Diliana: I was impressed by the fact that you were teaching emotional intelligence to your clients in the UK ten years before Goleman published the book “Emotional Intelligence” and you were quoted several times by Goleman in his second book. What is the profile of the leaders you were teaching so long before the topic became popular in leadership?

Michael: Well in those days, as there was no such thing as ‘Emotional Intelligence’ there was no training, courses or certifications in EI. I was simply helping corporate leaders, supervisors, and managers in companies like Lufthansa and Swissair to understand the difference between ‘responding’ and ‘reacting’ and what to do, using practical, communication mechanics, when you are consumed by your own reactivity and likely to create a negative result. I used a simple yet powerful communication model called the ‘Inform, Invite, Listen Cycle’ which got at the heart and core of Emotional Intelligence before the phrase was a commonly known concept.

Diliana: EI entered the public spotlight a few years ago but very quickly became a high priority across the modern economy. Why is it so?

Michael: Because I think the majority of people instinctively knew that something was missing from the traditional recipe for leadership success in the corporate world. IQ was about having a clever mind that could analyze, strategize and make good decisions and so on. The ‘new’ concept of Emotional Intelligence shone a light on the importance of making people feel good and how that translated into success in business. People knew from their own experience that emotions and feelings and how they are managed them was an essential part of the success equation and Dan Goleman’s work gave permission and justification to apply this ‘new’ yet old as the hills, wisdom.

Diliana: This wisdom would help solve another big problem.  News of challenging and even toxic corporate cultures has become painfully common. Lack of trust is a big issue, and not a “soft stuff” as trust directly impacts the bottom line. So, authenticity is a badly, I’d even say urgently, needed EI competency. We don’t build trust by talking but by behaving in trustworthy ways. Tell us more about authenticity, please.

Michael: People’s authentic behavior and values are compromised and perverted by fear. In the corporate world, as in the world in general, people tend to allow their desire for survival, approval and acceptance to prevent them from being fully honest and truthful for fear of being disliked, marked down or even fired. It takes courage to be sincere and genuine. When someone’s behavior is inauthentic others smell it, sense it and do not trust that person. An authentic leader is someone who inspires trust and encourages teamwork, collaboration, employee engagement, commitment and loyalty by embodying their own values impeccably, visibly and consistently.

Diliana: Effective communication is among a leader’s most important tools. Authenticity, credibility, connection always works. Is it harder to be an effective communicator in our (post) Covid word? Did we or did we not become more authentic? More skillful?

Michael: The ‘new’ post-pandemic hybrid world, in which it is much harder to communicate and build relationships virtually, has put a much greater premium on skillfully authentic leadership. This is because when people in teams and communities are suffering or feeling alone they are looking for their leaders to show the way by being vulnerable, trustworthy, approachable, kind and supportive.

Diliana: Some leaders try to repress their emotions with the hypothesis that this will enhance their leadership and they would appear stronger, but this only confuses people and undermines morale. Experiments show that when someone tries not to let other people see what they are feeling. people tend to experience a threat response.

Michael: When someone is authentic they inspire people to follow, collaborate and engage with them fully. Authenticity in leadership creates an environment that encourages people to take risks, speak out and be themselves. There is a huge feeling of freedom and release in being yourself. Which in turns adds to peoples’ well being by minimizing stress and fear. In my workshop I teach people how to be good at embodying this new model of leadership.

Diliana: Skillful is a keyword in the title of your workshop as many people truly want to be authentic but are not sure how. For example, often people do not want to tell lies but at the same time can not or think they can not talk straight, and thus they fall into the trap of counterfeit behaviors like spinning, withholding information or “corporate speak”. Another common case is when someone gets highly emotional but decides not to express emotions for the sake of “good relationship” but ironically only harms the relationship by doing so.

Michael: You’re absolutely right in all you say Dilly. As I said in my response to your previous question, fear can often lead to aberrated and inauthentic behavior. There’s also a common myth that someone who is authentic freely expresses themselves regardless of the circumstances. This can often lead to disaster, especially in the corporate setting! Skillful Authenticity is about employing all the EI competencies such as self-awareness, awareness of others, social intelligence and managing one’s own feelings and emotions in service of responsibly creating win-win results while maintaining one’s authentic and true self. It boils down to knowing what your truth is, being self-aware, honest and sincere with yourself first, and then choosing to communicate in a constructive manner towards others. There are practical steps you can take to develop this skill. We will discuss what these steps are in the workshop. There’s a real skill in telling the truth without hurting or disrespecting others. And this usually leads to everyone winning.

Diliana: The skill for everyone’s winning is the core of leadership. Thank you very much indeed for your contribution to Leadership Accelerator. You are so passionate about skillful authenticity. You will inspire more leaders, and I am looking forward to seeing you in Sofia.

Michael: My whole life has been a journey towards self-realization and full authenticity. In the process I have discovered a few secrets to achieving the freedom, peace and success that comes from being authentic and I’ve applied those secrets very effectively to my business career as well as personal relationships. In this workshop I will share what I’ve learned so that you can further enjoy your own journey to full authenticity.

Michael Banks will present the keynote in the first part and will facilitate the workshop “Skillful Authenticity” in the second part of Leadership accelerator “Emotional Intelligence – Imperative in Business and Leadership” on September 16th 2021.

Links: About the event, Registration

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