How A Leadership Style Can Make Or Break A Team’s Success With Jeffrey Hull, Ph.D.

Leadership styles continue to evolve in the corporate world. In today’s time, there is more to just being a leader than being on top of the pyramid. Dr. Diane Hamilton talks with Jeffrey Hull, Ph.D., the CEO of Leadershift Inc., about the shift in the leadership landscape and how success is formed and guaranteed with specific training and dynamics that shape our future leaders. Jeffery also talks about his book, Flex, what inspired him to write it, and the different ways being a leader can take a team to a new level of innovation and engagement. Learn what it takes to become an inspiring leader in helping to level up your team’s success.

TTL 845 | Leadership Style


I’m so glad you joined us because we have Dr. Jeffrey Hull. He is the CEO of LeaderShift Inc. He is also the author of Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World. You have probably seen his work in HBR and everywhere else. This is going to be a great show.

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How A Leadership Style Can Make Or Break A Team’s Success With Jeffrey Hull, Ph.D.

I am here with Dr. Jeffrey Hull who is the CEO of LeaderShift, which is a leadership development consultancy based in New York City. He is also the author of the best-selling book, Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World. I am so excited to have him. Welcome, Jeffrey.

Thank you. It’s great to be here.

It’s right up my alley of stuff I would love to talk about. I’m very much interested in your background. I know you are a clinical instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School, I know you have done so many different things. Can you give me your backstory for people to know what angle you are coming at with your work you are doing now?

It’s probably easy. The best way to understand my backstory is that there are 3 chunks or 3 segments, I would call them in my career so far. The first one is that I was in the HR field. For the first ten years or so after graduating from college, I went into the human resource profession and ultimately worked my way up to being the Director of HR at the Technology Division of Booz Allen and Hamilton. I had a pretty broad HR background early on. I discovered that I loved the coaching and leadership training components of my job as an HR Director. I didn’t love all the benefits, the compensation and all the administration part. At that point, I jumped ship and set up a consultancy with a couple of friends of mine in the New York area. We started doing leadership training and incorporating leadership coaching into our programs and it worked out well.

[bctt tweet=”Leaders who are more cerebral tend to be more limited, data-driven, and analytic.” username=””]

One of the things that I learned along the way was that having a degree in Philosophy and Music, which was my background, wasn’t quite enough training to be a good coach. Long story short, the third segment of my career was to go back to school, get a PhD in Clinical Psychology and set off on becoming a real focused, hopefully, successful executive coach, which is what I do now. I’ve got involved with Harvard at the Institute of Coaching because I was coaching several doctors at hospitals, Harvard hospitals in Boston. I was asked to get involved with the Research and Education Institute at the Institute of Coaching. That’s where I started doing research that ultimately led to the book that you mentioned, called Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World. That’s my background in a nutshell.

TTL 845 | Leadership Style
Flex: The Art And Science Of Leadership In A Changing World

I have had Dr. Albert Bandura before, which was an amazing experience, to say the least. I love the psychology behind everything that they don’t teach you in business school. I wish they would have more psychology-based classes. I could see why you would want to go back to get that because it’s important. As you were talking about coaching doctors, I was a Pharmaceutical Rep for fifteen years and married to a doctor as well.

That was interesting because I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Emotional Intelligence. I didn’t see a lot of it in some of these doctors I called on. When I was looking at your book, I saw that you have talked about emotional intelligence in your FIERCE acronym, which is something that when I first wrote about it, I thought, “This is a cool subject, I’m going to write my dissertation.” I didn’t know how big it was going to be. I later had Daniel Goleman on and we were talking about this, it’s such a huge deal. Everything you are writing about touches on so much of what is holding people back in the business world. You have this way to explain it that is important. I was excited to have you on to talk about Flex. Give me a little background on what made you want to write Flex. I saw that Forbes named it the top business book of 2019, which is huge.

What led me to want to write it was it started in my coaching practice to see some major changes taking place. I wanted to know, whether I was a one-off, whether my practice and the fact that it was changing so dramatically was unusual. I did a survey and a whole bunch of focus groups with other coaches through the Institute of Coaching at Harvard and discovered that these big shifts were taking place all across the leadership landscape. I thought, “I would love to make this information available to the world.” These are things that people were experiencing in the real organizational world that weren’t being talked about very much.

One of them as you point out is the importance and rise of emotional intelligence as a key indicator or a key attribute of a successful leader. There are others that I was noticing as these shifts became apparent to me. There are more women becoming leaders, diverse cultural backgrounds becoming leaders. There are more styles to effective leadership than ever before. When I first started coaching, you are asked as a coach to help someone be the alpha leader directive, charismatic, authoritative. That is all valid and heroic. In my book, I don’t denigrate that at all. There are those situations where you need a strong, competent directive leader. That is not the only game in town anymore. In our environment, the landscape has shifted where there are so much more variety. There are many more ways to build a team to get innovation out of a group of people.

A lot of those end up being focused on flexibility, agility and some of the softer skills that you are pointing to like emotional intelligence, collaboration, listening and curiosity. Those are the things that I wanted to focus on. A lot of it is about having a deeper self-awareness. In this world, you don’t want to be a one-trick pony anymore. It’s okay to be an alpha leader. You also want to have more flexibility when the situation calls for it. Likewise, if you are more what I call a beta leader, a more consensus-oriented collaborative style leader, there may be times when you need to step up and be directive. It’s developing that flexibility. It’s the core theme of my book is using the coaching methodologies to become more agile. That is what the world calls for in these environments. Especially coming out of the pandemic is even more important. Who could have predicted?

This is good timing for this. You have mentioned different types of leaders. I know you have an assessment on your site. You say, “What type of leader are you take the free leadership energy assessment.” Tell me how many types do you determine from that quiz.

There are hundreds of different types of leaders. What I was focusing on in that particular assessment was, whether or not you tend to be a cerebral, emotional or somatic-driven leader. That is why I call it a leadership energy assessment because those leaders that are more cerebral will tend to be always operating from the neck up. It’s limited, data-driven and tends to be analytic. That is all great but it’s not the only game in town. There are more emotionally focused leaders who tend to be very compassionate, connected, collaborative and good listeners. They tend to be curious, more relational in their leadership style. That can also be a strength but it also can be limited because sometimes you need to be very decisive or clear vision rather than curious and listening.

The third style that I point to, which is probably the one that is most unusual for leaders to think about, I call it the somatic leadership style. That comes down to those leaders who tend to be action-oriented. They use the energy of the physical space of their tone, presence to motivate, influence and lead. Those people that are somatic in their presence can be powerful. They can also have blind spots. If you have ever been in a conference room in the old days when we used to be in the office, the somatic leader is the one who could never sit still. They are standing up, walking around the room, leaning against the wall. They are action-oriented. Their body may be kinetic is another way of thinking about it. That can be fine but it can also be a distraction. These are ways of thinking about the energies that a leader uses to be effective.

[bctt tweet=”Emotionally focused leaders are very compassionate, connected, and collaborative. They tend to be more relational in their leadership style.” username=””]

I took your assessment because I was very interested in this. It gives you a color bar that shows it is cerebral, somatic and empathetic, the different three things. I don’t know if it’s showing my result or a general overview that there are these three things because it was very even in the picture that they show. They said that you could be all three if it will be well balanced or not. Is there a way to tell if you are way off balance? If you are barely on one side or another? Does this not go that deep?

The assessments are not designed to go deep. It’s more for a coaching dynamic where you would reflect and see where you could expand. Did you come out dominant in 1 of the 3 or not?

Yes, I did. What do you think?

I guess, cerebral.

I am a cerebral type thinker.

I tend to be cerebral also. One of my leadership coaches would always remind me that I’m not a brain on a stick.

Maybe that is why we write quantitative type assessments because we are that way. I would like to have a quantitative data-driven thing. It was weird because I have taken different personality assessments. I worked for a company where they made us take our personality tests and put our results in our cubicles. In the color test, management by strengths was the one we used at that place. I came out high on the green, which was the extrovert. The yellow would have been the analytical person that has to read the manual type of thing. Depending on, which test you take, it comes out in different ways, what I love about assessments and I wrote a book about this with my daughter years ago.

All the different personality assessments help you not only understand yourself but knowing the opposite of what you are is helpful for people. Even though they make fun of Myers Briggs, I found the training helpful when I became qualified years ago because I saw the dichotomy is different and you don’t recognize what people need. What energizes them as you put it is how Myers Briggs did it as well. It’s like what gives you this sense of comfort? What energizes you? Knowing that other people need a certain thing is important for having empathy. How important Is this to know what the other guy or gal is, and compared it to what you are?

TTL 845 | Leadership Style
Leadership Style: In today’s world, you don’t want to be a one-trick pony anymore. It’s okay to be an alpha leader, but you also want to have flexibility when the situation calls for it.


I tend to agree with you, although I’m cautious around the use of assessments. Maybe because I’m a Psychologist and a coach. They can be helpful if they help you to recognize differences and honor differences and if they help you know your strengths. They can be detrimental if they decide that you are not changeable that you are this type of person or that type of person. I worked with one client who was a big fan of Myers Briggs. He said, “We can’t hire anymore ISTJs.” I said, “That is limited because people can be more than just I or S, or T, or J.” You have to be careful how you use those. My rule of thumb is the assessment, the beginning of a conversation not the end of the conversation.

It is interesting to look at some of them. I had Tom Rath on from Strengths Finder and a lot of people who have created different assessments on. I agree you don’t want to box people in. It helps me to have learned about them so that you can understand that everybody has different preferences. Our perception of the world is so different. You don’t recognize other people’s vantage points unless you read about this stuff. There are a lot to getting people more successful in the workplace. You touch on a lot in the book, you had mentioned earlier about collaboration.

Dr. Amy Edmondson was on and talked about collaboration and getting the Chilean miners out from under the rock. I thought that was such a great TED Talk. It tied into my work with curiosity. When I also had Francesca Gino talking about her work. Her HBR piece was great on the case for curiosity. You also go into more areas because you have identified six elements that leaders need to succeed. You have the FIERCE acronym of Flexibility, Intentionality, Emotional intelligence, Realness, Collaboration and Engagement. I would like to know what you mean by realness.

Realness was the euphemism that I used to make the acronym but its authenticity. The spectrum of leadership, authenticity can range from the very alpha style, which is highly strong, competent and stoic, to the more beta style, which is softer, transparent, more open and humbler. If you think about it, those two ends of the spectrum are both very real and authentic but they are different. Leaders show up quite differently but there is no one way that’s better than the other but it helps to become aware of what your natural tendency is.

A lot of my alpha-oriented leaders that I have worked with would say, “I like to come across as competent. I want my people to feel confident they can trust me. I try not to be very emotional. I tend to be more stoic.” That is great. What if you are dealing with the pandemic when we needed to have compassion and empathy and we needed a little more vulnerability because we are all feeling anxious. Some of my clients that are more stoic had to let their hair down a little bit because they had to be present to support people going through a difficult time. It works in both directions. That is what I was trying to get at with realness.

I had to do the same thing with my acronym for the things that hold you back from curiosity. I have FATE which is Fear, Assumptions, Technology and Environment and the assumptions are the voice in your head. The A works better for the acronym. When we get these ways and factors that we look at that keeps us from being as successful as we could be, that is what is so important to look at. I looked at curiosity because I tied it into engagements. I look at it as a spark to so many things.

If you want to bake a cake, you have all these ingredients. You put them in the pan, then you put it in the oven and you are hoping for cake is your end goal. If you don’t turn on the oven, you don’t get cake. In the working world, there are cake, productivity and money. People are working with collaboration and emotional intelligence, engagement and innovation, and all these things as cake ingredients. They put it in the oven. Nobody is turning on the oven. Spark is curiosity. Do you look at curiosity or that aspect at all when you are dealing with your factors and the things that you study?

Curiosity is in the first chapter of my book. It’s one of the prime driving case studies that I use at the beginning, which was to look at a leader that I was working with, who was struggling with getting along with her peers and her boss because she’s a physician. The primary theme around the first of the six categories or the six domains is flexibility. What I was pointing to in that is she was rigid in her approach to decision-making and her approach to her authority. She was coming across as a bit of a bulldog, which as doctors can do, they are trained to have the answers. The punchline was that I asked her, whether or not she was curious about what’s going on with her patients.

She said, “Curiosity is the key to my success as a doctor.” I said, “What is it that makes you use your curiosity?” As you would say, Diane in the cake, you cook the cake with curiosity with the patient but you don’t use curiosity when it comes to your boss or when it comes to your colleagues. She said to me, “What do you mean?” I said, “What about being curious about what’s going on in your dynamic with the people you work with?” That led to her having a whole different frame of reference. Like, “You mean I need to explore and investigate what’s really going on and maybe pay attention to other perspectives?” It’s like, “Start with curiosity.” That is why it’s in the first chapter because it’s one of the core principles of all of everything else just as you pointed out.

I was thinking of doctors and from working around and living with one and how much they are trained. As you were talking about the perspective, when I was researching perception, I looked at it as a combination of IQ, EQ, Emotional Quotient, CQ for Curiosity Quotient and CQ for Cultural Quotient all coming together. You are getting this perception, your ability to put yourself in somebody else’s vantage point and see things from other perspectives with doctors. I have always asked doctors, “Do you think you cut off that sense of empathy because you don’t want to put yourself in somebody else’s position if you have watched them suffer?” Is there some safety behind that? You deal with so many doctors, do you think that they lack empathy? A lot of them?

You are pointing to something profound, which is that my experience has been that empathy is trained out of them. That part of what makes them want to be a doctor is they have a great deal of empathy and a great deal of compassion. Medical school and residency, training and the environment of urgency and emergency are such that it’s left on the operating table that empathy or emotional connection is one of the last things they have time for. I was trained as a Psychologist in this that if you take on too much of the emotional context of your patient or your client that you can get flooded, you can get overwhelmed with the feelings of other people, you do have to regulate empathy. Doctors struggle with that. You add into the mix, that they have a scientist orientation and they tend to be data-driven. What you ultimately end up with, is a lot of patients who have the best intentions but don’t know how to access their empathy.

[bctt tweet=”Somatic leaders can be really powerful but can also have blind spots. ” username=””]

One of the things that I do with clients when they are in leadership situations because my coaching tends to be around their leadership, not around their clinical work. I always remind my clients that being a leader is different from being a doctor with your patient. Leadership is a role. You went to school to become a doctor. You also have the sense to go to school to become a leader. It’s helpful for them to be able to reframe and say to themselves, “Empathy, emotions, compassion and connection are important for my success as a leader.” Ironically, the ones that I have worked with have found their way back to those attributes with patients because once they get reconnected to what I said at the outset, which is that most of them are highly empathic and highly compassionate. That is one of the reasons why they wanted to be a doctor in the first place. When they get reconnected to that, they are then able to figure out and support ways of bringing that not only to their leadership but to their patients.

That might be your next book left on the operating table because I think there is something there. I was thinking of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk when you were talking about how it was educated out of their competencies. He does such a great job of how our education system gets rid of our creativity. When I studied curiosity, it was paralleled with creativity and at about age five, we peak, and then we tank and a lot of it is you get into school systems. You get into different things. You start to have to be directed this way or that way. They direct you out of things. I was educated out of my abilities to ask questions and my curiosity as my training as a pharmaceutical rep. They would tell you what you are supposed to say in these detailed calls that you give to doctors when you are selling their presentations.

TTL 845 | Leadership Style
Leadership Style: The spectrum of leadership authenticity can range all the way from the very alpha style to the more beta style. Those two ends of the spectrum are both very real.


They are saying, “You’ve got to say this. You’ve got to say that.” When you get into the office, you don’t ask this or care about that because you just don’t. A lot of these doctors, I found they are taught step care or whatever. What is in a book is what they are taught. If somebody doesn’t fit into what they are taught, I noticed a lot of people are just kooky. That patient is a kooky patient or something. Kooky, implying that it’s the patient’s fault, that they can’t help them. That’s a real problem in that profession. If it’s not in a book, it doesn’t exist. Do you see that in any other areas? I saw that a lot with physicians but do you see that in other groups?

I would say that it’s probably not uncommon in about every other environment. It’s most noticeable in the scientific or research, the data-driven professions like computers, technology, pharmaceuticals, research where the training is such that they are brought up and indoctrinated in a black and white world. They tend to bifurcate if it’s either you belong in or you are not in. It’s like you are in or out, their lack of tolerance for mavericks or what would be called kooky. Ironically, it’s those same environments that need innovation and creativity. They need people to take risks and to try out new things. One of the things that I do as a coach is often trying to get my more scientifically oriented or data-driven leaders back in touch with their inner child.

I love what you mentioned about how curiosity tends to leave us at around age 5, 6, or 7. The reality is, that little kid is still in you. He or she is still alive. They are just squelched. What I like to do is to have my clients re-access that capability, get back in touch with that magic, that mystery, willingness to not only tolerate the maverick or the kooky person on their team but to leverage that. To explore, to investigate, to be a detective of what is possible. What great idea could that crazy person have that we might benefit from? As a leader, you want to have innovation. You want to nurture curiosity in your clan leaders. That was also one of the things that I wanted to emphasize in the book.

I’m glad you brought that up because when I was having Francesca on, it was great talking about some of the data she had on curiosity and how it tied into certain things. She had some data of leaders who think they are encouraging curiosity but employees don’t believe it as much as the leaders do in the summit data. Does Harvard or any other place have much data? I cannot find a whole lot to tie in the value of curiosity to improving engagement or collaboration numbers or all these different numbers. I’ve got to go back to the cerebral type. I want to have the numbers. Novartis did some research because they value curiosity as one of their core cultural drivers. They did measure their engagement before doing more developing of curiosity, and then again after so they did see an improvement. I don’t see a lot of data out there. Do you?

It depends on what you are looking at. I was reading an article on creativity and entrepreneurialism, where a group had studied, whether or not entrepreneurs use the scientific method to experiment effectively and their likelihood of success. Some research will demonstrate when they were talking about the scientific method or the empirical approach. It’s using curiosity in the same way that you are describing it. There was research that showed that did an actual random controlled trial where they had a set of entrepreneurs that did not use curiosity or a hypothetical hypothesis-based experimenting approach. They use a more dogmatic approach, a top-down entrepreneur, “I’m going to do it this way,” approach. The likelihood of success was much greater when the startup or the entrepreneurial venture uses the scientific method or more empirical experimenting approach.

What I’m asking is dollar research. This company saved this much money due to better engagement. Do you ever see any of that research?

I think you have switched gears because if you are talking about engagement, that is different from curiosity.

Curiosity leading to engagement or innovation. They were able to prove that they saved money because you have improved engagement, we worked with curiosity. We improved innovation because we worked with curiosity and this has led to this money savings. That’s the studies I would like to find more of and I can’t find.

The challenge is that it’s very hard to quantitatively describe curiosity. There is neuroscience that looks at where curiosity shows up in the brain. What we do know from neuroscience research that Richard Boyatzis has done and a few other leadership coaches that have a research background have done looking at neuroscience is the way that the brain works. If you approach people with a more compassionate, positive reframe of data or feedback that people are much more likely to be motivated, engaged and stay committed. We do have some neuroscience research. I think your question is a good one. There’s a study that may be there for us to do.

I look at it as curiosity getting out of the status quo thinking in business in a way when I was researching it. That was like, “How do we not become blockbusters? How do we not become Kodak?” A lot of it is we explore new ways. We encourage Google whatever percentage of your day or week, exploring thinking. Intuitively, this should be saving money. A lot of people want to see the bottom line of how much you can save. You can’t get that stuff. You guys at Harvard have everything in the world, maybe you had something I had missed. What you are talking about is all good stuff. Maybe that there needs to be more information. As I was reading some of the stuff that you are covering in your book, I also wanted to touch on a couple of things because I use the word heroic earlier. I noticed you had written that we are in the age of post-heroic leadership.

I still teach so many courses. When I teach courses, a lot of the time we get into charismatic leaders, good and bad, and how to use charisma for good and bad and, whether you need to have charisma and all that. We get into the discussion of Millennials are into that post-heroic leadership style of, “They want to come to me but I don’t need to be the big wig that tells you what to do. I will be the expert.” Are you seeing more of that they don’t want to be charismatic, telling you what to do as a leader? It’s more like, “Let’s collaborate and I will be your go-to guy or gal.” I want to see where charisma falls in and how things have changed in your mind?

[bctt tweet=”Assessments can be helpful if they help people recognize differences and honor them.” username=””]

I would make a distinction between being charismatic and being directive or being authoritative. It can be highly charismatic and still be very collaborative and more group-oriented. Charisma by itself to me doesn’t automatically know that someone is authoritative. Not necessarily. I would say to your broader question, that one of the core themes of my book is paying attention to the fact this is relevant with a pandemic and that is going virtual and hybrid is that the workplace has become flatter. Hierarchy becomes less and less relevant. Information is accessible to everyone.

TTL 845 | Leadership Style
Leadership Style: Leaders show up quite differently, but there’s no one way that’s better than the other. Still, it helps to become aware of what your natural tendency is.


One of the things that were always true in the past was that the people at the top were the ones that had all the access, everybody else was in the dark. They had the power. The people near the bottom were there to do the bidding of the people at the top. That’s great if you have creative people at the top and you have a genius at the top. The reality is that in this fast-moving environment, we don’t have the luxury to just leave the creativity to the top ten people in an organization. We have to get creativity out of everyone. That’s one of the things that are happening with the democratization of organizations with the flatter more networked approach to organizational life has the benefit of giving access to talent earlier in their careers.

You have Millennials that are wanting to get engaged and show their creativity and have an impact and potentially even be leaders earlier than they might have twenty years ago. There’s good news and bad news about that because it’s a huge shift in the cultural context of running an organization. It can be challenging for those that are used to the pyramids, to realize that their heroic stance and they worked their way up the ladder and they’ve got the big office and they get all the perks of being at the top of the C-Suite. All of a sudden, they realize that the C-Suite just dissolves. It can be earth-shattering for people, for the Baby Boomers to recognize that those things are not going to be the same in the future.

I mentioned the pandemic. I do think that is one of the silver linings if there is one of this difficult periods that we have gone through, which and I don’t mean to minimize the pain of a lot of folks that have experienced in the last. There is a silver lining in terms of those leaders that have learned how to go into the virtual world and work through more interconnectivity and networking are going to be so much more successful because that’s what we are, the world was headed even before the pandemic. I do think that we are in a post-heroic environment where being the guy on the white horse that takes the hill and hopes that everyone follows. I do pray that archetype will be on its way out.

When you were talking about the top had all the access and the power, it reminds me of what has happened to the physicians and how they knew everything and patients were at their mercy. Now, you come into the doctor and you go, “I think I have this and that.” It’s got to be frustrating to keep up with all of that. Some industries have done this shift. One of the industries that are the most backward and yet not keeping up with the shift of feels the most-mad man to me is the education industry of how women are treated and gender different issues. I feel like it’s stuck in the 1960s in some ways when I see the power shift. Women occupy some of the roles that are high up but it’s almost like they are doing the administrative tasks where the guys are doing the strategic thinking. Have you seen that to be true at all?

It’s where the women have to be more alpha than the men.

Why so much in education? It’s interesting to me.

It has to do with the institution. Every time you have a large institution, part of what makes it successful is longevity. A lot of those institutions like Harvard or any other major university have been around a long time and they don’t want to change because they don’t want to go away. They want to try to keep the positions that they have created. It creates a paradox because they are supposed to be progressive, teaching and keeping up with what’s going on in the world. They cling to the institutional norms that they developed over maybe even hundreds of years. It’s hard for them to change because they have a lot invested in keeping things the same.

One of the talks I gave was for Forbes. A part of my university had some of our professors speak for Forbes and one of the things I talked about in my speech was the future of the workplace. This was a while back. It’s interesting to see some of the things that I had talked about because a lot of it is changing towards Millennials taking over and the Boomers retiring. With COVID, no one saw how much this was going to come about unless if you were Bill Gates or somebody. You didn’t see what’s going to happen with online education and how people interact virtually more, Zoom fatigue and all the stuff we are having. Do you think that what you were writing about when you wrote this is impacted at all if you changed any perspectives based on how the world is going to be? Do you still see things the same way as when you were starting to write this?

A lot of what I was pointing to in my book about developing flexibility and agility in a very fast-changing work environment is accelerated over the last year. Let’s go back to what you asked me about realness, I talked about the different ends of the spectrum of authenticity. That was already happening. I was already encouraging my leader clients to become more flexible and agile in the way they showed up, whether it was through being more humble, open or attuned to when they need it to be stoic and harsh or competent and strong when they needed to soften and open up a bit. That has become a core capability factor for successful leaders because you just have to be in tune with the team virtually, which makes it even more complex.

All the things that I was pointing to, I was already working with some virtual teams even before the pandemic. It’s become a requirement that leaders can raise their emotional intelligence and have a great deal of self-awareness around how they are going to coalesce a team. What would be maybe a hybrid work environment or a virtual workspace? How do they keep people engaged? They can’t just do it by sending out directives. It’s not going to work. People are not going to show up. They are going to turn off their videos. Everything I was pointing to before has just sped up. That is my experience.

I happened to fall into writing my dissertation on emotional intelligence. I didn’t know at the time this is a cute topic. I had no idea what I fell into. I speak often in groups about a lot of soft skills and different things that we are talking about. I noticed Travis Bradberry was promoting a lot about CEOs have lower levels of emotional intelligence as you go up in rank. In the beginning, you are starting to get promoted. You are interacting. You are doing well. Your emotional intelligence is growing. As you get to the CEO level, you are maybe around fewer people, maybe people are saying, “yes men, yes women,” and you are losing it to some extent. Do you think the CEOs have lower levels? Is that something that you have researched at all?

[bctt tweet=”It’s very hard to quantitatively describe curiosity. ” username=””]

I haven’t done an actual study myself of CEOs and their level of emotional intelligence. I do think that he has a point that the likelihood of their emotional intelligence becoming circumscribed or potentially getting smaller around them, access to their emotional intelligence is not at all a surprise as they go into a power position. I wrote about this in the book around power dynamics. When you have power over other people, the farther you get from them, the more likely you are going to use the power-over dynamic. Power-over is being directive, delegating. It’s empowering through a directive style, through directed energy. It creates emotional distance between you and other people.

If you are at the top, if you are the person in the power seat then the likelihood of you using that energy, that power-over style is going to be exaggerated. It’s a natural outcome. That is a double-edged sword because the other end of the spectrum I would call power-with, which is more of a partnership, collaborative energy where your leadership style is more inclusive of other perspectives. You may even read by following, listening, waiting and holding back and letting others be empowered to lead, which is something that takes a great deal of emotional intelligence to be able to do that.

When you are the CEO, it’s even harder because you carry all the weight of accountability. That is a double whammy because you may have been highly emotional intelligent on the way up but all of a sudden, you’ve got the weight on your shoulders to be accountable for things that don’t go well. The tendency to then move into a power-over position and to put emotional intelligence may be in the back drawer is perfectly logical. It’s almost inevitable and unfortunate.

TTL 845 | Leadership Style
Leadership Style: In today’s fast-moving environment, we don’t have the luxury to just leave the creativity to the top ten people in an organization. We have to get creativity to everyone.


It’s an interesting look at the importance of a hot topic that I thought we would have seen everybody going to have all this information on emotional intelligence. We are going to fix a lot of the problems but it just continues to need more attention. I don’t know if everybody has done the work that it takes even though Goleman and others have had some great studies showing we can improve our emotional intelligence. This is a great example of how we can also start to lose it a little bit based on other things. It’s something that we need to focus on a lot. Your book brings up so many great things in your FIERCE acronym and other aspects of the things that you talk about because it’s not emotional intelligence and all these other issues that we need to work at for leadership. I wanted to see if there was anything. I dragged you all over the board with so many different areas because I would love to ask different questions. Is there one area in your book you wanted to touch on that I didn’t ask you about?

You asked me about all of them. The only thing that I might want to emphasize given where we are in the world with this move towards virtual work being ubiquitous and probably with us for not going away anytime soon and organizations becoming hybrid is the importance of the somatic component of leadership presence. I spend a lot of time in the latter part of my book talking about that. The research shows that when you show up in a nonverbal way with presence, intention and attention, focused mindfulness with your team. You put down the distractions, don’t try to multitask, try to focus on listening and being present with your team especially in a virtual space. The likelihood of being successful is much greater and having a greater engagement is much higher.

A lot of leaders think that it’s all about the communication, the words they use, what they say and how they say it, all of which is valid. I want to emphasize that your emotional and intentional energy, your physical presence, is equally important. If you are trying to be successful in this world as a leader, you want to incorporate all three domains, you want to be emotionally present, cerebral and data-driven, and rational. You also want to be physically attentive. It’s important because we are all so distracted. We are all texting. We live in a 24-hour work world. Remembering that engagement with others starts with presence and being with people, connected is what I would want to emphasize.

That is such a great place to end. We have covered so many areas and many people could learn a lot from your book, all your work. A lot of people are wanting to know how to follow you or get your book and all that. Is there a site or something you would like to share?

The fastest way to find me is just to google my name, Jeffrey Hull. is the website where there is the assessment that you talked about and there’s access to the book, which is available through Amazon and everywhere else. I would also encourage folks to look up the, which if they are interested in leadership, positive psychology or executive coaching. I’m on the leadership team there. They might find that interesting. There are a lot of good research around that I referenced in my book came from not just the Institute of Coaching but our fellows and researchers that are continuously working on the things that we have been talking about. They might find that interesting.

Thank you so much for joining me. This was fun.

It was great. Thank you so much for asking those varied questions. It’s fun for me too.

I would like to thank Jeffrey for being my guest. We get so many great guests on this show. We have had more than 1,200 or 1,300 I know it’s more than those guests. Everybody is more interesting than the next. I know it’s hard to keep up with all these episodes. If you have missed an episode, please go to If you go to the blog, you can read it, in addition, to listen to it. You can also find all the radio stations and podcast stations where we air there. We would list that on the radio section of the site. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Jeffrey Hull

TTL 845 | Leadership StyleJeffrey Hull, Ph.D. BCC is CEO of Leadershift, Inc. a leadership development consultancy based in New York City and author of the best-selling book, FLEX: The Art and Science of Leadership in A Changing World, from Penguin-Random House in 2019.

A highly sought-after speaker, consultant and executive coach with over twenty-five years working with C-suite leaders worldwide, Dr. Hull is also a Clinical Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School. He is the Director of Education at the Institute of Coaching, a Harvard Medical School Affiliate. Dr Hull has been featured in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, Investors Business Daily, and a wide range of media.

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