The Daleks, war-minded beings that seek a new home for their waning population, have been a staple to the "Doctor Who" canon since the show debuted in the 1960s. (Photo courtesy of the BBC)
If you haven’t caught on by now, I’m a nerd. My most recent geek obsession is the rebooted “Doctor Who” series, thanks to our copy editor’s suggestion. For the last month, we’ve traded show lines like everyday dialogue. Our co-workers love us.
So, it wasn’t a surprise when this morning she texted me: “Inc. headline of the day: The Top 10 Signs Your HR Manager is Actually a Dalek.” The Daleks are the most important “Doctor Who” villain. It was fortuitous, however, because I received the message right before sitting in on a presentation called “Introduction to Emotional Intelligence,” given by Melvin Smith, a professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management.
Smith talked about how to increase organizational success through resonant leadership that encourages engagement and commitment. The skills that learning leaders can teach executives and managers — and yes, these are learned capabilities that dictate emotional intelligence — all seem like common sense, but they’re not common practice.
That’s why we get leaders like Bob Nardelli, known as one of the worst CEOs in American history from his disastrous handling of Home Depot and Chrysler in the 2000s. They focus only on growing the bottom line, never on whom they’ll hurt during the process.
He and other leaders like him are Daleks, essentially.
For non-Whovians — which I assume is most of the world — Daleks are single-minded, evil beings whose battle cry is “Exterminate!” Their MO is to vaporize their enemies, all in an attempt to take over planet Earth and spawn more of their kind. That mission often includes eliminating the Doctor, a Time Lord who can jump between time and space in his TARDIS, a time machine disguised as a blue police phone box.
Let all that nerdiness sink in for a minute.
For an alien race, the Daleks have a rather humanistic goal: To grow a powerful population impervious to extinction. Leaders are the same way. Their mission is to build their companies and be successful in their industries.
But the Daleks are dissonant. In his presentation, Smith said these are the leaders who exude negative emotions and don’t make authentic connections with their employees and environment.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is a resonant leader — he literally has two hearts, which represent Smith’s two criteria for resonant leaders: the willingness to be positive in any situation and the ability to make authentic connections with people.
Here’s the best news for learning leaders, however. The process of building a resonant leadership culture begins with a single person, as this type of emotional intelligence is contagious. Start with self-awareness and self-management skills like self-control, initiative, transparency and adaptability, to set an example for the rest of the organization.
But beware: Dissonance is just as contagious as resonance. That’s why learning leaders need to take on not only the Doctor’s positivity and empathy but also his role whenever the Daleks come to town — and beat back dissonance through their own developmental super powers.