Emotional Intelligence: Independence

Quick pop quiz (if you are so inclined):

  1. Who was Polonius?
  2. Who was Laertes?
  3. What did Polonius say to Laertes?

Answer key:

  1. Polonius was the chief minister for King Claudius in Shakespeare’s famous play, “Hamlet.”
  2. Laertes was the son of Polonius.
  3. As Laertes was preparing to leave his father’s house and head off to college, his father said, “To thine own self be true.”

As soundbites go, I would suggest that one is right up there with the greatest of all time. It is instructive—yet intentionally vague. It is a directive—that requires exploration. It is emotion—grounded in the rationality and logic that comes only with extensive experience. I would also suggest that, at its core, it addresses the inevitable fork in the road all of us eventually encounter in one way or another: “When should I lead and when should I follow?”

The more we study leadership the more we appreciate the wisdom of Polonius. Ultimately, our effectiveness as leaders boils down to the decisions we make or, conversely, the decisions we choose not to make. Consider this the fulcrum around which genuine leadership revolves. Are we, as we make those decisions, standing squarely in the fork of our road, free from emotional dependency? Are we comfortable making those decisions, navigating the disagreement and second-guessing that inevitably accompanies them and accepting responsibility for the outcomes of those decisions (long before we know how they will actually turn out)?

Net-net this is how true leaders distinguish themselves. They develop and sustain a level of comfort with independent decision-making. In so doing, they come to grips with the fact that there is never a wrong time to do the right thingor a right time to do the wrong thing. Beyond that, they put themselves out there and define what they believe those right and wrong things to be!