Twenty years ago, when we founded The Center for Advanced Emotional Intelligence, we didn’t realize that leaders could be so self-destructive, so deceiving, and so alienating. Then we started working with dozens of senior executives from major companies. Most of those leaders had lost their identity because they didn’t know how to be authentic. At the same time, they didn’t know how to build trust within their organization.
While today’s sophisticated world has raised the bar for leadership, we’ve forgotten a basic rule about what makes us most human. It’s not intellect, it’s values. The most powerful force on Earth is knowing how to be yourself.
Our advice? Obsess about your human architecture. Many companies worry about quality in just about every area of the company except their own people. Yet relationships matter now more than ever. Social capital breaks down when you don’t have role models across every level of the organization building trust.
Companies that lack high-quality social relationships are self-destructing, because the people within those companies are being pushed beyond their limits.
For many leaders, life in the go-go boom times was so good for so long that they never became very sophisticated at managing their social capital. When distracted by greed, excitement, and the powers of Wall Street, how can you reflect on the human stuff? Hard times test people; people get real or get lost.
A version of this article appeared in Fast Company magazine.