As stated in PSY 533 (2017), As a leader, recognizing how people consciously and unconsciously react to work situations will aid your decision making about how to interact with them. In my opinion leadership, like life, is something that we are all constantly learning and developing through. According to Sharkey (1997), Erik Erikson said that humans develop through their lifespan. So how can a leader continue to develop? U.S. businesses spend more than $170 billion dollars on leadership-based curriculum, with the majority of those dollars being spent on ‘leadership training’. (Myatt, 2012). The more that companies invest in their leaders and continue to educate and make them aware of their leadership characteristics and possibilities, the more successful the leader will be which will in turn affect their team in a positive manner.
I had just started my career. I was new and green and excited about landing my first job for a major corporation. In enters my new manager, we will call him Jim. Jim was a veteran at the company. He had been around for over 35 years and had managed many direct reports over that time. Jim was seasoned, smart, extroverted, a good listener and had a strong emotional intelligence. According to Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso (2000), emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to perceive and express emotions, to use emotions to facilitate thinking, to understand and reason with emotions, and to effectively manage emotions within oneself and in relationships with others. Jim was the most aware Manager I have ever had. He would pay attention to the details of things, he would ask how you were and he would be sensitive to work and life balance.
I had called in sick to work on Monday and returned on Tuesday. I was going through a lot personally and I know I didn’t look well. I was dealing with a lot of family issues which were taking a toll on my emotionally and were then starting to take a toll on me physically also. A team member approached me and asked how my weekend was. I told them it was fine and forced a smile. This team member then proceeded to ask me if I was feeling better as I missed work on Monday. I glanced over at Jim’s office door which was within ear shot of my desk. I proceeded to thank my peer for inquiring on my health and told them that I was feeling much better. My coworker then uttered a statement that shocked me. She said “Well for feeling better you sure look terrible. What did you do? Party all weekend? Is that why you called in sick yesterday?!”. I was dumbfounded. Not only was I going through a lot personally and working hard to make sure that I was not showing signs of it at work, but now I was being called out in front of everyone by a team member who obviously thought all I did was party all weekend when they knew nothing about me or my life. I excused myself and ran to the restroom – tears streaming down my face.
I managed to pull myself together and within 20 minutes of being back at my desk, Jim asked to see me in his office. I felt a lump in my throat and was worried of what would come next. My mind started racing, was I going to be fired? Written up? I was so nervous but closed the office door and sat in the chair across from Jim’s desk. He moved his chair from the side of his desk to next to me. He looked at me and said “how are you kiddo?”This was a lot and I was confused. First of all I was so thankful that his tone was warm and welcoming. He was also concerned and asking with full genuine feelings how I was. I told him I had been better and started to apologize for missing work. Jim asked me to share, if I felt comfortable, what was going on. I honestly felt a connection with him and proceeded to share little bits of the challenges I was having at home. Jim listened the whole time, shared some of his own similar stories and connected to me to let me know I wasn’t alone. He told me to take the time I needed and not worry about what anyone else said. He understood that life happens, told me he supported me and was there if I needed to talk, and also mentioned to me there were various resources available for me as an employee if I felt I needed some extra help or support. I have never forgotten the time I worked for Jim. He is unlike any other manager I have had in my career. But what set him apart?
The more I got to know Jim the more I realized that he had made it his mission to continue to educate and develop himself. Most would think this would come in the way of classes and degree programs. But Jim wasn’t interested in moving along his knowledge of his job – as he put it, he already KNEW that! What Jim was passionate around was people. He was always looking for ways to learn more about his team, how people interact, what he could do to make them more successful. For Jim, it wasn’t about getting ahead in his career. He had learned in various courses and coaching classes offered by the company over the last 35 years that successful teams are made up of PEOPLE and not just money or work. Sharkey (1997) states that Erik Erickson’s final state is Integrity vs. Despair which occurs during late adulthood and is the time when the individual looks back and evaluates their life. If the previous stages have developed properly when they will experience integrity, if the previous stages have not developed in a positive way they will feel despair.
I feel that somewhere along the long career Jim had, he realized that he wanted to share the development and leadership he had learned with others. That was something that was going to complete his career and you can tell it made him whole as a person. I feel that my relationship and reaction to Jim and his support was a prime example of the affective events theory. According to PSY 533 (2017), the affective events theory explains how emotions and mood influence both job satisfaction and job performance. After the talk Jim and I had we became closer. I started to learn more about him as a leader and a person and that only strengthened the respect and loyalty I had for him and the company. I wanted to do the best I could because I knew Jim not only appreciated me but also respected me for more than just being his direct report.
Had it not been for Jim being as open as he was to development and the learnings over the years he had absorbed from various classes and interactions, I do not feel that I (or the company) would have been as successful and well-rounded as I am today. Per PSY 533 (2017), affective events theory proposes that work events are experienced as either pleasant or unpleasant emotional occurrences – each event is experienced separately – but they add up to form long-lasting emotional reactions that influence job performance and job satisfaction. Because of Jim I have remained loyal to my company. I respect that my company invests in their leaders and can make such outstanding ones like Jim. It supports my theory that the more that companies invest in their leaders and continue to educate and make them aware of their leadership characteristics and possibilities, the more successful the leader will be which will in turn affect their team in a positive manner. I am so thankful I have had this successful experience and I hope to one day also turn out to be as emotionally intelligent as Jim.
Mayer, J.D., Caruso, D. R., & Salovey, P., (2000). Selecting a measure of emotional intelligence: The case for ability scales. In R. Bar-On & J. D. A. Parker (Eds.), The handbook of emotional intelligence (pp. 320-342). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Myatt, M. (2012). The #1 reason leadership development fails. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/12/19/the-1-reason-leadership-development-fails/
Northouse, P. (2001). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA : SAGE.
PSY 533. (2017). L04: Cognitive and Developmental Approaches to Ethical Leadership. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1868786/pages/l04-introduction?module_item_id=23063365
Sharkey, W. (1997, May). Erik Erickson. Retrieved from: http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/erikson.htm#Theory