Worth getting emotional about leadership

  • Date:01 Jul 2005
  • Type:CompanyDirectorMagazine
Tony Travaglione believes the recruitment and selection processes of many organisations are inherently flawed. He tells Fiona Stewart they should focus more heavily on variables such as aptitude and emotional intelligence.

Worth getting emotional about leadership 

Tony Travaglione believes the recruitment and selection processes of many organisations are inherently flawed. He tells Fiona Stewart they should focus more heavily on variables such as aptitude and emotional intelligence.

Debate is sweeping the corporate world on the nature of leadership and the qualities needed to best engender trust in an increasingly volatile business climate.

How leaders facilitate change - how they create, communicate and model their vision, and at the same time inspire employees to be part of that vision - is being seen as key to "transformational leadership", the type of successful leadership required in modern business.

Tony Travaglione, professor of management in the Asia Pacific Graduate School of Management at Charles Sturt University, believes emotional intelligence is a key factor in providing effective management.

Transformational management bases much of its thinking on emotional intelligence, or EI, a learning theory that can be defined as the ability to perceive, understand and manage one's emotions and the emotions of others.

Professor Travaglione believes there are strong arguments for a positive link between a leader's emotional intelligence and the quality of his or her transformational leadership.

Business has long accepted that leadership had to move from an autocratic style in the 1950s and 60s. This led to a more encouraging participatory style in the 70s and 80s, referred to as transactional leadership, which focused on the accomplishment of tasks and good worker relationships in exchange for desirable rewards. However, by the 1990s, the development of transformational theory gained ground.

"If leadership is transformational, its charisma or idealised influence sets high standards for emulation. Its inspirational motivation provides followers with challenges and meaning for engaging in shared goals and activities," says Travaglione.

"Studies show that emotional management may underlie the ability of a leader to be inspirationally motivating and intellectually stimulating.

"Leadership is now all about achieving a common outcome for the organisation, the leader and all employees within an organisation. To fully appreciate the common outcome that everyone is striving for, leaders need to be able to have both self awareness and have a understanding of the values and emotions of their employees.

"This is where the role of emotional intelligence is critical and organisations now have to recruit and develop emotionally intelligent leaders," he says.

"In an increasingly competitive candidate market, and with skills shortages across every sector of the Australian economy, organisations are desperately seeking new and innovative methods to attract and retain talented emotionally intelligent leaders.

"These are the individuals who can add value to the organisation, and hopefully remain long enough to grow with it."

However, Travaglione believes finding these leaders is becoming progressively more difficult. With the growing popularity of on-line job advertisements and the drop in the standard amount of time individuals spend in one job, employees are no longer binding themselves loyally to one employer for many years but instead are looking for the next challenge or the better work environment.

"Loyalty is no longer considered a one way street, and when an employee feels that they could be better appreciated elsewhere, they will invariably walk away. The modern dilemma is how to maintain a talented leader in this culture," he says.

He suggests that organisations may do well not to bother with the traditional methods of recruiting by examining an individual's past experience through a torturous process of interviews and reference checks.

"Although the idea may take some time to get used to, they should be focusing more heavily on variables such as aptitude and emotional intelligence (EI) and leave aside actual experience.

Travaglione claims the recruitment and selection processes of many organisations are inherently flawed, if not by the processes themselves, then by either the people running them or the simple fact that recruitment involves dealing with human beings.

He quotes business leader Wesfarmers CEO Michael Chaney, an EI proponent, who has stated that emotional intelligence characteristics such as interpersonal sensitivity, broad-scanning interests, an ability to communicate and conceptual thinking skills are essential to avoid having a tunnel-vision manager.

"Chaney argues that with these skills managers will be able to think out of the box," he says.

"Empathy is a word that is under-rated by boards when appointing senior management," said Travaglione.

"Australian society has become a diversity hotpot where many forms of religion, culture and values are evident in the workplace.

"Boards must now look for the multicultural leader who by using his or her EI is perceptive enough to understand the aspirations of the new Australian

workforce.

"Empathy is one of the critical hallmarks of the emotionally intelligent leader," he adds.

Travaglione has held a number of senior leadership roles including professor and dean of the Adelaide Graduate School of Business and professor and head of the Newcastle Graduate School of Business.

He has been a visiting professor at Stanford University where he taught MBA students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business as well as teaching MBA programs in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Having obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree in organisational behaviour from the University of Western Australia, Travaglione has consulted to a wide range of organisations including publicly-listed companies and government departments.

His most recent book, Organisational Behaviour on the Pacific Rim, co-authored with Professor Steve McShane from UWA, has become the standard text in organisational behaviour courses at over 20 universities within the Pacific Rim.

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