Leadership is in the spotlight. Everywhere one turns leadership is discussed, analyzed, judged, vilified, admired, and dissected. Schools teach it. Organizations develop it. Employees fear it. Ambitious copy it. Cowards shun it. The insecure resist it. The cynics mock it. The weak yearn it.We label it but can’t define it. Look for it, but can’t see it. Leadership is at once simple, complex, seductive and disappointing. It’s the temptress that vanishes in thin air when the beguiled get too close.
To add to this complexity is the vast gamut of human emotions. It’s those multiple feelings that claw over one another into a huge knot of undifferentiated madness, badness, sadness and gladness. Daniel Goleman, thought he had the subject of emotions nailed down pat when he coined, “Emotional Intelligence”. To pre-empt accusations of half-baked hypothesis he completed the discussion with a nifty piece of intellectual integration that he called one’s emotional quotient - the sum of all abilities to understand one-self, to manage one-self, to understand others and to manage others. How complete is that? Very clever, Mr. Goleman!
There is one problem. Since, the introduction of EQ, the world has gone totally berserk, bonkers, bananas, nuts.Wars, divorces, firings, layoffs, financial scandals, bankruptcies, political deadlocks, all point to failure in leadership and a failing grade in EQ. And I just love failure. Failure is a great teacher. I learn from failure. In fact, I have failed so much that sometimes I wonder what else I can learn from it. That’s till the next failure comes about.
So here is what I have learnt about leadership & EQ, which is the basis of Octara’s upcoming workshop “Mastering Emotions for Leaders”. Anger is an indulgence arising from arrogance & pride; Impatience results from lack of faith & trust; Fear consumes us because we are pretenders and not authentic; Comfort attracts us because we are addicted to certain chemicals in our brain such as serotonin etc; Depression afflicts us when we play the cry baby who does not get what it wants; Envy consumes us because we live in an egocentric bubble.
Let’s discuss the case of Abdul Hafeez Balouch. Hafeez is a cancer survivor. Just this morning on April 24, 2012 the panel of doctors treating him announced his treatment over. He is cured! I first met Hafeez 22 years ago. He came with a group of young recruits from Lyari. This bunch of roughly two dozen was largely uneducated, unemployable,undernourished, unloved, and unnoticed. Their hair was thick, curly and wild. Their skin thick and dark with years exposed to sand, sun and wind belying their young ages. If one saw them on the road, they would be considered urchins at best and budding criminals at worst. I instantly fell in love with the whole bunch, the entire smack. I loved their ease, informality, laughter, camaraderie, optimism. Most of them played soccer for small clubs in Lyari slums. They had spirit, stamina, vigor and now for once, the hope of earning a decent living. Hafeez was undifferentiated in the pack. He was a quiet worker who showed up on time, completed all tasks and happily went home. Most of these guys had the same quality. I wondered if they had the same mother. Yes, most were related to each other. I knew if I had a problem with one, I would have a problem with all. The opposite happened. If anyone slacked off, the others would jump in and counsel the errant one. Sometimes they did so harshly. I would jump in and remind them that teams that self – manage do so with 100% buy-in and to get such a buy–in we would need 100% respect and zero tolerance with overbearing behavior. In fact I had only two rules. No disrespect and no lies! I would tolerate everything but disrespect and lying.
The work this team did was hard and physically demanding. They worked under timed conditions and under the very quality conscious client – Pak Suzuki Motor Company (PSMC). In time, these guys impressed PSMC so much so that their management promoted us to other automotive OEMs who wanted to combat corrosion in their vehicles. Our business grew. We did projects across Pakistan and even in Dubai.The team expanded and contracted. Some left for Bahrain, Muscat or Dubai. Others joined in. Hafeez ploughed on. Never complaining, never arguing, always smiling, always grateful, always happy. I started taking a special interest in him. I wanted to know the secret of his happiness, his contentment. During off times, I would talk to him or rather interview him. I knew he had some special qualities; that he possessed some secret. He kept cool, he never gossiped nor criticized. He would present his idea and sometimes disagree but always kept his composure & his smile. Where I found others, rich or poor alike, get infuriated and take rash decisions, Hafeez would always disconnect from the pressure of the moment and calmly work the problem. His constancy of purpose and consistency of behavior baffled me. I took inspiration from him. I started to learn life’s real lessons. This poor, semi – literate man from the slums of Lyari was slowly becoming my teacher. I learnt that my anger arose from my arrogance. I learnt my impatience was rooted in a lack of trust that my needs will always get met. I learnt my ego was fed or starved by others behavior rather than by my accomplishments. I learnt the secret that happiness is linked with authenticity. I learnt that if I can live peacefully in my skin, I will be happier doing whatever I do. Overtime, Hafeez became a part of our family. We trusted him completely. Yet, I still could not understand what made him so remarkable. He unassumingly led his teams without fanfare or display of authority. He had a remarkable ability to get the job done, to lead teams and to connect with each individual. How did he do this?
GOLEMAN WOULD BE DUMFOUNDED!
Goleman’s theory and resulting conclusions were, as were the conclusions of other students of human behavior, the result of many experiments done under lab conditions. The volunteers were usually American college students trying to earn extra credit or extra money. They were by and large steeped in Western, middle – class values. Their world view and frame of reference of life stemmed from a unique, yet narrow perspective that germinates from the American way of life”. Hafeez and his band of brothers with their coastal Balouch tribal values, faith in God, and distinctly Pakistani brand of corrosive poverty, were able to manage their emotions and launch a counter attack on the forces that were so decidedly against them attaining happiness. Goleman would be dumfounded at their resilience. He would also be ecstatic. This ability to remove self–doubt, to trust God, to have faith in faith, led Hafeez to face his biggest test - Cancer. When I first learnt that he was diagnosed, my reaction was that he’s a goner. Yet every time I poke to him during his long, painful treatment of chemo and radiation he was upbeat, happy and grateful. Never once did he say that he was suffering or that he was unfortunate. He left his fate and that of his young children to the goodness and mercy that resides in God. I asked him if he got scared or depressed. He fought back tears and said he was grateful for all he had and for the wonderful life God gave him. I sat in awe. I was sure that in Hafeez, I saw true emotional intelligence.
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