Richard Boyatzis is a well-known professor of Case Western Reserve University. Especially, his approach to leadership is distinct and it is applied to lots of huge corporations. Also, he is the author of more than 150 articles and books on leadership. His research has been referred by lots of scientists and academicians around the world. Today, he shares with us how he has taken an initiative on his life. Wisdom for smart people.
----For those who are not familiar with you, let us know more about you. When you were a child, what kind of kid you were and how did you get interested in human behaviour?
My parents were Greek immigrants and my Father worked as a waiter after fighting for the US in World War II in France and Germany. He worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week and emphasized education to me (and my sister and brother). I loved reading and was quite a “nerd.” I loved math and physics and wanted to be in the space program. I seemed to be quite intense and conscientious, but had a sense of humor (my old friends tell me). Friends and I formed several bands and played for many dances and ethnic events like Italian weddings and Polish celebrations.
I ran out of money in going through MIT for Aeronautics and Astronautics. They got me a job in a research group at an aerospace company working on a proposal for the original space shuttle. I discovered that although I loved the science, I found the day to day work was quite boring to me. It was asocial! I returned to MIT and while finishing my degrees in Aero and Astro decided the explore management (knowing that I did not want to go into the restaurant business like all of my relatives in this country). A new professor was giving a course that sounded squishy, on Organizational Psychology, but he said, “No test,” so I signed up. made sure I could get into his class. That was Dave Kolb creator of the Learning Style Inventory and Experiential Learning Theory.
He introduced me to Ed Schein and David McClelland and the three of them convinced me to go into psychology, not management. They convinced me to go to graduate school then directly for a PhD and then helped me get into Harvard.
I was always interested in watching people and wondering about their feelings and thoughts, but psychology was not something I had ever considered a “real science.” But the ability to study something that was fun was an eye-opening experience for me. Those early experiences at the aerospace company made me want to study how people helped or did not help others do well. That has been the driving curiosity for my entire professional career.
----What makes you motivated to sharing your wisdom through teaching, writing, and speaking?
Above all else, I am a scientist and LOVE research. I see myself as a detective of the human spirit. But I also really enjoy helping others get inspired and motivated about their future possibilities, either individually or in groups. Teaching graduate students has always been a joy to that purpose in order to help others get excited about new research or applying existing findings. The speeches are another way to spread the word, as are the MOOCs, [explain. what is this?] and books.
----What is the most important thing you have ever learned through researching human/organisational behaviour?
Others are essential in our development, but it has to be focused on our dreams for our future, not their dreams for us.
----Leadership in business is discussed a lot. Interestingly, many great leaders have some difficulties in their private lives. What would be a key to having leadership in your own life?
RB: The most effective leaders are people who are mindful, or congruent and authentic. That is, they are the same person at work or at home or at leisure. Often, even effective leaders fall prey to the ‘sacrifice syndrome’ where the ravages of chronic annoying stress reduce their scanning of the environment including others around them. This horrible effect causes highly effective leaders to become less effective and if not stopped, eventually ineffective to their families, themselves, their communities, and their organizations.
----In society, people tend to focus on weakness and look for its solution. Why is it so important to paying attention more to your strengths and having a positive mindset?
Focusing on weaknesses is a defensive posture. Focusing on our dreams and vision, on our own strengths, and occasionally working on a weakness is a more balanced path to a desired future.
----Why do you believe coaching is important for professionals?
People cannot change by themselves. We need people, especially people who have a resonant relationship with us—they stimulate hope, compassion, mindfulness, playfulness with us. They are in sync with us on many levels.
----What would be the most common trap that people fall into when they think of their future?
They get defensive and think about what is possible or likely. They literally create mental blocks to their own development. Thinking about the future is most potent when it is dreams, not goals.
----For many people, understanding what they want to do is one of the most difficult things. What would be your advice to help them figure it out?
Watch people around you. Talk to them. Ask them what they are doing with their lives and what they love about their life and work. For those who hate their work, forget about anything else they say. For those that work for the money, forget about anything else they say. For those that work for their family’s future, listen to their compassion and willingness to sacrifice themselves for their spouses or children. For those that love what they are doing and those that feel they are called to it (a deep sense of purpose is driving them), listen and watch how they think, feel and act. These are the people for whom work is generative, helps others, and is play—it is not “work.”
----If you can make a call to 20-year-old Richard Boyatzis, what kind of advice you would give to him?
Drink less and stop smoking cigarettes! Don’t worry about gaining weight - you’ll gain much more than you want. Keep playing your guitar. And Sandy (eventually my wife of 39 years) is the love of your life.
----If you can leave a message to make the world a better place, what would be your message?
RB: Care about others but never let up on righting injustice or creating beauty.