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A CEO learns from good and bad leaders

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers

leaderThroughout his 17 years in the financial services industry, Graham Coxell has witnessed good and bad leadership. His conclusion? It’s better to seek to understand others than berate them.

Coxell is chief executive of Rowan Dartington, a British stock brokerage firm. In a prior job as an executive at a large company, Coxell participated in a senior management meeting where his boss—the lead board director—asked the six attendees to give their take on a problem that the organization was facing.

While the first respondent was sharing his thoughts on the nature of the problem, the director interrupted.

“So you’ve been lying to me for a year,” the boss shouted.

This abrupt, hostile comment intimidated the group. From that point, no one wanted to level with the director about the problem and what to do about it.

Coxell realized that the director was exhibiting a lack of emotional intelligence. A dark cloud drifted over the team as a result.

A more positive example of leader­­ship also left its mark on Coxell—when a senior executive approached him about an underperforming employee.

Instead of ordering Coxell to discipline the poor performer, the executive said, “Graham, I think I’ve put Bill into the wrong position because he’s very good, but he’s not thriving. What’s your opinion?”

Comparing the two incidents, ­Coxell admired the humility and openness of the second executive. But he disapproved of the hothead who verbally assaulted a manager who spoke up.

When Coxell became Rowan Dartington’s CEO in 2011, he instituted training to increase staffers’ emotional intelligence. His goal: to ensure that employees feel liked, competent and significant.

“I will always strive to understand, rather than find fault,” Coxell vows.

The training is working. The firm, which was losing money two years ago, is earning a profit. And Coxell says it’s “a very happy place to work now.”

— Adapted from “Emotional intelligence: thinking and feeling on the job,” Jill Insley, www.guardiannews.com.

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