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The Leader’s Secret Self
by Thomas A. Stewart
Thomas A. Stewart

Special issues of HBR give us the chance to explore a big subject in two dimensions: first, across space, with a gathering of new articles ranged around the subject in an illuminating way; and second, across time, with a republication of the very best articles from HBR’s past—frequently the articles that helped define the topic in the first place. The subject at hand is leadership—in particular, the psychology of leadership. Academic leadership studies grew out of historians’ “great man” theories, which explain events by examining the role of highly influential individuals. George Washington is perhaps the archetype of the great man in American history. In portraits, great men (and a few women) are heroic, larger than life; often they’re on horseback. Their strength and vision inspire us. We don’t know much about what they feel, however. We don’t know their doubts or their secrets. We view these leaders from the outside. This issue of HBR is about the leader’s inner life. Intellectually, the issue grows from a different tradition, but one that is roughly contemporaneous with “great man” theories: the study of psychology, which begins in the second half of the nineteenth century with figures like William James and Wilhelm Wundt. Psychology found its own great men in Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung and worked its way into business through such people as Abraham Maslow, Harry Levinson, and, more recently, Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries. If Washington symbolizes the leader’s outward face, let Abraham Lincoln stand for his inner being—ambiguous, doubtful, and brooding. Even in photographs, we see Lincoln from within: The lineaments of his soul are etched on his skin. A leader gets into trouble when there’s dissonance between the inside and outside—what today we’d call a “disconnect.” If a single theme runs through this issue, it’s the importance of keeping the two aligned. Take, for example, the issue of emotional intelligence—a term first brought to the business mainstream in Daniel Goleman’s classic 1998 HBR article “What Makes a Leader?” reprinted here. We’ve all known leaders with highly developed intellects but stunted emotions—and, wonderfully, leaders who bond with others in profound ways. But can emotional intelligence be learned? Can you have too much? How can a person compensate for weakness in emotional intelligence? We explore these questions and more with Goleman and over a dozen other wellknown experts—among them, a neurologist, several CEOs, and an expert on cults. Their answers are fascinating and important. Every leader ought to want a more supple emotional intelligence, and “Leading by Feel” is a great place to begin. Every leader ought to be thinking about his or her own leadership development, too, and who better to talk about the process of becoming a leader than the man who wrote the book on the subject, Warren Bennis. The title of Bennis’s article, “The Seven Ages of the Leader,” may sound familiar: He has framed his discussion of how leaders grow by appealing to the “seven ages of man” speech from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, the one that begins “All the world’s a stage.” (Freud himself often looked to Shakespeare for an understanding of human nature.) That framing was a smart choice, because the Bard understood theater as well as psychology, and one of the biggest challenges leaders face is understanding how their feelings “play” on the public stage they occupy. There’s much more in this issue. Barbara Kellerman examines the taboo subject of malign leaders. Lynn Offermann presents a provocative piece on the sometimes toxic effects followers can have on leaders. And by all means, dig into Diane Coutu’s interview with Kets de Vries, a psychoanalyst and Insead professor who has devoted his career to analyzing CEOs. He says surprising things about how many CEOs suffer from depression and anxiety and struggle with control issues. He also offers a wise and hopeful description of the truly healthy leader—intense, passionate, responsible—the kind of leader we want to have, the kind of leader we want to be.

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