Hi, it’s Paul Krismer with another quick film about emotional intelligence and how we can use the tools of EQ to get more from our lives: better results, more happiness, better productivity, better teamwork, better relationships – all kinds of things that we would want. Well, we can get more as a result of using high levels of emotional intelligence.
I’ve got a really cool little thing to share with you today, all about how we get power, how power accrues to people. And of course, on first flash, we think, well, we know how power comes: people get a promotion and they get the right job title, and then they’re at the top of the heap, and we simply do what they say because they’re our boss. But the truth is, we don’t always get good bosses that way, do we? We all know we’ve sometimes had bosses that bring in this kind of toxic masculinity or a lot of knife-hand “do this, do that,” and it tends to be unkind and has an angry tone to it. And there might be nepotism and favoritism, and often the boss seems to be more interested in serving him or herself than serving the group.
While that kind of power definitely exists, it’s not really the way that power naturally occurs to someone. There’s been a ton of study of how power is given to people in normal, non-structural, non-hierarchical, non-corporate, non-military structural organizations, where people just defer their power to a leader and say, “I want you to lead.” And how do we do that? Well, we are watching other people and picking up altruism – that is, people’s behaviors that seem to have no transactional benefit, but they are simply kind or positive, proactive, helpful to other people.
This altruistic behavior can often come in a lot of forms. It’s sharing resources, it’s kissing the babies, it’s helping people solve a problem, and it’s done with a heart of volunteerism. Until we watch around, we look in our tribes, in our community groups, and we say, “Hey, who behaves like that a lot?” And we tend to defer power to that person. Think about it for yourself. When you think about the best leaders that you’ve ever had in your life, invariably – and I’ve asked this question to thousands of people – they say the best leaders were the ones who cared about them as an individual, took time out of their day, out of their busy to-do list, to give a hand, to care about, to help elevate other people’s experiences.
This kind of research is actually now well-formed, and it’s not just humans who do this. It’s other primate higher-order animals that live in tribes, like chimpanzees and gorillas and things like that. They too are looking around for the signals of people who are apes that are giving the best of themselves to other people. And then, when we need a leader, we say, “Hey, this person’s got our interest, they’ve got my back.” And so we naturally want them to lead.
There’s a great quote from one of my favorite positive psychologists, and it goes like this: “When you closely observe chimpanzees or other primates, such as kindergartners or university students, you’ll find it’s not the bullies and manipulators who gain power. Rather, it is those who demonstrate empathy and enthusiasm, solve others’ problems, and otherwise further the greater good.” It’s such a brilliant observation, and it runs counter to a lot of our beliefs, but this is true. This is the science of it.
And so there are people who lead through structural authority, and we follow them because we must. And then there are other people who lead from these wonderful ways of being – how they show up, how they care about other people – and we volunteer our hearts to those people. We want to follow them. And there’s a huge difference between the one that we must follow and the one we want to follow.
So that’s the encouragement of this little video today: how can we lean into this idea of altruism as a way of being in our organizations, whether it’s our family or community or here in your workplaces? And I’d encourage you to break into small groups and have that conversation: how do we lean into this learning so we get the most out of our organization? And the second one you might say is, who in your life has role modeled altruism, and how has that impacted you as an individual? Either or both of those questions might be really informative. And I hope you enjoy the discussion. See you next time.