Summary and application of the article by Daniel Goleman
by Luann Jennings
“What distinguishes great leaders from merely good ones? It isn’t IQ or technical skills…. It’s emotional intelligence: a group of five skills that enable the best leaders to maximize their own and their followers’ performance.” (1)
Many artists resist being called or drawn into leadership positions because they feel that they don’t have the traits, skills, or knowledge to serve effectively. But Daniel Goleman’s article, “What makes a leader?,” written in 1998 for Harvard Business Review, gives great hope to the artist-leader and Christian.
Goleman is the author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence. In his article, Goleman brings the five emotional intelligence (EI) skills he identifies in the book to bear on leadership in a business context. What made this article so revolutionary (and controversial) within the business world is exactly what makes it so encouraging to artists and arts leaders. You see, we have a head start on this “emotion” stuff.
Goleman researched 188 companies in order to “determine which personal capabilities drove outstanding performance within these organizations, and to what degree they did so.” He studied “purely technical skills like accounting and business planning; cognitive abilities like analytical reasoning; and competencies demonstrating emotional intelligence, such as the ability to work with others and effectiveness in leading change.” When he “calculated the ratio” of these three areas of study, “emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important as the others for jobs at all levels.” (1)
Here are descriptions of Goleman’s five EI skills, along with my own thoughts about how they might relate to our work as arts leaders in the church. (The definitions and hallmarks are drawn from the chart, “The Five Components of Emotional Intelligence at Work,” on p. 1 of the online article.)
Self-Awareness – the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others
Hallmarks: self-confidence; realistic self-assessment; self-deprecating sense of humor
Guess what? Our artist’s tendency toward navel-gazing has actually trained us for our leadership roles. We tend to be in tune with our internal lives and comfortable with our emotions; and we tend to be clear on our strengths and weaknesses. These abilities make us good leaders because we can plan around what we know about ourselves; and we recognize the difference between feelings and facts, avoiding problems caused by confusing the two.
Goleman also attributes self-awareness to “a person’s understanding of his or her values and goals.” (2) So a clear foundation in our Christian faith, and an understanding of what it means for and to us, also add to our self-awareness.
Self-Regulation – the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods; the propensity to suspend judgment – to think before acting
Hallmarks: trustworthiness and integrity; comfort with ambiguity; openness to change
Self-awareness isn’t worth much if we can’t control and channel those emotions and traits we’re so aware of. This is an EI skill I’ve seen many arts leaders struggle with. In the arts, behaving badly almost seems to increase your artistic credibility, as though the “diva” is more talented than the more restrained person. But arts leaders need to think before reacting.
We need to remember, too, that our actions are being evaluated in light of our stated beliefs. Temper tantrums, and otherwise being “carried away” (James 1:14) by our emotions, are not acceptable from the Christian leader.
Motivation – a passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status; a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence
Hallmarks: strong drive to achieve; optimism, even in the face of failure; organizational commitment
This is the skill the one that Goleman says “virtually all effective leaders have.” (4) And passion is something that we in the arts have to spare.
Yet many of us could stand to cultivate optimism. Occasional failure is normal, but if motivation is such an important trait for leadership, we must fight the discouragement and ennui failure can cause.
When it comes to “organizational commitment,” those of us working within the church have the greatest advantage of all. Our passion for God motivates us to achieve, and to trust that he is guiding us through any disappointments toward his perfect will.
Empathy – the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people; skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions
Hallmarks: expertise in building and retaining talent; cross-cultural sensitivity; service to clients and customers
Empathy is another area in which artists will excel. But in the arts, we can fall prey to a “my way or the highway” dogmatism with our “creative vision.” Really listening to others – valuing their feelings and thoughts – both honors their contribution to the project at hand and cultivates in them a commitment to move it forward.
Our faith builds empathy through our efforts to become more compassionate and discerning. We should be exempt from any feelings of superiority over others, but instead “in humility consider others better than [our]selves.” (Phil 2:3)
Social Skill – proficiency in managing relationships and building networks; an ability to find common ground and build rapport
Hallmarks: effectiveness in leading change; persuasiveness; expertise in building and leading teams
Social skill is “friendliness with a purpose: moving people in the direction you desire” and is “the culmination of the other dimensions of emotional intelligence.” (7) Goleman writes that social skill is the most widely recognized of the five EI skills as important for leadership.
But social skill can’t have manipulation as its purpose. The social skill of a Christian arts leader must come from a sincere place of interest in and engagement with others. We don’t have to be gregarious people who can “work a room.” But we can love, genuinely and sacrificially, as Christ loved us.
How can we grow in emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is housed in the part of the brain that “learns best through motivation, extended practice, and feedback,” not through “concepts and logic.” (2, sidebar) So, rather than reading books and taking classes, to grow in EI we can seek out coaching to help us build new habits. We can practice – we can rehearse (fortunately, we’re already good at that).
Our faith gives us the humility to ask for help and the community to lovingly provide it. Prayer helps, too.
Who observes you in your leadership contexts and can give you feedback and support in changing your habits? What scripture passages can you use as a reminder and encouragement? How can you pray, specifically, for the traits you want to develop? Who can pray for and with you?
Leadership can be difficult, often in ways we don’t expect. But if we are called into leadership, it is because God has already prepared us for the role, and intends to walk with us in it.
To read the whole article, visit www.hbr.org. If you register, you can read three articles per month, free.
Goleman, Daniel. “What makes a leader?” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Publishing, n.d. Web. 1 June 2012.
Luann Purcell Jennings is the founder and director of Church and Art Network. Luann is a veteran of 20+ years of arts leadership, as a theatre director/administrator and in full-time arts ministry in two churches. But she’s still working on self-regulation.