Reflection week 2 – Theory in Action
Theory: Personality and Leadership
In my department, there are two people in the Richmond office: Chris, the director, and Jonathan, the administrative assistant. Chris is affable, articulate, and considerate. I work in his physical office because there is no where else currently for me to go, and we will chat for a minute or two before each returning to our own work. We don’t interrupt each other unnecessarily and keep our conversations brief. People routinely stop at Chris’ door to tell him about their weekend or have a quick chat. He treats me, the only intern for the nonprofit, like an equal while still providing guidance and making sure that the work I’m doing is engaging and productive. He speaks directly and concisely. I like Chris a lot and it seems like everyone else does too, which seems essential if your work is in convincing people to donate money to your organization! I can understand why he was hired straight into this director position despite not knowing anything about homelessness before starting at VSH.
Jonathan, on the other hand, does not have Chris’ ability to interact effortlessly. He comes in to Chris’ office from his cubicle outside the door too often to talk about random things, and takes too long to pick up on cues from Chris to leave. Even when Chris isn’t around, he comes in to ask me if I’d like to do a random task on Salesforce to “keep learning” and sits in the chair watching me as I do. He takes any opportunity to sit down and start a discussion, a trend that has increased in the time that Chris has been out of the office on vacation. He constantly talks about me in the third person to my face, and seems to be trying to fashion himself as my (unasked for) mentor. When he talks, he usually uses a lot of words and sentences when many fewer will do. And despite telling me about a brief stint as COO of a nonprofit early in his career when all the other employees were abandoning ship, as well as then starting his own nonprofit, his current position does not reflect this breadth of previous experience.
The result of this description of these two characters in my internship story is to wonder what role a person’s personality (specifically in terms of emotional intelligence) plays in their ability to garner and maintain respect, both of superiors, colleagues, and subordinates. Chris and Jonathan are very different, most crucially in their emotional intelligence, which dictates how they interact with the people around them. It is very clear that people like Chris; I personally feel really lucky that he is my boss and that I can learn from him. It is also very clear that Jonathan is less of an office favorite and I personally wish he would give me more space. Over the past few weeks, in noticing how they interact with each other and with others in the department, it is clear how this difference has an impact on their relationships in the office and their place in the hierarchy.
This seems especially evident in development, which relies heavily on interpersonal skills for success. While this example doesn’t speak to the impact of higher emotional intelligence on the successful outcome rate as a leader, it does seem as though that type of respect and rapport is very helpful in being able to progress in one’s career, especially in the nonprofit world.