Leadership is learning to bite your tongue

15th December 2000 at 00:00
SENIOR FE managers must show their ability to stay cool in a crisis as their management skills are about to come under the microscope.

They are following the tough corporate-style training route already adopted by college principals as part of the Government's drive to improve standards in FE colleges.

So far, nearly 300 principals have been through the process. Now the first wave of senior managers are starting similar training.

At the heart of it is the concept of "emotional intelligence" as a key to leadership - the ability to recognise your feelings, empathise with others, manage your emotions and develop self-control.

Having such assets in senior management can cascade through an organisation and reduce conflict and aggression in the workplace, according to management consultants Hay McBer.

The firm has worked with corporate giants such as IBM and Unilever, and runs the Leadership Programme for Serving Headteachers.

It has also been running the training programme for college principals since last year in partnership with the Further Education Development Agency, now the Learning And Skills Development Agency.

The programme is tough. Principals' styles of leadership are given a "360-degree appraisal", which includes the views of colleagues and staff.

The principals' programme particularly focuses on self-control - identified as one of the key elements of leadership, says Alison Forsyth, a consultant with Hay McBer.

"Ifthe head of an organisation is someone who is actually more empathetic, it will certainly mean the impact on their staff is different. It will feel very different to work for that person.

"It can change the culture even with just one individual. We see headteachers and college principals, and we look not only at this level of emotional intelligence, but map that through to looking at leadership styles and then the organisational climate."

The new training for college managers will even explore the brain functions, including chemical reactions and neural connections behind self-control.

"There is a physiological and neurological reason why our emotions can sometimes take control before our logical brain has time to react," says Alison Forsyth.

"We spend some time explaining this to people so they have an understanding of what it's about and why it happens.

"We do all sorts of exercises. We help people work out what is it about this situation that's making them feel angry."

Graham Peeke, of the LSDA, said: "We have this belief that your level of emotional intelligence impacts upon your leadership style which, of course, has a major impact on the climate within the institution, both for staff and for students.

"There have been research findings to show that quite a lot of high-level managers lack adequate self-discipline and that, on occasions, lack of control and one's impulses have been a major derailer of top executives."

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