Leadership achievement …with balance

By Elisabeth Goodman, 17th November, 2018

What is “Achievement Orientation”?

The fourth primer in Daniel Goleman et al’s series on Emotional Intelligence is entitled “Achievement Orientation” – as summarised in this illustration.

Illustration of the meaning of “Achievement Orientation” – from primer 4. in Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman et al. Key Step Media, 2017

The authors highlight the difference between what individuals might have excelled at early on in their professional careers vs. what it might take to get them to the next level of management or leadership.

This booklet seems particularly apt to illustrate some of the key concepts that my colleague Liz Mercer and I explore in RiverRhee’s course on the Transition to Leadership.

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for managers and teams

Balanced leadership

According to Goleman and his co-authors, the best leaders balance their personal drive for excellence, continuous improvement, challenging goals, and calculated risks with an understanding of the needs and goals of the organisation and of the people around them.

Richard Boyatzis shares an insightful perspective on “toxic” leadership.

He suggests that indications of a “toxic’ leader are when they micromanage, and demonstrate unhappiness or stress.  According to Boyatzis, these signal an over-emphasis on personal goals, as opposed to a more balanced concern for the team and for their and the organisation’s goals.

Leaders can achieve a more balanced approach through:

  • greater use of emotional and social intelligence
  • 360 degree feedback
  • practising goal setting, measuring performance and visioning as part of daily routines
  • support from a coach

We can also harness our brains for a balanced approach to achievement

According to Richard J Davidson, we can also develop greater proficiency in “Achievement Orientation” through our understanding of the brain as illustrated below.

The pre-frontal cortex supports the thinking associated with setting goals.  The nucleus accumbens is rich in dopamine and helps us to feel ‘good’ about what we are doing.

Davidson suggests that the left and right sides of the brain can respectively support or act against a positive approach to goal setting and to feeling ‘good’ about it.

As with all things, practice will help to activate these parts of the brain and so help us to get better at achieving the right balance of personal drive and support for others’ goals.

High performance teams can also demonstrate achievement with balance

Each of the twelve primers in the Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence has a chapter by Vanessa Druskat where she describes the behavioural norms that teams might demonstrate.

Druskat and her colleagues studied the performance and behaviours of a number of high performing and average performing teams.

They found that the distinguishing factors were the extent to which the members of the teams developed strong interpersonal relationships as well as the more performance related norms.  The performance related norms that Druskat cites are:

  • Performance orientation
  • Team self-evaluation
  • Proactive problem solving

A full list of all the team norms can be found in: Defining team norms for high performance teams (this is based on the 11th primer: Teamwork)

Grit and calculated risk

According to Goleman, leaders who demonstrate “Achievement Orientation” will have the tenacity to overcome obstacles and set-backs.

They will also be both bold and realistic in their approach to risks.  They will pick the right peg in the ‘ring toss game’ or ‘hoops’ – far enough to stretch them and the organisation, but not so far as to risk disaster!

These concepts are also illustrated in my full-page summary of yet another fascinating booklet in Goleman et al’s series on Emotional Intelligence!

Full page illustration of the meaning of “Achievement Orientation” – from primer 4. in Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman et al. Key Step Media, 2017


My blogs on other booklets in the series:

About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.