How to Be a Successful Second

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Ben Dattner co-wrote this article that explains why being a great second in command requires emotional intelligence.

In 1959, John French and Bertram Raven, social psychologists, published their “Five Bases of Power” model, which has been highly influential in social and organizational psychology ever since. The five kinds of power they delineated included the ability to reward or punish, power derived from one’s rank or role, expert power (which is a function of knowledge and expertise), and what they termed “referent power,” which is rooted in personal character and charisma. In our research, consulting and coaching practices, we have learned that emotional intelligence (EI) can constitute a sixth base of social power in today’s networked, knowledge-based, rapidly changing and increasingly diverse workplace, enabling people at any level of the organization, and at any stage of their careers, to help themselves and others to more effectively navigate social and organizational challenges, and to better achieve long term goals. While EI is broadly applicable, we will focus here on how EI can help subordinates more successfully “manage up” thereby increasing their power to positively influence organizational outcomes, raise their value in their boss’s estimation, and progress in their careers.

Our research and consulting work have shown that people with higher EI tend to be more successful because they are more self-aware and better able to control their emotions, which enables them to appropriately respond to socially challenging and stressful situations. Conversely, individuals with lower EI tend to act out and behave in dysfunctional or counterproductive ways. Expressing themselves appropriately, people with high EI are able to detect others’ emotional states, agendas and priorities, and to positively influence others’ emotions in order to identify common ground, resolve conflicts, and focus on problem solving rather than on finger pointing.

 

Key points include:

  • Empathize with their perspective
  • Convey loyalty and build trust even when pushing back
  • Focus them on others’ priorities and agendas.

 

Read the full article, Why Being A Great Second In Command Requires Emotional Intelligence, on FastCompany.com.