Susan Dunn

Article Summary:

Being a leader requires emotional intelligence, which Napoleon knew.

Leadership Tips: Learning from Napoleon

Winning the business war depends upon many factors: a good leader, focus in creating a plan, flexibility in adjusting your according to results, good people to implement it who have the proper skills and equipment, and the ability to motivate and manage people. All of equal importance, people are a little more important, because, as every general knows, it's the troops that bring in the victory. Studying great leaders is one way we can understand the fundamentals. Fortunately Napoleon put many of this in writing.

"It is as necessary for the heart to feel as for the body to be fed." Before the Battle of the Pyramids (1797), Napoleon addressed his army with these words, "Soldiers, forty centuries are looking down upon you from these pyramids..." When you're addressing the troops before battle, what do you say to compensate for fatigue, doubt, fear, and boredom? How do you motivate? We will show up for a paycheck, and go through the motions, but it's the emotional factor that amps the energy and determination. Counterintuitively, your self-motivated workers need it the most, lest they stray from the pack. Leadership both supplies motivation and channels it in the right direction.

How do you handle your own emotions? Napoleon wrote, "A [leader] is always wrong who speaks in anger." Anger is the emotion most likely to hijack reason, both when you experience it and when you pass it on, verbally and/or nonverbally. It's toxic, contaminates the field, and accomplishes the opposite of what you want. Most likely to occur in times of stress, it reduces or eliminates the ability to think clearly, make good decisions, and function productively. Anger is a good way of knowing what you want, and not a good way of getting it.

"To conduct [business] both internally and to the public," said Napoleon, "deep thought, profound analysis, and the faculty of unwearied attention are necessary." You can't focus when you're flooded with emotion. You must also be able to set priorities, yet remain flexible, continually monitoring to see if your plan is successful. Rigid adherence to a plan that isn't bringing results is folly. The profound analysis doesn't end when the plan is formed; it's just beginning. "You cannot treat all the world at once," Napoleon said. The leader's job is crisis-management, and even crises must be prioritized.

There is a truth to every situation, both factual and emotional, and the greater of these is the emotional truth. This will be felt more than the words will be heard. "Nothing goes well in a ... system in which words are in contradiction to facts," said Napoleon. "The best policy is simplicity and truth." People watch to see if you say what you mean and mean what you say. If you espouse a principle, do you live it yourself, and hold others accountable to do so? If you state a principle or policy and don't enforce it, you lose credibility, which is really all you have. If you aren't living it out, it has no life, no reality. "In [business]," said Napoleon, there is a wide difference between promises and performance." This means following the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law. Showing up and acting like you're working v. actually getting the work done. Your ability to perceive this quality in employees, to model it, and to generate it in others makes the difference.

"A [leader] must speak to the eyes. It does well with the people." When you look someone in the eye, it acknowledges their existence. Do you walk past the receptionist every morning as if she or he were a piece of furniture? Do you specialize in a "lock down" stare of intimidation? Do you avert your eyes when there's something in yourself or in the other you can't deal with? Speaking to the eyes enables you to perceive how the other person is reacting to what you're saying. No physician would tell someone they have cancer over the phone, and only the most callous of bosses would fire someone in an email. Become aware of your eye contact methods, and work to improve them. Work with a coach, and observe others who do it well.

"None but indolent [leaders] grow fat in their palaces." Every field has deadlines to be met and that's when the rubber hits the road. It's when you are most observed. The last-minute rush usually involves petty details, requiring extra hands and a calm, confident demeanor more than brainpower. The brief must make it to the 5th circuit the next day, and the Fed-Ex deadline is minutes away. There are packets to assemble and forms to fill out; menial labor, but if it doesn't happen, nothing else matters. Or 300 people will arrive for the fundraising event in 30 minutes and the table decorations didn't arrive on time. Flowers must be put into vases and bows must be tied. The leader who acts like they're above this kind of work, or can't tolerate the apparent confusion and retreats to a corner with his or her arms folded, or worse, to his or her own office and closes the door, loses huge leadership points. Just staying there and remaining calm and confident wins points. Lowering yourself to apply labels or tie bows helps. Pitching in because that's who you are, regardless of the nature of the work, puts you over the top and will never be forgotten by those you purport to lead. Before the battle the general makes it a point to be present. Nerves run high and that, more than anything else, is what leadership is about. Men, and certain cultures, consider it an ego thing not to need (or accept) help. Women, and certain cultures, consider teamwork the natural state of being. You, as the leader, know that nothing is accomplished alone. It's the leader who sets the norm for the office.

This is one of my favorite quotes from Napoleon: "Respect the people you deliver." There's not a person in the world who doesn't respond to being respected, not being treated with respect, but being respected. It's something you have to live, regardless of the person's position in the hierarchy.

These skills are all related to emotional intelligence, or EQ. It's about understanding emotions - your own and those of others - and understanding the effect you have on the people around you. How do you develop this? By studying EQ and working with someone knowledgeable in the field, such as an EQ coach, who can give you the feedback you need. These skills need to be put into practice, and take some time to learn. This will broaden you. An effective leader must be a generalist who doesn't see every problem as a nail.

The rationale for what was formerly called "liberal arts" education was the notion that literature, art and music enhanced our innate understanding of human nature. Travel was also included in this education, because travel broadens us, showing us how our own culture is different, and that many of the things we take for granted are not taken by granted, valued or even accepted elsewhere. Also that there are other ways of doing things, some of which may be better. For this reason my EQ Foundation program includes art, literature and music. Make sure this is included. It's an area that's often neglected in business academic programs.

"Doing the math" is not about adding one and one, it's about an in-depth understanding of people (which means of their emotions) that allows you to predict outcomes. It means knowing that if you do A, then B is likely to occur. Only EQ can lead you there because you can't give advice in a crowd. What will work for one person won't work for another, what works in one situation won't work in another, and the best of plans must be constantly adjusted for reality. To respect the people you deliver requires a deep understanding of people and how they operate, your greatest challenge as a leader.

Susan Dunn, MA, of The EQ Coach, offers coaching, Internet courses and ebooks for your personal and professional success. She is founder of the EQ Alive! coach certification program, which has no residency requirement and trains coaches internationally. For a free ezine, email [email protected].

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