As I mentioned in my post on Wednesday, one of the gifts President Obama brings to the White House is that he’s a highly visible, emotionally intelligent leader.
As Andrew Sullivan wrote in a blog for the Atlantic Monthly in January, 2009:
He doesn’t charm like Clinton did and Bush tried to. Unlike both men, but especially Clinton, he appears to have no need to be loved by everyone in the room. He often finds it hard to disguise how tired he feels. He is capable of evoking enormous inspiration, but he has yet to be able to hide it when he is bored. There is a wryness to his conversation and a dryness to his humor, both of which are sustained by an intellect of power. The revered liberal jurist Larry Tribe has said that in decades of teaching at Harvard Law School, he has never had a cleverer student than Obama. I don’t think he’s exaggerating. Intellectually, Obama is in Bill Clinton’s league. But what he has over Clinton is emotional intelligence to buttress his grasp of policy.
What he gets, what he seems to intuit, is how to make others feel as if they are being heard. This is simple enough in theory but hard to pull off consistently in practice. His model is to figure out what another person needs and, if it helps Obama to get what he wants, to provide it.
Even if you’re not the president of the United States — or president of your own company — knowing how emotionally intelligent leaders lead is important. That’s because few of us are taught as children to be aware of our own feelings, sensitive to the feelings of others, and able to skillfully manage both.
Some of us were raised so differently, in fact, it’s hard to imagine what emotional intelligence looks or feels like.
In that vein, I’d like to recommend Daniel Goleman’s book Primal Leadership, which describes the six emotionally intelligent leadership styles: visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting commanding. Good leaders, Goleman and his co-authors claim, are able to switch among these styles as warranted.
You might also look at the table in this white paper by Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of several books on emotional intelligence. The paper is actually part of a pitch for his new book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, but I thought his introduction on emotionally intelligent leadership was good, as was the table.
I don’t know where or how President Obama developed his leadership style or his emotional intelligence. But he’s a good one to watch to learn how it works in action, too.