I believe that every person in SA has a role to play to lift our nation out of the state it is in and then create an atmosphere of hope and joy. We have the power to influence our families, our communities and our workplace. We need to harness that power and take the lead. We need to set about doing what we were created to do…and lead! Transformation of a country or an organisation or even a family, requires transformation of the leader. I’m certain that a critical mass of good leaders, who share common ideas and ethics, as well as being a support system for one another, is all we need to heal our land.

I believe we need to mentor one another if wisdom and courage is to be passed on from one generation to the next.”

In my opinion, Wisdom is not cognitive intelligence or knowledge – rather it is perception, astuteness, good judgement, insight and understanding.

Courage is from the French word “coeur” which means heart. Thus, courage is not a quality that comes from the brain - it comes from the heart and the gut! It is a strong emotional commitment with the emphasis on emotion, simply because there are times when intellectual sense and logic do not drive decisions.

I used the word, “power” earlier when I stated that we can influence the people we come into contact with but we all know that “power” can be used negatively….

To me, the true meaning of power is the ability to manifest your desires in the world. In its purest intended form, it radiates from the source of all life through every human being. How powerful you are depends on how much you trust and cultivate your connection to that source. 
Some of the most powerful people I’ve come across are the most soft-spoken and gentle.  True power is an inner strength that comes from the confidence of emotional intelligence - knowing your own emotions, and how to handle them, and those of others.
And so it is power over yourself that is essential.  No one can manage, lead or influence someone else if they, themselves, are out-of-control.   Developing your emotional intelligence is the single best thing you can do if you want to develop your leadership skills and hence your “power”.

I cannot emphasise the importance of emotional intelligence enough….

Mother Teresa said, “There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread” She wielded power – didn’t she? She had the inner strength I referred to earlier…she was a compassionate and powerful leader. An emotionally intelligent woman…

Howard Book, in his work as an organisational consultant, was struck by the fact that many of the issues confronting firms that sought his advice had nothing to do with accounting or strategic planning or even budget sheets. Rather, they were the result of faulty communication, of people’s inability to understand how they and others functioned and of a failure to see matters from someone else’s perspective or grasp the impact of their own actions. He hadn’t yet heard the term emotional intelligence, (this was only defined in 1995), he was just aware of his own observations. When he did, he realised that the term emotional intelligence captured what he had been dealing with.

People are excited and relieved to receive confirmation of what they’ve instinctively known all along: that IQ needn’t be taken quite so seriously as before and that other factors are at least as important when it comes to success in life. In fact in order to take advantage of and flex our cognitive intelligence to the maximum, we first need good emotional intelligence. Why? Because regardless of how brainy we are, if we turn others off with abrasive behaviour, are unaware of how we are presenting ourselves or cave in under minimal stress, no one will stick around long enough to notice our IQs!

Think back to your last year at school…where are the people who achieved a full house of distinctions? Chances are that 90% of them have not succeeded in the world of work! Those students who played sport, listened to music, had many friends, never missed a party and still did some work – they are successful today because of their emotional intelligence.

Thomas Stanley’s book, The Millionaire Mind, included a survey that was taken of 733 multi millionaires throughout the US. When asked to rate the factors (out of 30) that were most responsible for their success, the top five were:

  • Being honest with all people
  • Being well disciplined
  • Getting along with people
  • Having a supportive spouse
  • Working harder than most people

All five factors are reflections of emotional intelligence. Cognitive intelligence or IQ was only 21st on the list! And only endorsed by 20 percent of the millionaires!

Interestingly, IQ is pretty much set – it peaks at 17 years of age, remains constant throughout adulthood and then wanes during old age. EQ however, is not fixed. EQ rises steadily when we are in our late teens and remains constant throughout our forties. After 50, it tapers slightly but remains relatively unchanged. This is not a surprise, we get older but wiser! We learn to balance emotion and reason. We live and learn.

It’s heartening to learn that emotional intelligence cuts across the gender gap. Over and over again, we find that men and women have remarkably similar scores on the EQ-i an instrument developed by Dr. Bar-On in 1985.  EQ-I stands for Emotional Quotient Inventory.  Women across various countries and cultures had higher scores on social responsibility and empathy while men universally scored higher on stress tolerance. Women came out slightly ahead on the interpersonal relationships scale, whilst men scored higher in self-regard. Suffice to say that for every area of emotional intelligence in which women appear to enjoy a natural advantage, men have a counterbalancing strength elsewhere. I appeal to all South African women:- please do not cut our men folk out of the equation! We need to stop alienating them just because we are committed to equality. I believe that we have to address the atrocities of the past, and we have to promote women, but not at the expense and exclusion of men. Furthermore, I have witnessed some tragic consequences of women being the victims of men who abuse them purely because society is disempowering men…

Ethics versus bottom line

Mention the word power and what comes to mind? Power is evil, corrupt, self-serving, manipulative, hurtful, and possibly “a dirty word.” These words speak to the dark side of power. It can be a positive force that is continually used to achieve organizational, group, and individual goals. When power is used in an ethical and purposeful way, there is nothing evil about it.

However, for power to be used ethically and positively, it requires that we move out of our comfort zones. What do I mean? I’m sure you agree that the intelligence and morals of Robert Mugabe are questionable –  but he remains amazingly popular – we have some prime examples of our own Southern African leaders but we won’t go there - so what is it that warms people to leaders who are......lets say……  most comfortable put out to pasture? Well, we feel comfortable with what we know and will stick with it, even if it doesn’t work! Heard of the phrases; “Happy to go with the flow”, “Don’t rock the boat”, “Let sleeping dogs lie”? Sound familiar? Then maybe if you use these phrases, you are taking part in collusion. Collusion results in mediocrity! Collusion is the tendency to cooperate on a subconscious level to maintain group or personal comfort.

Rules of collusion:

  • Don’t ask questions
  • Don’t outshine each other
  • Conform to the group standard….

Have you ever wondered why “nice” guys seem to fall by the wayside and their ruthless colleagues push past them to the top? When the nice guys refuse to play organisational politics, they hand the power to the people that shouldn’t have it! You have to stand up and speak up and learn to politic.

“If we are going to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values - that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.”
Marin Luther King

Now emotions are tricky things – We rarely associate them with good thinking. Many people are frightened of their emotions and have shut them down. Unless we come to terms with our emotions, we simply do not think straight, let alone strategically.

If we want our world to work then it matters that our relationships work.

Margot Cairnes in her book, Approaching the Corporate Heart states: “We are all responsible for 50% of every relationship we are in. Our 50%. When our relationships don’t work we only ever try to change 50% - the 50% we have no control over – the other person’s 50%. If we want our relationships to change, we need to change our 50%. The ONLY thing we have absolute control over is our thoughts! Changing our 50% doesn’t mean that the other person will be different. It does mean that they will relate to us differently. By changing your 50%, you bring an alive, interesting and purposeful you to the relationship and you will be amazed at how much power you will have by making that change.
Challenge: How do you think it might benefit you to take responsibility for 50% of every relationship you are in?

Unfortunately people have very low expectations when it comes to relationships because most people have had bad relationships with most people most of their lives! Think about it, our divorce statistics, family violence, various addictions, the 52% of people who leave the workplace because of a break down in relationship with their bosses – all of this makes a  “normal” relationship an endangered species. Now, unmet expectations are the primary reason relationships breakdown. This is true of both business and personal relationships. They are destroyed because of unmet expectations – but how many of us sit down and express our expectations to the other person? How often have you heard people say, “But why didn’t you tell me?” or “I didn’t know you felt that way?”

How many of us get feedback from peers, friends, and family? Do you ask for feedback? I love challenging HR practitioners. I ask, “How often during the year do you do performance appraisals?” They proudly answer that they conduct appraisals twice a year. Some dedicated individuals retort with, “Four times a year”. I go on to ask, “Would you agree that people are your most valuable asset?” Naturally they are all in agreement. I then say, “If I ran an aviation company and my airplanes were my most valuable asset, would I assess them only twice a year? Why do we only give our people feedback twice a year?”

Lateral thinker, Edward de Bono says that good thinking involves our emotions and feelings as well as our minds. This expands both the depth and breadth of our thinking, allowing us to be adept at processing information quickly, practically and laterally.

No one is raised in a moral vacuum. Every mentally balanced human being recognises right from wrong. We know darn well what is right and what is wrong! Each of us possesses a GPS, a compass or conscience programmed by our parents, teachers, coaches, clergy, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, peers.

Sophocles, “there is no witness so terrible or no accuser so powerful as the conscience”.

Whether exaggerating resumes or revenues – it is unethical.

If we must check to see whether our activity is wrong, it probably is.

I’m reminded of my favourite Yiddish proverb, “A half truth is a whole lie”

Everyday our eulogies are being written.

Jon Huntsman, self made billionaire says, “There is no such thing as the Midas touch. The realities of this world are hard work, preparation, negotiation, determination, honesty, and charity. The workplace should be an extension of family, a place where an appreciation for decency, respect and basic values are encouraged and examples of proper moral behaviour are the rule.” He goes on to say that we need to reaffirm values that help us determine what is right and wrong – he uses the word reaffirm because we were taught the difference between right and wrong as children and we need to remember the unwritten laws of the playground that spoke to basic fairness, decency and integrity – and that we told on the bullies  – just because we have left the playground and entered the workplace doesn’t mean we forget the rules! Those workplace bullies need to be brought in line – even if it is whistle blowing. Huntsman goes on to offer four simple suggestions in order to reawaken value-based behaviour:

  1. Question when you engage with others: Is this right? Would I like to be treated this way?
  2. Take your values to work. Don’t disconnect from them when you get to your desk.
  3. Set an example for ethical behaviour
  4. Underpin your life with a string of F words – family, faith, fortitude, fairness, fidelity, friendship and philanthropy (phonetically F)

We are always talking “wellness at work”, and perpetually striving to achieve “wellness” and “balance”, and yet there is an easy way to stay healthy: physician Dr John Holmes says, “No exercise is better for the human heart than reaching down and lifting another up”. My sentiment exactly; that we need to mentor others and be mentored…..

Knowing what behaviour is proper and what is not is the simple part – living those principles requires commitment, integrity, wisdom and courage.

My motto for life is adopted from a quote by Mother Theresa: “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.  Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”