Daniel Goleman is a psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. Working as a science journalist, Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books) was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half.
Goleman’s latest book is Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything. The book argues that new information technologies will create “radical transparency,” allowing us to know the environmental, health, and social consequences of what we buy. As shoppers use point-of-purchase ecological comparisons to guide their purchases, market share will shift to support steady, incremental upgrades in how products are made – changing every thing for the better.
Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, was published in 2006. Social intelligence, the interpersonal part of emotional intelligence, can now be understood in terms of recent findings from neuroscience. Goleman’s book describes the many implications of this new science, including for altruism, parenting, love, health, learning and leadership.
Question: What should corporate leaders understand about emotional intelligence?
Daniel Goleman: Well, the classic problem is the 2 kinds of leadership. They tend to be slightly rapid. One is someone called the pace setter, who typically was a very gifted individual performer, the very good at the technical side of what they do, whatever that may be. And because they’re so good, they get promoted to lead a team or a division. And all of a sudden, the skill for which they were so good is no longer sufficient to the task at hand, which is dealing with people. Leadership, what is leadership? Leadership is influencing, persuading, motivating, listening, communicating. None of those skills necessarily have to do with how good a software programmer you are, whatever the skill may be. So pace setters tend to lead by example. And they also tend to be perfectionists. The thing about perfectionist is that no matter what they do, they see that it could be better, which is why they get so good, why they become the top of the game. But you get that good by focusing on what’s wrong with what you did, not what’s right so you could learn to do better. And they tend to look at other people, people they’re leading through the same lens of negativity. So they give failing grades. They don’t understand an intrinsic part of any leaders’ task is to help other people get better at what they do. They just criticize. So that… that doesn’t work. The other is the kind of command and control kind of the military model. I’m the boss, do it because I say so. Think nothing, blowing up at people or humiliating them and so on. And those 2 styles are disasters. So very often, I’m asked to come to a company or I just was spent 2 days in London with the National Health Service there. They have 2 million in the health service, with leaders at different levels, talking about leadership styles and what the emotional intelligent styles are and why… Particularly in health service, it’s important for leaders to be emotionally supportive so that the people who are at the frontlines, who really have to deliver and be there for patients have the emotional reserves themselves to do it and don’t get burned out.
Question: What can leaders gain from being emotionally intelligent?
Daniel Goleman: Well, what’s interesting to me is what it takes to lead sustainability in a company, particularly in a climate where you need to make a hard business case but you also need to persuade people that this is even worth doing. And what we’re finding is that there’s a subset of emotional intelligent scales that typifies people who actually can take a company in that direction as a head of a division or so on. And I find that fascinating and very important. That’s a bridge between the work I’m doing on ecological intelligence, which, I think, we have to get to if we’re going to stop the inexorable movement toward destroying our own ecosystem. You know, in… Our ancient ancestor was a single-cell bacteria that resembles pond scum. At one point, these bacteria covered the earth. It breathes hydrogen and exhale oxygen. And there were so much of it that it tip the balance of the composition of air so much that it started to suffocate itself. And life only survives because some of those bacteria evolved to breathe oxygen. We’re, now, doing the same thing with… You know, the industrial chemicals were pouring into the environment, with global warming, which in the same inexorable way, seems headed toward shifting every ecosystem on the earth so it’s out of wack. So we’re threatening our own survival again. And the question is what will let us change? It has to be a behavioral change. We have to become… I think we have to become ecologically intelligent and maybe mix that with some emotional intelligence because we have to get other people to do it too. And we have to persist in it. And, I think, that’s really our great hope.