Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Emotional Intelligence

Camila Alire, president of the American Library Association, yesterday gave a talk to SINTO on Leadership and Emotional Intelligence.

Camila began by quoting President JF Kennedy: "Change is the law of life". Her presentation would be in the context of Transformational Leadership - a leadership style that creates valuable and positive change in the followers.
Camila pointed out that "change happens". Both the USA and the UK are facing an economic downturn. Budget cuts will inevitably have an effect on people and services and leaders have to be able to manage this process.
The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) was developed in the mid 1990's with the publication of Daniel Goleman's book Emotional intelligence (1995). When Camila read this she recognised that the book reflected her own style of leadership. EI suggests that leaders can deal with emotions. This involves both understanding and managing your own emotions and being mindful of other people's emotions.

Camila illustrated this with an example from her own career. She was appointed as Library Dean in a US university. A few days later community was hit by severe flooding and library was under water for several days. The library staff, who had built up the collection over many years, were badly affected and they looked to her for a lead. Camila recognised that she had not only to sort out the practical issues of a flooded library but also to recognise and manage the emotional response of her staff. Every morning on her drive to work she had to deal with her own emotions and then provide a positive role model for her staff. The essence of EI is to recognise emotions in others and to have the ability to use emotions effectively in reasoning and problem solving.

The following traits of EI can be recognised:
· Knowing when to show or suppress emotion as appropriate
· Knowing how to read emotions
· Knowing when to deal with emotions - at once or later
· Taking time to deal with issues

An EI leader will show the following abilities:
· Ability to perceive emotions in facial expressions and in music & art
· Ability to understand & reason about emotions
· Ability to manage emotions

At a practical level this meant that in a meeting where change was being proposed the leader should position him or herself so that they can observe everyone around the table and asses their moods. Feedback should be invited but staff expressing negative emotions should be followed up after the meeting as they may not respond in public.
Camila emphasised that individual staff members can develop and use EI with their co-workers and clients. EI staff should be able to deal with their own emotions and help their colleagues cope in periods of change.

Camila ended with another case study where she was recruited by a university to transform a library service perceived as not customer orientated. She developed a plan for major change in close consultation with library staff at all levels. Despite this she experienced extreme hostility from one individual aimed at herself. Her response was to be cognizant of this emotion but not to regard it as a personal affront and not to react in a vindictive way. Eventually the member of staff came to recognise that the changes had been necessary.

Camila made reference to a recent book Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion byRichard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. She finished with a quote from Winston Churchill:
"Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe."


Steve Broe said...

Leaders don't just give orders - they bring out the best in their people. Emotional intelligence is a powerful indicator of leadership potential. A person who can resonate with other people and share a common vision can accomplish substantial goals.

Dr. Steve Broe

aelaws said...

Brilliant presentation from Camila,thoughtfully delivered to a small arena of participants who carefully queried some interesting points-can EI be taught?Do we naturally practice this in areas such as mentoring?Can we hire in these skills? I took home some valuable concepts and in my practice area made a mental note- much of this can be applied in School Libraries especially in the debate of statutory provision.