tence—are even more essential to
individual and organizational survival
and well-being.
The good news is that emotional
competence can be developed, partic-
ularly if leaders are motivated to do
so. Leaders can learn to be more
empathetic with their colleagues and
customers and more effective in
using critical social skills such as
conflict management, negotiation,
and teamwork. The even better news
is that developing these emotional
competencies doesn’t necessarily
require being away from the work-
place for extended periods to attend
formal, structured programs. If cer-
tain conditions are in place, much can
be learned on the job.
What can people do to develop
their emotional competence? Looking
at the experiences of leaders,
coaches, and facilitators, it’s clear
that structured programs offer a pow-
erful starting point for enhancing
self-awareness and social awareness.
Such programs offer an environment
of anonymity and safety, which
allows participants the psychological
space to be vulnerable and to become
more self-aware. In this context the
value of candid assessment data and
expert help in interpreting those data
can be maximized.
In contrast, efforts to develop
competencies that involve self-regula-
tion and a variety of new behaviors
are more amenable to on-the-job
learning because they require practic-
ing and reflecting on the new behav-
iors. Such personal learning takes
place in relationships at work, as
leaders seize everyday opportunities
to practice new behaviors and get
feedback from colleagues they trust.
Leaders who are able to leverage
work experiences to enhance self-
awareness, self-management, empa-
thy, and critical social skills create a
personal infrastructure that supports
their continuous learning. (See
“Creating a Personal Learning
Infrastructure,” on page 5.) First,
they develop a personal learning
agenda based on a thorough under-
standing of their emotions, strengths
and weaknesses, personal values, and
motivations. (This agenda is often
completed in an off-site program or
coaching engagement.) Then they
use their enhanced self-awareness to
take action, including taking risks,
practicing new skills, and seeking
feedback on the impact of their new
behaviors. Finally, they maintain
learning as a priority—even in the
midst of organizational turbulence—
by creating learning partnerships that
provide encouragement, guidance,
and feedback.
According to psychologist Daniel
Goleman and other researchers, self-
awareness is the foundation on which
other emotional competencies are
built. (See “Emotional Competence
Defined,” on page 5.) Self-awareness
involves understanding your own
strengths and limitations—especially
your fears and insecurities—on an
emotional, not just intellectual, level.
Participants in formal programs say
that certain aspects of the programs
are especially useful for and con-
ducive to developing greater self-
A safe and trusting environ-
ment. Participants don’t bring their
personal agendas or judge one
another, and they hold confidences.
Opportunities for disclosure.
Participants can be vulnerable and
honest about their own shortcomings.
Honest and caring feedback.
Frequent opportunities to
Support from facilitators, other
participants, and colleagues.
Let’s look at an example of how
an off-site leadership development
program can help a leader delve into
the self-awareness that is crucial to
the further and ongoing honing of
emotional competence.
Joe is the vice president for sales
and marketing of a global consumer
products company. At the start of
his leadership development pro-
gram, Joe was confident that he
understood his upsides and down-
sides, as a result of a similar devel-
opment effort he had undergone on
the job. But the on-the-job program
had been managed by someone from
his company’s human resource
department; Joe had been asked to
assess himself on his leadership
style, then he had received feedback
from his direct reports. Joe’s vice
president position was a newly cre-
ated one that resulted from a com-
pany reorganization. He was eager
to receive the feedback because he
thought it would help ensure his
Kathy Kram, a professor of
organizational behavior at
the Boston University School
of Management, was CCL’s
H. Smith Richardson Jr.
Visiting Fellow for 2001. She
holds a Ph.D. degree from
Yale University.
Sharon Ting is coaching
manager and co-manager of
the Awareness Program for
Executive Excellence (APEX)
at CCL in Greensboro. She
holds an M.B.A. degree from
Wake Forest University.
Kerry Bunker is a senior
associate and co-manager of
APEX at CCL in Greensboro.
He holds a Ph.D. degree from
the University of South

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