What Does Success Look Like?

Years ago my son participated in an activity called Odyssey of the Mind. It’s a wonderful creative problem solving competition that promotes teamwork and creativity. The team he joined happened to be very successful, winning multiple state championships and even taking first place at the world competition in 2010.

One day I asked the coach, Kate Early, “How did your team become so successful?”

 “In my early days of coaching,” Kate told me, “I was frustrated that no one from our district ever won the regional competition and advanced to states. I kept wondering, What do the winning teams look like? So I went to the state competition, videotaped a variety of performances, and later shared the videos with my team. Once they saw the bar, they were determined to meet it. And they did. The very next year they not only advanced to the state competition, they made it to the world finals.”

So simple, yet effective: sometimes the key to success is knowing what it looks like.

Today my son is a coach for Odyssey of the Mind because of the wonderful experience he had being led by a brilliant coach.  Thank you Kate Early!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that my focus for the month of February is emotional intelligence. In reflecting on the comments of my son’s Odyssey of the Mind coach, I have been asking myself, “How can I show my followers what emotionally intelligent leadership looks like?”

Since I can’t follow business leaders all day with a video camera, I turned to one of the oldest veterans in the field of emotional intelligence: Shakespeare.

In Henry V, Shakespeare created a scene that shows how a leader tunes into the emotions of his “team” and moves them out of paralyzing fear and into energizing passion. This may be the stuff of theater, but it shows emotional intelligent leadership in action. 

Let me set the scene so you can fully appreciate this clip from Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film version of Henry V. The English are about to fight the Battle of Agincourt and they are woefully outnumbered by the French. Henry’s men are daunted by the impossible odds. Watch how Henry responds to their fear by shifting the focus of his men from death and despair to a vision of sacrifice, honor, and glory. Note also how the king puts himself in the trenches--”we band of brothers”-- and unites the lowly and the lords into one army. When the French messenger calls for Henry’s surrender, the king taps into his own defiant anger and uses it to spur his troops to victory. Henry is the conductor of a symphony of emotions, which is to say that he controls the emotions, both his own and those of his men, instead of being controlled by them. 

This is what emotionally intelligent leadership looks like! Watch, learn, and reflect on how you can use empathy and vision to create positive energy on your team.