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Respond to at least (2) two of your colleagues’ postings “see attachment” for instructions and colleagues responses.

Respond to at least (2) two of your colleagues’ postings “see below” that contain a perspective other than yours. Please ensure your response to your colleagues addresses concerns listed below:

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· Share an insight about what you learned from having read your colleagues’ postings and discuss how and why your colleague’s posting resonated with you professionally and personally.

· Offer an example from your experience or observation that validates what your colleague discussed.

· Offer specific suggestions that will help your colleague build upon his or her perceptions as a leader.

· Offer further assessment from having read your colleague’s post that could impact a leader’s effectiveness.

· Share how something your colleague discussed changed the way you consider your own leadership qualities.

· No plagiarism

· APA citing

1st Colleague – Ryan Sharratt 

RE: Discussion 1 – Week 7

Top of Form

     Badaracco (1998) states that an ethical decision typically involves choosing between two options: one we know to be correct and another we know to be wrong. However, a defining moment challenges us more profoundly by asking us to choose between two or more ideals in which we deeply believe (Badaracco, 1998 p.3). Last week, I faced this scenario when attempting to hire someone convicted of a felony involving embezzlement from a previous employer over 14-years ago.

     I have always held a close idealism that reform is possible. I have felt that people make choices, and when they are wrong, they can build themselves back from a poor choice. If that choice results in jail time, that is a mechanism for rehabilitation that society has decided should work. If that choice results in any learning moment outside of jail, people should learn from it and not make the same mistakes again. Life can be complicated, confusing, and a unique event for each person, but learning should transpire from every action we do.

In this scenario, the applicant stated she misread the job application for criminal history over the last seven years and bypassed the question of “have you ever been convicted of a felony.” During a background review, a felony involving financial crimes was found. This caught me off guard because of countless times spent on the phone ensuring a cultural fit for this accounting position and never mentioning the criminal background.

     My conflict was the virtue of forgiving for a crime, yet knowing that an omission on an application was an issue. I decided I would ask my office staff to help me decide. This decision led to a very decent exchange between several office members and me. The result was one of the office members wanted to be hired for the position, which I was elated at the opportunity to promote from within. The offer was rescinded to the applicant and offered to the internal applicant fostering the progressive environment I have been trying to cultivate for the last three years.

During this event, I was able to identify who I was: A leader looking at a dynamic team to solve a problem using a diverse approach to staff input. This contributed to finding out more about the team’s point of view and defining who we are. Finally, I was able to identify who we are as a company: A leader in fostering fair, ethical and transparent hiring practices to ensure a socio-environment cultural fit.

By having a group conversation and not just deciding on my own, I could showcase my character as a value-driven leader who makes calculated decisions on complex issues. I gained the respect of the staff, showing that my actions speak louder than my words.


Badaracco, J. L. Jr. (1998, March-April). The discipline of building character. Harvard Business Review, 76(2), 115–124Bottom of Form

Bottom of Form

Natasha Mills 

RE: Discussion 1 – Week 7

Top of Form

Difference between a Tough Ethical Decision and a Defining Moment

Badaracco (1998) defines a tough ethical decision as a choice between right and wrong. This is the most widely known form of ethical decision-making, where people consider those who choose the right to be ethical, while those who go for the wrong option are viewed or labeled as unethical. A defining moment, on the other hand, presents decision-making that involves choosing between two options that are both right or ideal. In other words, defining moments rarely have a correct choice, thereby making it more sophisticated than the process of making a tough ethical decision.

In many cases, defining moments often require one to critically examine his/her values and rely on the deepest of them to choose between the two ideal options. One of the examples that Badaracco (1998) provides to help define a defining moment is that of a parent who has to choose between going to the daughter’s piano recital or going to the office because the company’s biggest client is scheduled to visit. This example shows how challenging defining moments are, as compared to tough ethical decision-making moments.

How My Character was Demonstrated during a Right vs. Right Experience

A company I once worked for had a vacant managerial position that they wanted to fill after the manager who was holding that position retired. The company considered two candidates as more eligible for the position. However, the eligibility of the candidates was weighed using different scales that were both logical. The first candidate had all the necessary qualifications and experience, making him ideal for the position. On the other hand, the second candidate had the necessary qualifications but came short on the experience part. Nonetheless, since the company was looking to fulfill its diversity and inclusivity goals in its leadership spectrum, the second candidate became as eligible as the first since she was a racial minority and a woman.

The situation created a dilemma, prompting one of the executives responsible for the selection process to privately seek the input of a few followers selected randomly. This approach was part of the larger strategy the company had adopted to help it develop leadership skills among employees at all levels. I happened to be among those selected, and my input turned into a defining moment when I was asked about who I would choose and why I told the executive that the candidate that had all the qualifications and experience deserved the position.

However, this meant that the company would fail to meet the diversity and inclusivity threshold in its leadership. With regard to this, I told the executive that inclusivity and diversity achieved through merit was more effective than that which is achieved through the handing out of positions. Therefore, it was better for the company to create an environment that offered an equal opportunity for everyone to acquire that merit and qualify for the top positions. Even without mentioning the outcome of the process, this was a defining moment for me because I consulted some of my deeply rooted values in making this decision and settled on the option that best agreed with those values.

The defining moment shaped my ethical leadership values and core principles by enlightening me that one needs to have values and core principles in order to be effective in such decisions. Defining moments are likely to emerge from those values and principles because they make the process of choosing right versus right less complicated than it could be (Christensen & Boneck, 2010). In other words, the defining moment shaped my ethical leadership values and core principles by showing me that addressing such situations always begins with individual values.

How Badaracco Adocates Leaders should Move Through How to be Ethical

When right vs right decisions are necessary, Badaracco (1998) suggests that leaders should be able to balance their idealism with the messy reality of their jobs. This means asking the question who am I for individual defining moments, who are we for workgroup defining moments, and who is the company for executive defining moments. Therefore, the defining moment will depend on the position of the individual in the company. However, it is also possible to rely on Badaracco’s who am I question alone to show how leaders can move through the process of examining how to be ethical rather than just being ethical. This approach suggests that leaders ought to examine the conflicting feelings and look at the conflict more as a natural tension between two perspectives that are valid than looking at it as a problem. After that, leaders should examine their deeply rooted values then incorporate shrewdness and expediency into the process.

Badaracco, J. L., Jr. (1998, March-April). The discipline of building character. Harvard Business Review, 76(2), 115–124.

Christensen, D. S., & Boneck, R. (2010). Four questions for analyzing the right-versus-right dilemmas of managers. Journal of Business Case Studies (JBCS)6(3).

Bottom of Form


The Discipline of Building Character

by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.

Included with this full-text

Harvard Business Review


The Idea in Brief—the core idea

The Idea in Practice—putting the idea to work


Article Summary


The Discipline of Building Character

A list of related materials, with annotations to guide further

exploration of the article’s ideas and applications


Further Reading

Character is forged at those

defining moments when a

manager must choose

between right and right.

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The Discipline of Building Character

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The Idea in Brief The Idea in Practice





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We’ve all experienced times when our pro- fessional responsibilities conflict with our values: A budget crisis forces us to dismiss a valued employee, for example. Or, a new MBA must choose between playing the role of a token minority or


a cov- eted spot on a consulting team.

During these

defining moments

, we must choose between right and—right. Unlike other ethical decisions, where the options are clearly right and wrong, defining mo- ments ask us to choose between two ide- als. They force us to balance our idealism with the messy reality of our jobs. They de- termine whether we’ll uphold our values— or merely pay them lip service.

Resolving defining moments requires skills not listed on most job descriptions—prob- ing self-inquiry, in particular. These skills en- able us to craft an authentic identity based on our own, rather than others’, under- standing of what’s right. Managers who brave the process renew their sense of pur- pose—and transform their values into shrewd, politically astute action.

The workplace presents three increasingly complex types of defining moments—for in- dividuals, managers, and executives. For each type, probing questions can clarify core val- ues, helping us decide what to do.

1. W HO AM I?

Defining Moments for Individuals

This type of defining moment asks us to clarify our personal identity while grappling with two equally valid perspectives. Questions include:

What feelings and intuitions are conflicting?


When Steve Lewis, an African-American, re- alized his boss wanted him to attend a company presentation as “a token black,” two of his values clashed: He wanted to


his professional advancement but


wanted to “be a team player.”

Which conflicting values mean the


to me?


Remembering his parents’ dignified, effec- tive response to prejudice, Lewis felt deeply moved. He decided his race was a more vital part of his moral identity than his pro- fessional role.

How will I


my personal understand- ing of what is right?


Lewis decided to attend the presentation— but as a participant rather than a “show- piece.” He successfully delivered part of the presentation, demonstrating he was a team player


would not be treated as a token. His ethically informed decision also ad- vanced his career.


Defining Moments for Work Groups

As managers advance in an organization, their defining moments grow more complex. In ad- dition to their own beliefs, managers must

consider their work group’s values. Questions include:



strong, persuasive interpretations of the situation’s ethics exist, besides mine?

This question prevents you from imposing your understanding of what is right.


Peter Adario’s new account manager, Kath- ryn McNeil, was highly qualified and com- petent. But as a single mother, she was also struggling to keep up with her work. Her supervisor, Lisa Walters (who reported to Adario), complained. The situation pitted Adario’s belief in work/family balance against his duty to the department’s bot- tom line. But before he could act, Walters went over his head to fire McNeil. If Adario had realized earlier that he and Walters saw McNeil’s situation through different lenses, he might have prevented the firing.

What point of view is


likely to win the con- test of interpretations and influence others?

Based on company culture and goals, group norms, and political jockeying, whose point of view would prevail in




By asking this question, Adario might have seen the McNeil issue within a larger work/ family context. During these fast-paced, de- manding times, employees with children struggled to keep up. Those without family demands resented working longer hours to compensate.


viewpoint would likely prevail.

What can I do to help my interpretation win?

This question enables you to plan for the reso- lution of defining moments


they arise.


Instead of waiting for the work/family issue to catch him and his group by surprise, Adario could have anticipated the problem and defined an organizational culture that

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page 2

The Idea in Practice


The Discipline of Building Character

valued both family


work. But Walters preempted him and filled the vacuum his inaction had created.


Defining Moments for Executives

Executives running companies face even more complex defining moments that test them, their work groups,


their entire firm. They must choose actions that protect


stakeholders’ interests.

Have I done all I can to secure my position and the strength and stability of my organization?


In deciding whether to market RU-486, the “French abortion pill,” Roussel Uclaf CEO Eduoard Sakiz faced a defining moment. An- tiabortion groups, pro-choice groups, share- holders, and France’s government (part owner of the company) were all fomenting international controversy over the drug. Though Sakiz believed in making abortion safer, he also had a responsibility to protect employees’ jobs and security. He knew he’d need to secure his own position in the firm in order to bring RU-486 to market.

Have I thought creatively and boldly about my organization’s role in society and its relationship to shareholders?


Sakiz decided to define RU-486’s role in a daring way: supporting a core group of stakeholders (women seeking non-surgical abortions, and their physicians) through as- tute political activism. This path resonated with his own core values and the desires of the majority of employees and stakehold- ers. Sakiz needed to find a way to introduce the drug to the market. But how?

What combination of shrewdness, creativity, and tenacity will make my vision a reality?

Carefully assess your opponents and allies, ask- ing “Should I play the lion (coming out roaring) or the fox (taking an indirect approach)?”


Deciding to play the fox, Sakiz announced that Roussel Uclaf would suspend distribu- tion of RU-486. When women’s groups, fam- ily-planning advocates, and physicians ex- pressed outrage—and the French government threatened to transfer the RU- 486 patent to another company—Sakiz re- versed his decision.

By calling out to his allies indirectly, Sakiz sparked a series of events that helped achieve his ends—without appearing to lead the way himself. Results? He secured his future in the company; protected em- ployees and the bottom line by deflecting the controversy away from the company; and established Roussel Uclaf as a techno- logical and social leader.

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The Discipline of Building Character

by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.

harvard business review • march–april 1998 page 3





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Character is forged at those defining moments when a manager must

choose between right and right.

We have all experienced, at one time or an- other, situations in which our professional re- sponsibilities unexpectedly come into conflict with our deepest values. A budget crisis forces us to dismiss a loyal, hardworking employee. Our daughter has a piano recital on the same afternoon that our biggest client is scheduled to visit our office. At these times, we are caught in a conflict between right and right. And no matter which option we choose, we feel like we’ve come up short.

Managers respond to these situations in a variety of ways: some impulsively “go with their gut”; others talk it over with their friends, colleagues, or families; still others think back to what a mentor would do in similar circum- stances. In every case, regardless of what path is chosen, these decisions taken cumulatively over many years form the very basis of an indi- vidual’s character. For that reason, I call them

defining moments

. What is the difference between a tough eth-

ical decision and a defining moment? An ethi- cal decision typically involves choosing be-

tween two options: one we know to be right and another we know to be wrong. A defining moment, however, challenges us in a deeper way by asking us to choose between two or more ideals in which we deeply believe. Such challenges rarely have a “correct” response. Rather, they are situations created by circum- stance that ask us to step forward and, in the words of the American philosopher John Dewey, “form, reveal, and test” ourselves. We form our character in defining moments be- cause we commit to irreversible courses of ac- tion that shape our personal and professional identities. We reveal something new about us to ourselves and others because defining mo- ments uncover something that had been hid- den or crystallize something that had been only partially known. And we test ourselves because we discover whether we will live up to our personal ideals or only pay them lip service.

As I have interviewed and studied business leaders, I have found that the ones who are most satisfied with the way they resolve their

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The Discipline of Building Character

harvard business review • march–april 1998 page 4

Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.

is the John Shad Professor of Business Ethics at the Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts. This article is based on his most recent book,

Defining Mo- ments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right,

published by the Harvard Business School Press in 1997.

defining moments possess skills that are left off most job descriptions. Specifically, they are able to take time out from the chain of mana- gerial tasks that consumes their time and un- dertake a process of probing self-inquiry—a process that is more often carried out on the run rather than in quiet seclusion. They are able to dig below the busy surface of their daily lives and refocus on their core values and prin- ciples. Once uncovered, those values and prin- ciples renew their sense of purpose at work and act as a springboard for shrewd, prag- matic, politically astute action. By repeating this process again and again throughout their work lives, these executives are able to craft an authentic and strong identity based on their own, rather than on someone else’s, under- standing of what is right. And in this way, they begin to make the transition from being a manager to becoming a leader.

But how can an executive trained in the practical, extroverted art of management learn to engage in such an intuitive, personal process of introspection? In this article, I will describe a series of down-to-earth questions that will help managers take time out from the hustle and bustle of the workplace. These practical, thought-provoking questions are designed to transform values and beliefs into calculated ac- tion. They have been drawn from well-known classic and contemporary philosophers but re- main profound and flexible enough to embrace a wide range of contemporary right-versus- right decisions. By taking time out to engage in this process of self-inquiry, managers will by no means be conducting a fruitless exercise in es- capism; rather, they will be getting a better handle on their most elusive, challenging, and essential business problems.

In today’s workplace, three kinds of defining moments are particularly common. The first type is largely an issue of personal identity. It raises the question, Who am I? The second type is organizational as well as personal: both the character of groups within an organization and the character of an individual manager are at stake. It raises the question, Who are we? The third type of defining moment is the most complex and involves defining a company’s role in society. It raises the question, Who is the company? By learning to identify each of these three defining moments, managers will learn to navigate right-versus-right decisions with grace and strength.

Who am I? Defining Moments for Individuals

The most basic type of defining moment de- mands that managers resolve an urgent issue of personal identity that has serious implica- tions for their careers. Two “rights” present themselves, each one representing a plausible and usually attractive life choice. And therein lies the problem: there is no one right answer; right is set against right.

Conflicting Feelings.

When caught in this bind, managers can begin by taking a step back and looking at the conflict not as a prob- lem but as a natural tension between two valid perspectives. To flesh out this tension, we can ask,

What feelings and intuitions are coming into conflict in this situation?

As Aristotle discussed in his classic work


people’s feelings can actually help them make sense of an issue, un- derstand its basic dimensions, and indicate what the stakes really are. In other words, our feelings and intuitions are both a form of intel- ligence and a source of insight.

Consider, for example, the case of a young analyst—we will call him Steve Lewis—who worked for a well-known investment bank in Manhattan.


Early one morning, Lewis, an African-American, found a message on his desk asking if he could fly to St. Louis in two days to help with a presentation to an impor- tant prospective client. The message came as a surprise to him. Lewis’s company had a clear policy against including analysts in pre- sentations or client meetings. Lewis, in fact, knew little about the subject of the St. Louis meeting, which concerned a specialized area of municipal finance. He was especially sur- prised to learn that he had been selected over more senior people in the public finance group.

Lewis immediately walked down the hall into the office of his friend and mentor, also an African-American, and asked him if he knew about the situation. His friend, a partner at the company, replied, “Let me tell you what’s hap- pening, Steve. Look at you and me. What do we have in common? Did you know that the new state treasurer of Missouri is also black? I hate for you to be introduced to this side of the business so soon, but the state treasurer wants to see at least one black professional at the meeting or else the company has no chance of being named a manager for this deal.”

What if at this point Lewis were to step back

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The Discipline of Building Character

harvard business review • march–april 1998 page 5

and reframe the situation in terms of his feel- ings and intuitions? On the one hand, Lewis believed firmly that in order to maintain his self-respect, he had to earn his advancement at the company—and elsewhere in life. He was not satisfied to move up the ladder of success based on affirmative action programs or being a “token” member of the company. For that reason, he had always wanted to demonstrate through his work that he deserved his position. On the other hand, as a former athlete, Lewis had always prided himself on being a team player and did not believe in letting his team- mates down. By examining his feelings and in- tuitions about the situation, Lewis learned that the issue at hand was more complex than whether or not to go to the presentation. It in- volved a conflict between two of his most deeply held beliefs.

Deeply Rooted Values.

By framing defining moments in terms of our feelings and intui- tions, we can remove the conflict from its busi- ness context and bring it to a more personal, and manageable, level. Then we can consider a second question to help resolve the conflict:

Which of the responsibilities and values that are in conflict are most deeply rooted in my life and in the communities I care about?

Tracing the roots of our values means understanding their ori- gins and evolution over time. It involves an ef- fort to understand which values and commit- ments really mean the most to us.

Let’s apply that approach to the case of Steve Lewis. On the one hand, he had no doubt that he wanted to become a partner at a major investment bank and that he wanted to earn that position based on merit. Since his sopho- more year of college, Lewis had been drawn to the idea of a career on Wall Street, and he had worked hard and purposefully to make that idea a reality. When he accepted his current job, he had finally set foot on the path he had dreamed of, and neither the long hours nor the detailed “grunt” work that was the lot of first- year analysts gave him misgivings about his choice. He believed he was pursuing his own values by seeking a successful career at a Wall Street investment bank. It was the kind of life he wanted to live and the kind of work he en- joyed doing.

On the other hand, when Lewis considered his African-American background, he thought about what his parents had taught him. One episode from the early 1960s stood out in par-

ticular. His parents made a reservation at a res- taurant that reputedly did not serve blacks. When they arrived, the hostess told them there had been a mistake. The reservation was lost, and they could not be seated. The restaurant was half empty. Lewis’s parents turned around and left. When they got home, his mother made a new reservation under her maiden name. (His father had been a popular local athlete, whose name was widely recognized.) The restaurant suspected nothing. When they returned an hour later, the hostess, though hardly overjoyed, proceeded to seat them.

Lewis was still moved by the memory of what his parents had done, even as he sat in his office on Wall Street many years later. With his parents’ example in mind, Lewis could begin to sense what seemed to be the best answer to his present dilemma. He would look at the situation as his parents’ son. He would view it as an African-American, not as just another young investment banker. Lewis decided that he could not go to the meeting as the “token black.” To do so would repudiate his parents’ example. He decided, in effect, that his race was a vital part of his moral identity, one with a deeper and stron- ger relation to his core self than the profes- sional role he had recently assumed.

Shrewdness and Expediency.

Introspection of the kind Steve Lewis engaged in can easily become divorced from real-world demands. We have all seen managers who unthinkingly throw themselves into a deeply felt personal cause and suffer serious personal and career setbacks. As the Renaissance philosopher Nic- colò Machiavelli and other ethical pragmatists remind us, idealism untempered by realism often does little to improve the world. Hence, the next critical question becomes,

What com- bination of shrewdness and expediency, coupled with imagination and boldness, will help me im- plement my personal understanding of what is right?

This is, of course, a different question al- together from What should I do? It acknowl- edges that the business world is a bottom-line, rough-and-tumble arena where introspection alone won’t get the job done. The process of looking inward must culminate in concrete ac- tion characterized by tenacity, persuasiveness, shrewdness, and self-confidence.

How did Lewis combine idealism with real- ism? He decided that he would join the presen- tation team, but he also gambled that he could

To become leaders,

managers need to

translate their personal

values into calculated


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The Discipline of Building Character

harvard business review • march–april 1998 page 6

do so on terms that were at least acceptable to him. He told the partner in charge, Bruce Anderson, that he felt honored to be asked to participate but added that he wanted to play a role in the presentation. He said he was willing to spend every minute of the next 30 hours in preparation. When Anderson asked why, Lewis said only that he wanted to earn his place on the team. Anderson reluctantly agreed. There was, it turned out, a minor element of the pre- sentation that required the application of some basic analytical techniques with which Lewis was familiar. Lewis worked hard on the presen- tation, but when he stood up during the meet- ing for the 12 minutes allotted him, he had a terrible headache and wished he had refused Anderson’s offer. His single day of cramming was no substitute for the weeks his colleagues had invested in the project. Nevertheless, his portion of the presentation went well, and he received praise from his colleagues for the work he had done.

On balance, Lewis had soundly defined the dilemma he faced and had taken an active role in solving it—he did not attend the meeting as a showpiece. At the same time, he may have strengthened his career prospects. He felt he had passed a minor test, a rite of passage at his company, and had demonstrated not only that he was willing to do what it took to get the job done but also that he would not be treated as a token member of the group. The white ana-

lysts and associates who were passed over probably grumbled a bit; but Lewis suspected that, if they had been dealt his hand, they would have played their cards as he did.

Who Are We? Defining Moments for Work Groups

As managers move up in an organization, de- fining moments become more difficult to re- solve. In addition to looking at the situation as a conflict between two personal beliefs, man- agers must add another dimension: the values of their work group and their responsibilities to the people they manage. How, for example, should a manager respond to an employee who repeatedly shows up for work with the smell of alcohol on his breath? How should a manager respond to one employee who has made sexually suggestive remarks to another? In this type of defining moment, the problem and its resolution unfold not only as a per- sonal drama within one’s self but also as a drama among a group of people who work to- gether. The issue becomes public and is impor- tant enough to define a group’s future and shape its values.

Points of View.

Many managers suffer from a kind of ethical myopia, believing that their en- tire group views a situation through the same lens that they do. This way of thinking rarely suc- ceeds in bringing people together to accomplish common goals. Differences in upbringing, reli-

A Guide to Defining Moments

For individuals

Who am I?

1. What feelings and intuitions are coming into conflict in this situation?

2. Which of the values that are in conflict are most deeply rooted in my life?

3. What combination of expedi- ency and shrewdness, coupled with imagination and bold- ness, will help me implement my personal understanding of what is right?

F o r ma n agers of work groups

Who are we?

1. What are the other strong, per- suasive interpretations of the ethics of this situation?

2. What point of view is most likely to win a contest of in- terpretations inside my orga- nization and influence the thinking of other people?

3. Have I orchestrated a process that can make manifest the values I care about in my orga- nization?

F o r c o m pany executives

Who is the company?

1. Have I done all I can to secure my position and the strength of my organization?

2. Have I thought creatively and boldly about my organization’s role in society and its relation- ship to stockholders?

3. What combination of shrewd ness, creativity, and tenacity will help me transform vision into a reality?

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The Discipline of Building Character

harvard business review • march–april 1998 page 7

gion, ethnicity, and education make it difficult for any two people to view a situation simi- larly—let alone an entire group of people. The ethical challenge for a manager is not to impose his or her understanding of what is right on the group but to understand how other members view the dilemma. The manager must ask,

What are the other strong, persuasive interpretations of the ethics of this situation?

A classic example of this kind of problem in- volved a 35-year-old manager, Peter Adario. Adario headed the marketing department of Sayer Microworld, a distributor of computer products. He was married and had three chil- dren. He had spent most of his career as a suc- cessful salesman and branch manager, and he eagerly accepted his present position because of its varied challenges. Three senior managers reporting to Adario supervised the other 50 employees in the marketing department, and Adario in turn reported to one of four vice presidents at corporate headquarters.

Adario had recently hired an account man- ager, Kathryn McNeil, who was a single mother. Although she was highly qualified and competent, McNeil was having a hard time keeping up with her work because of the time she needed to spend with her son. The pace at work was demanding: the company was in the middle of finishing a merger, and 60-hour work weeks had become the norm. McNeil was also having difficulty getting along with her supervisor, Lisa Walters, a midlevel man- ager in the department who reported to Adario. Walters was an ambitious, hard-driving woman who was excelling in Sayer Micro- world’s fast-paced environment. She was irri- tated by McNeil’s chronic lateness and unpre- dictable work schedule. Adario had not paid much attention to Walters’ concerns until the morning he found a handwritten note from her on top of his pile of unfinished paperwork. It was her second note to him in as many weeks. Both notes complained about McNeil’s hours and requested that she be fired.

For Adario, who was himself a father and sympathetic to McNeil’s plight, the situation was clearly a defining moment, pitting his be- lief that his employees needed time with their families against his duty to the department’s bottom line. Adario decided to set up a meet- ing. He was confident that if he sat down with the two women the issue could somehow be resolved. Shortly before the meeting was to be-

gin, however, Adario was stunned to learn that Walters had gone over his head and discussed the issue with one of the company’s senior ex- ecutives. The two then had gone to McNeil’s office and had fired her. A colleague later told him that McNeil had been given four hours to pack her things and leave the premises.

Where Adario saw right versus right, Walters saw right versus wrong. She believed that the basic ethical issue was McNeil’s irre- sponsibility in not pulling her weight and Adario’s lack of action on the issue. McNeil’s customer account was crucial, and it was fall- ing behind schedule during a period of near- crisis at the company. Walters also believed that it was unfair for one member of the badly overburdened team to receive special treat- ment. In retrospect, Adario could see that he and Walters looked at the same facts about McNeil and reached very different conclu- sions. Had he recognized earlier that his view was just one interpretation among many, he might have realized that he was engaged in a difficult contest of interpretations.

Influencing Behavior.

Identifying compet- ing interpretations, of course, is only part of the battle. Managers also need to take a hard look at the organization in which they work and make a realistic assessment of whose in- terpretation will win out in the end. A number of factors can determine which interpretation will prevail: company culture, group norms, corporate goals and company policy, and the inevitable political jockeying and battling in- side organizations. In the words of the Ameri- can philosopher William James, “The final vic- torious way of looking at things will be the most completely impressive to the normal run of minds.” Therefore, managers need to ask themselves,

What point of view is most likely to win the contest of interpretations and influence the thinking and behavior of other people?

Peter Adario would have benefited from mulling over this question. If he had done so, he might have seen the issue in terms of a larger work-family issue within the company. For Adario and McNeil, the demands of work and family meant constant fatigue, a sense of being pulled in a thousand directions, and the frustration of never catching up on all they had to do. To the other employees at Sayer Micro- world, most of whom were young and not yet parents, the work-family conflict meant that they sometimes had to work longer hours be-

To resolve their toughest

business challenges,

executives need to

refocus on their core


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The Discipline of Building Character

harvard business review • march–april 1998 page 8

cause other employees had families to attend to. Given the heavy workloads they were carry- ing, these single employees had little sympathy for Adario’s family-oriented values.

Truth as Process.

Planning ahead is at the heart of managerial work. One needs to learn to spot problems before they blow up into cri- ses. The same is true for defining moments in groups. They should be seen as part of a larger process that, like any other, needs to be man- aged. Effective managers put into place the conditions for the successful resolution of de- fining moments long before those moments actually present themselves. For in the words of William James, “The truth of an idea is not a stagnant property inherent in it. Truth hap- pens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events. Its verity is in fact an event, a pro- cess.” Managers can start creating the condi- tions for a particular interpretation to prevail by asking,

Have I orchestrated a process that can make my interpretation win in my group?

Adario missed subtle signals that a process opposed to his own had been under way for some time. Recall that Walters had sent Adario two notes, each suggesting that Mc- Neil be replaced. What were those notes actu- ally about? Were they tentative announce- ments of Walters’s plans or tests of Adario’s authority? And what did Walters make of Adario’s failure to respond? She apparently interpreted his reaction—or lack thereof—as an indication that he would not stand in the way of firing McNeil. Walters may even have thought that Adario wanted McNeil fired but was unwilling to do it himself. In short, Adario’s defining moment had gone badly be- cause Walters presented a compelling story to the company’s top management; she thereby preempted Adario and filled the vacuum that he had created through his inaction.

Instead of waiting for the issue of work ver- sus family to arise and take the group by sur- prise, Adario could have anticipated the prob- lem and taken a proactive approach to defining a work culture that valued both fam- ily and work. Adario had ample opportunity to prevent the final turn of events from occurring. He could have promoted McNeil to others in- side the company. In particular, he needed to emphasize the skills and experience, especially in account management, that she brought to the company. He also could have created op- portunities for people to get to know McNeil

personally, even to meet her son, so that they would understand and appreciate what she was accomplishing.

Playing to Win.

One of the hallmarks of a defining moment is that there is a lot at stake for all the players in the drama. More often than not, the players will put their own inter- ests first. In this type of business setting, nei- ther the most well-meaning intentions nor the best-designed process will get the job done. Managers must be ready to roll up their sleeves and dive into the organizational fray, putting to use appropriate and effective tactics that will make their vision a reality. They need to reflect on the question,

Am I just playing along or am I playing to win?

At Sayer Microworld, the contest of inter- pretations between Walters and Adario was clearly part of a larger power struggle. If Walters didn’t have her eye on Adario’s job be- fore McNeil was fired, she probably did after- ward: top management seemed to like her take-charge style. Whereas Adario was lobbing underhand softball pitches, Walters was play- ing hardball. At Sayer Microworld, do-the- right-thing idealism without organizational savvy was the sure path to obscurity. Adario’s heart was in the right place when he hired Mc- Neil. He believed she could do the job, he ad- mired her courage, and he wanted to create a workplace in which she could flourish. But his praiseworthy intentions needed to be backed by a knack for maneuvering, shrewdness, and political savvy. Instead, Walters seized the mo- ment. She timed her moves carefully and found a powerful ally in the senior manager who helped her carry out her plan.

Although Adario stumbled, it is worth noting that this defining moment taught him a great deal. In following up on McNeil’s firing, Adario learned through the grapevine that many other employees shared his view of the work-family dilemma, and he began acting with more confi- dence than he had before. He told his boss that he disagreed with the decision to fire McNeil and objected strongly to the way the decision had been made. He then told Walters that her behavior would be noted in the next perfor- mance review he put in her file. Neither Walters nor the vice president said very much in response, and the issue never came up again. Adario had staked his claim, albeit belatedly. He had learned, in the words of Machiavelli, that “a man who has no position in society can-

Self-inquiry must lead to

shrewd, persuasive, and

self-confident action if it

is to be an effective tool.

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The Discipline of Building Character

harvard business review • march–april 1998 page 9

not even get a dog to bark at him.”

Who Is the Company? Defining Moments for Executives

Redefining the direction of one’s own life and the direction of one’s work group requires a thoughtful blend of personal introspection and calculated action. But the men and women charged with running entire companies some- times face an even more complex type of defin- ing moment. They are asked to make manifest their understanding of what is right on a large stage—one that can include labor unions, the media, shareholders, and many other company stakeholders. Consider the complexity of the di- lemma faced by a CEO who has just received a report of package tampering in one of the com- pany’s over-the-counter medications. Or con- sider the position of an executive who needs to formulate a response to reports in the media that women and children are being treated un- fairly in the company’s foreign plant. These types of decisions force top-level managers to commit not just themselves or their work groups but their entire company to an irrevers- ible course of action.

Personal and Organizational Strength.

In the face of such overwhelming decisions, exec- utives typically call meetings, start negotia- tions, and hire consultants and lawyers. Al- though these steps can be helpful, they can prove disappointing unless executives have taken the time, and the necessary steps, to carve out a powerful position for themselves in the debate. From a position of strength, leaders can bring forth their vision of what is right in a situation; from a position of weak- ness, leaders’ actions are hollow and desper- ate. Also, before CEOs can step forth onto soci- ety’s broad stage with a personal vision, they must make sure that their actions will not jeopardize the well-being of their companies, the jobs of employees, and the net income of shareholders. That means asking,

Have I done all I can to secure my position and the strength and stability of my organization?

In 1988, Eduoard Sakiz, CEO of Roussel Uclaf, a French pharmaceutical company, faced a defining moment of this magnitude. Sakiz had to decide whether to market the new drug RU-486, which later came to be known as the French abortion pill. Early tests had shown that the drug was 90% to 95% effec- tive in inducing miscarriages during the first

five weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. As he con- sidered whether to introduce the drug, Sakiz found himself embroiled in a major interna- tional controversy. Antiabortion groups were outraged that the drug was even under consid- eration. Pro-choice groups believed the drug represented a major step forward in the battle to secure a woman’s right to an abortion. Shareholders of Roussel Uclaf’s parent com- pany, Hoechst, were for the most part opposed to RU-486’s introduction because there had been serious threats of a major boycott against Hoechst if the drug were introduced. To the French government, also a part owner of Rous- sel Uclaf, RU-486 meant a step forward in its attempts to cut back on back-alley abortions.

There is little doubt that at one level, the de- cision Sakiz faced was a personal defining mo- ment. He was a physician with a long-standing commitment to RU-486. Earlier in his career while working as a medical researcher, Sakiz had helped develop the chemical compound that the drug was based on. He believed strongly that the drug could help thousands of women, particularly those in poor countries, avoid injury or death from botched abortions. Because he doubted that the drug would make it to market if he were not running the com- pany, Sakiz knew he would have to secure his own position.

At another level, Sakiz had a responsibility to protect the jobs and security of his employ- ees. He understood this to mean taking what- ever steps he could to avoid painful boycotts and the risk of violence against the company. His decision was complicated by the fact that some employees were passionately committed to RU-486, whereas others opposed the drug on ethical grounds or feared that the protests and boycotts would harm Roussel Uclaf and its other products.

How could Sakiz protect his own interests and those of his employees and still introduce the drug? Whatever path he chose, he could see that he would have to assume a low public profile. It would be foolish to play the coura- geous lion and charge forth pronouncing the moral necessity of RU-486. There were simply too many opponents for that approach to work. It could cost him his job and drag the company through a lengthy, painful process of dangerous turmoil.

The Role of the Organization in Society.

What makes this third type of defining mo-

Managers need to

determine if their ethical

vision will be supported

by their coworkers and


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The Discipline of Building Character

harvard business review • march–april 1998 page 10

ment so difficult is that executives are asked to form, reveal, and test not only themselves and their work groups but also their entire com- pany and its role in society. That requires forg- ing a plan of action that functions at three lev- els: the individual, the work group, and society at large. In which areas do we want to lead? In which areas do we want to follow? How should we interact with the government? With shareholders? Leaders must ask themselves,

Have I thought creatively, boldly, and imagina- tively about my organization’s role in society and its relationship to its stakeholders?

What role did Sakiz want Roussel Uclaf to play? He certainly did not want to take the easy way out. Sakiz could have pleased his boss in Germany and avoided years of contro- versy and boycotts by withdrawing entirely from the market for contraceptives and other reproductive drugs. (Nearly all U.S. drug com- panies have adopted that approach.) Sakiz could have defined Roussel Uclaf’s social role in standard terms—as the property of its shareholders—and argued that RU-486 had to be shelved because boycotts against Roussel Uclaf and Hoechst were likely to cost far more than the drug would earn.

Instead, Sakiz wanted to define Roussel Uclaf’s role in a daring way: women seeking nonsurgical abortions and their physicians would be among the company’s core stake- holders, and the company would support this constituency through astute political activism. That approach resonated with Sakiz’s own core values and with what he thought the ma- jority of employees and other stakeholders wanted. It was clear to him that he needed to find a way to introduce the drug onto the mar- ket. The only question was how.

From Vision to Reality.

To make their ethi- cal visions a reality, top-level executives must assess their opponents and allies very care- fully. What allies do I have inside and outside my company? Which parties will resist or fight my efforts? Have I underestimated their power and tactical skill or overestimated their ethical commitment? Whom will I alienate with my decision? Which parties will retaliate and how? These tactical concerns can be summed up in the question,

What combination of shrewdness, creativity, and tenacity will make my vision a reality?

Machiavelli put it more suc- cinctly: “Should I play the lion or the fox?”

Although we may never know exactly what

went through Sakiz’s mind, we can infer from his actions that he had no interest in playing the lion. On October 21, 1988, a month after the French government approved RU-486, Sakiz and the executive committee of Roussel Uclaf made their decision. The

New York Times

de- scribed the events in this way: “At an October 21 meeting, Sakiz surprised members of the man- agement committee by calling for a discussion of RU-486. There, in Roussel Uclaf’s ultra- modern boardroom, the pill’s long-standing op- ponents repeated their objections: RU-486 could spark a painful boycott, it was hurting employee morale, management was devoting too much of its time to this controversy. Finally, it would never be hugely profitable because much would be sold on a cost basis to the Third World. After two hours, Sakiz again stunned the committee by calling for a vote. When he raised his own hand in favor of suspending dis- tribution of RU-486, it was clear that the pill was doomed.”

The company informed its employees of the decision on October 25. The next day, Roussel Uclaf announced publicly that it was suspend- ing distribution of the drug because of pres- sure from anti-abortion groups. A Roussel Uclaf official explained the decision: “The pres- sure groups in the United States are very pow- erful, maybe even more so than in France.”

The company’s decision and Sakiz’s role in it sparked astonishment and anger. The com- pany and its leadership, critics charged, had doomed a promising public-health tool and had set an example of cowardice. Sakiz’s col- league and friend, Etienne-Emile Baluieu, whose research had been crucial to developing RU-486, called the decision “morally scandal- ous” and accused Sakiz of caving in to pres- sure. Women’s groups, family-planning advo- cates, and physicians in the United States and Europe came down hard on Sakiz’s decision. Other critics suggested sarcastically that the company’s decision was no surprise because Roussel Uclaf had decided not to produce con- traceptive pills in the face of controversy dur- ing the 1960s.

Three days after Roussel Uclaf announced that it would suspend distribution, the French minister of health summoned the company’s vice chairman to his office and said that if the company did not resume distribution, the gov- ernment would transfer the patent to another company that would. After the meeting with

Some of the most

challenging defining

moments faced by

managers ask them to

balance work and family.

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The Discipline of Building Character

harvard business review • march–april 1998 page 11

the minister of health, Roussel Uclaf again stunned the public: it announced the reversal of its initial decision. The company would dis- tribute RU-486 after all.

Sakiz had achieved his goals but in a foxlike manner. He had called out to his allies and ral- lied them to his side, but had done so in an in- direct and shrewd way. He had used the pre- dictable responses of the many stakeholders to orchestrate a series of events that helped achieve his ends, without looking like he was leading the way. In fact, it appeared as if he were giving in to outside pressure.

Sakiz had put into place the three principal components of the third type of defining mo- ment. First, he had secured his own future at the company. The French health ministry, which supported Sakiz, might well have been aggravated if Hoechst had appointed another CEO in Sakiz’s place; it could then have retali- ated against the German company in a num- ber of ways. In addition, by having the French government participate in the decision, Sakiz was able to deflect some of the controversy about introducing the drug away from the company, protecting employees and the bot- tom line. Finally, Sakiz had put Roussel Uclaf in a role of technological and social leadership within French, and even international, circles.

A Bow with Great Tension

As we have moved from Steve Lewis to Peter Adario to Eduoard Sakiz, we have progressed through increasingly complex, but similar, chal- lenges. These managers engaged in difficult acts of self-inquiry that led them to take calculated action based on their personal understanding of what was right in the given situation.

But the three met with varying degrees of success. Steve Lewis was able to balance his personal values and the realities of the busi- ness world. The result was ethically informed action that advanced his career. Peter Adario had a sound understanding of his personal val- ues but failed to adapt them to the realities he faced in the competitive work environment at Sayer Microworld. As a result, he failed to pre- vent McNeil’s firing and put his own career in peril. Eduoard Sakiz not only stayed closely connected to his personal values and those of his organization but also predicted what his opponents and allies outside the company would do. The result was the introduction of a drug that shook the world.

The nineteenth-century German philoso- pher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “I believe it is precisely through the presence of oppo- sites and the feelings they occasion that the great man—the bow with great tension—de- velops.” Defining moments bring those “oppo- sites” and “feelings” together into vivid focus. They force us to find a balance between our hearts in all their idealism and our jobs in all their messy reality. Defining moments then are not merely intellectual exercises; they are op- portunities for inspired action and personal growth.

1. The names in the accounts of Steve Lewis and Peter Adario have been changed to protect the privacy of the principals involved.

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Defining moments force

us to find a balance

between our hearts in all

their idealism and our

jobs in all their messy


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Further Reading


We Don’t Need Another Hero

by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.

Harvard Business Review

September 2001 Product no. R0108H

Badaracco argues that when grappling with ethical dilemmas in the workplace,

quiet leaders

prevail over the more conspicuous “heroes.” These individuals, working deep within their organizations, use four specific tactics for resolving their defining moments:


Buy time

—you may uncover solutions you wouldn’t have seen under time pressure. 2)

Pick your battles.

Take a stand only if you can safeguard your reputation and support net- works. 3)

Bend the rules,

maneuvering within the rules’ boundaries to do the right thing. 4)


You’ll craft responsible, work- able arrangements that benefit everyone.


Defining Moments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right

by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr. Harvard Business School Press

1997 Product no. 8036

This book serves as the foundation for “The Discipline of Building Character” article. Ex- panding on his defining-moment framework, the author provides comprehensive cases demonstrating the increasing complexity of the three kinds of ethical dilemmas discussed in the article. The first story presents a young man whose choice will affect only him as an individual. The second features a department manager whose decision will influence his group. The third depicts a corporate executive whose actions will have significant societal ramifications.

Defining Moments

gets to the core of what makes being a manager so difficult, exploring what it means to be a successful manager


a thoughtful, responsible human being. The

flexible framework that Badaracco presents can help you make the choices that will shape not only your career but also your character.

Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing

by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr. Harvard Business School Press

2002 Product no. 4878

In his most recent book, Badaracco rounds out his analysis of how to do the right thing for your organization, your coworkers, and yourself—without racking up casualties. Building on the ideas in his HBR article “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” he presents eight practical yet counterintuitive guidelines for dealing with situations in which “the right thing” seems like a moving target.

Leading Quietly

makes the case that the accu- mulation of larger-than-life accomplishments is


what defines an ethical leadership style. Rather, it’s the sum of millions of small yet consequential decisions that individuals who are working far from the organizational lime- light make every day. Through their patient, daily efforts, these quiet leaders help build better companies—and a better world.

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The renowned psychologist and Emotional Inteiiigenoe pioneer desoribes the importanoe ot foous

and seif-mastery tor leadership exoeilenoe.

Thought Leader Interview:

Daniel Goleman by Karen Christensen

Your latest book is about a skill that you call “the hidden driv- er of excellence”. Tell us about it. My new book is about the power of focus, and the brain systems involved in training our attention. I argue that leaders need to be adept at three varieties of focus. The first is self-awareness, and as a result ofthat, the ability to manage your own emotions; the second is awareness of other people; and the third is an outer focus, whether it’s an awareness of your organization as a whole or a larger sense of the broader systems that affect your indus- try. The largest possible lens for our focus encompasses global systems and considers the needs of everyone — including the powerless and the poor — peering far ahead in time.

Leaders need all three types of focus—in full strength and in balance — in order to perform optimally.

How did you come to see focus as such an integral sklii? In a collective sense, our ability to focus is under siege. Our kids are growing up in an environment with more distractions than at any other time in human history; and for many adults, it’s not even the noise around us that is the most powerful distractor, it’s the chatter in our own minds. On the bright side, our under- standing of focus and attention is now at a point where we have

10 / Rotman Management Winter 2014

more science than ever and a greater understanding of it. Focus encompasses a variety of skills, each of which is im-

portant in different circumstances. One well known type of focus is concentration, which entails being able to pay attention here while ignoring what’s coming at you over there. Another form of focus is ‘open presence’, which entails just being with the person who is right in front of you and paying full attention in the mo- ment. A third form is ‘free association’, which is a very different kind of focus where you let your mind wander wherever it wants. This is essential for creativity and innovation. In the book I talk about lots of other forms of focus.

The key is to recognize which kind of focus you need in a given situation, and to be able to achieve it. The data is showing us that the ability to pay attention well — in the right way at the right time — is absolutely critical to top performance.

You are best known as a pioneer of the concept of Emotional Intelligence (‘Ei’). What are the key elements of your model of El? In my view there are four domains of Emotional Intelligence. The first is self-awareness; knowing what drives you, how you’re feeling and why you are feeling that way. Basically, being able

You can get everything else right, but it you tail to drive peoples’ emotions in the right direotion, nothing will work as weil as it oould. ,

to think productively about your feelings. The second aspect is self-management, which is built upon self-awareness. In the business realm, this doesn’t mean suppressing your emotions, because it’s important to display evidence of passion and moti- vation in the workplace. Self-management means being able to manage stress and anxiety and other emotional states that affect your ability to think clearly; in other words, being able to ‘handle yourself. Particularly in times of crisis, people look to their lead- ers to see if they will be okay or not, and that’s why the leader’s first act is leading himself or herself.

The third aspect of emotional intelligence is social aware- ness, or empathy, which means being able to understand some- one else’s perspective, to sense how they’re feeling and have appropriate concern for them. This includes supporting people and letting them know that it’s safe to take smart risks, for ex- ample. Finally, the fourth aspect is relationship management skills. In the realm of management, things like negotiation, managing confiict, cooperation and teamwork are more impor- tant than ever.

How does focus relate to El? Emotional intelligence demands focus as a prerequisite, because paying attention within ourselves leads to self-awareness, and paying attention to others builds empathy.

You have said that the best leadership is ‘primal’. How so? When people talk about great leaders, words like ‘strategy’ and ‘vision’ come up a lot, and the emotional impact of what a leader says and does is overlooked. The reality is much more primal: great leadership actually works through human emotions. You can get everything else right — hiring, strategy, innovation — but if you fail to drive peoples’ emotions in the right direction, noth- ing will work as well as it could.

The emotional task of the leader is ‘primal’ in two ways: it is both the original and the most important act of leadership. Throughout history, the leader in any group has been the one to whom others look for assurance and clarity when faced with uncertainty or threat, or when there’s a job to be done. In modern organizations, this ‘primordial’ emotional task is largely invis- ible, but driving collective emotions in a positive direction — and clearing away the ‘smog’ of toxic emotions — remains foremost on the list of a leader’s tasks. Understanding the powerful role of emotions in the workplace is what sets the best leaders apart from the rest. But all leadership contains this dimension — for better or for worse.

When it comes to excelling on the job, which is more impor- tant, El or IQ? There is a widespread misconception that I favour emotional intelligence above regular intelligence. To be clear, I don’t; I think they’re both extremely important. Fvery leader must have a very high level of intelligence and business expertise. But I’ve talked to countless people who do C-level recruiting, and they tell me that when executives fail, it is invariably the case that they were hired for intelligence and expertise, but fired for a lack of emotional intelligence. So the prerequisite — the threshold ability — is high intelligence; but over and above that, what distinguishes star leaders is their emotional intelli- gence skill set.

In your experience, which aspects of El and focus do leaders tend to have the most trouble with? A colleague of mine, Cary Cherniss, who heads up the Consor- tium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organiza- tions, has analyzed competence models in a variety of organiza- tions and has found that the domain that is most often left out is self-awareness, which requires an inward focus on and attention to the self. This is understandable because it’s the least-visible of the four domains of El; but as indicated, you cannot prog- ress to self-management or empathy without a strong degree of self-awareness.

When leaders are complained about behind their backs, people often say things like, ‘He just doesn’t get it’ or ‘He doesn’t understand us’. In short, he doesn’t empathize. There are three different kinds of empathy. The first is cognitive empathy: I know how you see things, and I can take your perspective. Man- agers who rate high on this kind of empathy are able to get better than expected performance from employees, because they can put things in terms that people can understand, and that moti- vates them. The way to improve on this is to talk to people about how they see things, so you can get an idea of what their mental models are.

The second type is emotional empathy: I feel with you. This is the basis for rapport and chemistry between people. Those who excel at emotional empathy make good counselors, teach- ers and group leaders because of their ability to sense, in the moment, how others are reacting. And the third type of empa- thy is empathie concern: I sense that you need some help and I am ready to give it. Those with empathie concern are the good citizens in a group, organization or community who voluntarily help out as needed.

12 / Rotman Management Winter 2014



These three abilities give a leader an emotionally-secure base, creating an environment where people feel supported, un- derstood and trusted. In general, the more emotionally-demand- ing the work, the more empathie a leader needs to be.

What is a ‘neural hijack’, and how common are they? In the brain’s ‘blueprint’, the amygdala holds a privileged posi- tion: it is the brain’s radar for threat and the trigger point for emo- tional distress, anger, impulse and fear. If it detects a threat, in an instant it can take over the rest of your brain, and you have what’s called an amygdala hijack.

Whenever someone gets upset at work, has an outburst or loses their temper, it is a sign that their ‘fight or fiight’ response has been triggered and basically, their brain has declared an emergency when it really isn’t an emergency situation. To man- age any real crisis well, you need to manage your emotions well, too. Amygdala hijacks are never helpful, particularly in leaders. They can actually damage relationships and connections with the people around you. That’s why self-management is so impor- tant for good leadership.

Unfortunately, in an economy with great uncertainty, there is lots of free-floating fear in the air: people fear for their jobs and for their financial security. In such an environment, many people are operating day-to-day with what amounts to a chronic, low- grade amygdala hijack.

What should we do when we get ‘hijacked’? First, you have to realize it’s happening. Hijacks can last for sec- onds, minutes, days or weeks. For some people it may seem be their ‘normal’ state; they get used to always being angry or fear- ful, and this can lead to conditions like anxiety disorders or de- pression.

One way to get out of a hijack is to talk yourself out of it. Reason with yourself and challenge what you are telling yourself If the trigger was something someone else did or said, you can apply some empathy and imagine yourself in that person’s posi- tion. ‘Maybe he treated me that way because he is under a lot of pressure’. There are also biological interventions. You can use a method like meditation or relaxation to calm yourself down. This works best during a hijack when you have practiced it regularly, even daily; you can’t just invoke these methods out of the blue.

Another remedy is mindfulness. In the most popular form of mindfulness, you cultivate a ‘hovering’ presence to your experi- ence in the moment — an awareness that is non-judgmental and non-reactive to whatever thoughts or feelings arise in your mind.

1. Condescension and lack of respect

2. Being treated unfairly

3. Feeling unappreciated

4. Feeling that you’re not being listened to or heard

5. Being held to unrealistic deadlines

This can be a very effective method for decompressing and get- ting into a relaxed and balanced state.

You have said that whether we know it or not, we are con- stantly impacting the brain states of other people. Describe how this works. This is due to the design of the human brain — what scientists have begun to call the ‘open-loop’ nature of the limbic system. Our circulatory system, by contrast, is ‘closed-loop’, in that it is self-regulating: the circulatory system of other people doesn’t af- fect us at all. But an open-loop system depends in large part on external sources to manage itself. Put simply, we rely on connec- tions with other people for our own emotional stability.

Scientists describe the open loop as ‘interpersonal limbic regulation’, whereby one person transmits signals that can alter another person’s cardiovascular function, hormone levels and even their immune functioning. This has been a winning design in evolutionary terms: early on, it is what enabled mothers to soothe crying babies or a ‘lookout’ to signal a threat to his tribe. While we have become more sophisticated in many ways, the open-loop principle still holds today.

For example, research on intensive-care patients shows that the very presence of another person lowers the patient’s blood pressure. In another study, even more dramatically, researchers studied men who experienced three highly-stressful events in one year: divorce, getting fired, and having financial issues. What they found is that the socially-isolated men in the study were three times as likely to die, while the death rate of the men who maintained close relationships showed no effect.

• The open loop is also alive and well in offices, boardrooms and shop floors. In all areas of social life, our physiologies are intermingling and our emotions automatically shifting into the register of the person we’re with. People in work groups ‘catch’ feelings from one another, sharing everything from jealousy and angst to euphoria; and the more cohesive the group, the stronger the sharing of moods.

Of all the aspects of business, customer service is perhaps most affected by the open-loop aspect of the brain. Please discuss the implications. Customer service jobs are notoriously stressful, with high emo- tions flowing freely, not just from customers to the front lines but

Rotman Management Winter 2014 / 1 3


In the spring of 2010, in tine first weeks after tine disastrous BP oii spiil in the Guif of Mexico, as countless sea animais and birds were dying and residents of the Guif were decrying the catas- trophe, BP executives were a textbook exampie of how not to manage a crisis. The height of their foiiy came when CEO Tony Hayward infamously deciared, “There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. i’d like my life back.”

Rather than showing concern for the spili’s victims, he seemed annoyed by the inconvenience. He went on to ciaim the disaster was not BP’s fauit, biamed their subcontractors and took no responsibility. Widely circulated photos showed him at the peak of the crisis biitheiy saiiing on a yacht, taking a vacation. As a BP media relations exec put it, “The only time Tony Hayward opened his mouth was to change feet. He didn’t understand the animai that is the media. He didn’t understand the public’s perception.”

Signe Spencer, co-author of one of the first books on competence modeiing, teils me there is a recently-identified capability seen in some high-ievel leaders called ‘managing your impact on others’ — by skiilfui ieveraging of their visibiiity and roie to have a positive impact. Hayward — blind to his impact on others, iet aione to public perception of his com- pany — set off a firestorm of antagonism, inciuding front-page articies demanding to know why he hadn’t been fired. Even President Obama deciared that he wouid have fired him. Hayward’s exit from BP was announced the following month.

The disaster has since cost BP up to $40 biilion in liabili- ties, saw four executives charged with Negiigence, and ied to the U.S. government forbidding BP further business — inciud- ing new oii leases in the Guif — because of a “iack of business integrity.”

Tony Hayward offers a textbook case of the costs of a ieader with deficits in focus. “To anticipate how people wiii re- act, you have to read peopie’s reactions to you,” says Spencer. “That takes seif-awareness and empathy in a self-reinforcing cycle. You become more aware of how you’re coming across to other people.” With high self-awareness, she adds, you can more readiiy develop good seif-management. “If you manage yourself better, you wiil infiuence others better.”

-From Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (Harper 2013)

also from workers to customers. From a business standpoint, bad moods in people who serve customers are always bad news. First, rudeness is contagious, creating dissatisfied, even angry cus- tomers; second, grumpy workers serve customers poorly, with sometimes devastating results. In one study, cardiac care units where the nurses’ general mood was ‘depressed’ had a death rate among patients four times higher than comparable units.

By contrast, upbeat moods on the front lines benefit a busi- ness. If customers enjoy their interaction with a worker, they start to think of the store as a ‘nice place to shop’. That means not only repeat visits, but also good word of mouth advertis- ing. Moreover, when service people feel upbeat, they do more to please customers: in a study of 32 stores in a U.S. retail chain, outlets with positive salespeople showed the best sales results. In all of those retail outlets, it was the store manager who creat- ed the emotional climate that drove salespeople’s moods — and ultimately, sales — in the right direction. When the managers were peppy, confident and optimistic, their mood rubbed off on the staff.

In many organizations, emotions are seen as ‘too personal’ or

unquantifiable to talk about in a meaningful way. What first

step would you suggest for leaders who want to address the

emotions in their workplace?

I actually don’t believe it’s necessary to talk about emotions at work; it may not even be functional. What I’m really talking about is building an internal awareness of our own emotions and dealing with those emotions in a smart way, so we are more effective at dealing with others. Also, building an awareness — which doesn’t have to be put into words — of how other people are reacting, and having the ability to fine-tune how you respond to them.

The bottom line is that emotional intelligence gives us a way to take emotions into account, rather than trying to suppress them or sweep them under the rug. The fact is, emotions will refuse to be suppressed. They are with us every moment of everyday. RM

Daniei Goieman is a psychologist and science journalist. His latest book is Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (Harper, 2013). A two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, he has written 14 books and wrote for The New York Times for 12 years. He is ranked in the top 40 on the Thinkersso list of the world’s leading management thinkers.

14 / Rotman Management Winter 2014

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