people hurt others” is frighteningly true. In many instances, leaders with good intentions may engage in aggressive, overly punitive behavior that may have been conceived on a playground decades earlier when a classmate chose someone else to be on their dodge ball team causing public humiliation. In order to minimize casualties within organizations, leaders must not be remiss in allocating time each week to remove themselves from the deafening sounds of the workplace and be alone with their thoughts. Focused journaling is an incredibly worthwhile exercise to explore the self and be better equipped to understand the “trigger events” that drive emotional reactions to specific people and situations.”  The charge of the Oracle at Delphi remains relevant today, “Know thyself.”

Self-management is our ability to maintain control over our emotions and impulses as we focus upon our goals. Even when emotions threaten to take us off course, we remain disciplined and focused. Those who possess a high level of self-management are less likely to freely vent their negative emotions, consuming fears and extreme reservations with various individuals in the organization. An inability to manage negative emotions can cripple organizational morale and commitment. Every leader has probably shared too much with the wrong people at some point. In our work as consultants, we have encountered many mid-level leaders who found fault with the decisions of the CEO or CFO. Rather than seeking a healthy approach to handling their frustrations, they immediately begin engaging in emotionally-charged dialogue with subordinates. The consequences of these conversations could be felt almost immediately as an aggressive strain of dissatisfaction spread through the ranks, crippling organizational commitment and resulting in diminished performance.

Social Competencies

Social awareness is our ability to empathize with others by observing and understanding non-verbal cues as well as actively listening to what others are saying. Those with a strong social awareness are able to place themselves in another’s shoes while communicating understanding of the other person. This attunement to the feelings of others is further reinforced by emanating positive emotions that communicate connectedness and optimism. Goleman writes, “By being attuned to how others feel in the moment, a leader can say and do what’s appropriate…”  It may be inferred that an authentic, meaningful attempt to place oneself in the shoes of another can only occur if the leader possesses familiarity with members at all levels of the organization and is visibly present. Scholars suggest that we have entered a “post-heroic era” of leadership in which many organizations are moving away from top down, hierarchical organizational models that feature executive decision-making from top-floor penthouses. Rather, more distributed or dialogic approaches to leading are increasing in favorability as they encourage collective ownership of the destiny of the organization that emphasizes the critical role of followers. This collective endeavor can only occur well when leaders position themselves as authentically interested in their followers and willing to share in the responsibility of problem-solving and strategic planning.

Relationship management is the competency in which self-awareness, self-management and social awareness coalesce as the leader harnesses his or her awareness of their emotions and those of others toward the realization of shared goals. This is akin to classic leadership theories wherein skills such as leading others (presenting a compelling vision focused upon positive change, developing others) and working with others (building rapport, managing conflict) are essential. Attribution theorists indicate that leaders who possess a big-picture perspective but elevate followers to “active” positions within the change process are more likely to reap the rewards of an engaged and committed workforce. This is especially important during times of increased volatility in the marketplace.  People wish to feel as though they can achieve some measure of control when they may feel as though they are swimming in a swirling sea of professional uncertainty. Those who are deficient in this area may be extremely hesitant to relinquish control or to share the spotlight with others. It is important for leaders to carefully assess whether they are consistently seized by the compulsion to be perceived as “the leader”. This insecurity, in many cases, invokes crippling consequences upon the capacity of the organization and renders its members powerless.

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Emotional Intelligence offers executives an exciting new paradigm for developing themselves and others. The volatility of the marketplace and its crippling impact on morale requires that leaders seek resources to ensure that they are cultivating cultures that encourage critical self-analysis, healthy restraint, an ability to empathize with others and the skills to build dynamic teams. EI works best when embedded as a tool for continuous improvement for employees at all levels within the organization. A common understanding of EI terminology establishes an important mechanism to frame their experiences. EI can be introduced as early as the first day of employment through the administration of a brief online assessment tool and can remain an integral part of development initiatives throughout the year. One-on-one executive coaching is recommended for leaders. Emotional intelligence offers a provocative picture of one’s strengths and vulnerabilities and, when used effectively, can make all the difference between a leader who is merely good versus one who is exceptional.

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