Emotional Intelligence, Illusive Attribute of Leaders

I was quite stricken by the sudden death of Simegnew Bekele, chief engineer of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The nation was overtaken first by surprise, then by disbelief and then finally by doubts and disappointments about the fate of the country.

Watching the news became unbearable. An engineer of the Renaissance Dam can be replaced but not a father and a husband. With many questions left unanswered, nothing can ease the agony of losing a father. I cannot imagine the agonizing pain that his children must be going through, not to mention the public outcry, confusion, misinformation and speculation that has flooded the internet.

During his address to the diaspora community in Washington D.C., Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) added to the hurt. He indicated that the case might be a homicide way ahead of the conclusion of the investigation.

It was a statement that stayed with me, and I expected to hear more from media outlets about this. Unfortunately, no private, public, local or international media picked up on it. No one questioned Abiy’s statement, despite the fact that the police have announced that the cause of death remains unknown. The Prime Minister had jumped the gun and claimed that he was killed.

As someone who has tremendous respect for the prime minister, I was astonished by the bold conclusion he made ahead of the investigation. And as a lawyer and an advocate of independent investigations, presumptions terrify me the most.

It all comes down to the potential risks that the statement holds. For any leader, there comes a time when it is best to let subordinates handle cases and follow through. Understanding where professional expertise begins and where politics ends is vital to ensuring that the correct outcomes are reached. The investigation team relies on forensic evidence, which is gathered at the scene of the incident. The work of the investigators is bound to be time-consuming, and they must be allowed to perform their duties and formally report their findings in due course.

No leader is perfect, for we are all human, and we can all stumble and become emotional in matters that touch upon death. But one thing remains crucial. The impact of a statement by a leader during a critical time can have far-reaching consequences. The public reads between the lines of statements made by leaders or take them at face value, depending on the emotional state of the people at the time.

Irrespective of whether they are part of someone’s actual personality traits, snap judgments by politicians can have a substantial negative impact on the public.

Politicians and leaders who try to win the approval of the public have to be aware that they are judged by the content of their speeches. Communication ranges from symbolism to information that has no definite interpretation.

Abiy has become a highly esteemed leader in the eyes of the public. He embodies moral values and leadership skills that are valuable. He became a role model through his principled stance on social and political issues.

But this does not mean that he should not be scrutinised and criticised by the media and the public. He should be expected to conduct himself according to the high leadership standards he has set up. Leadership comes with many responsibilities and strict adherence to principles.

The power and influence that a leader exercises are unique in their range and substance. Politicians are subject to all manners of accountability since they are afforded immense powers, and it is more likely that they are asked pressing questions that require honest answers.

We should remind ourselves that assumptions are merely that, and do not determine the outcome of a case. Only formal and independent investigations matter in the eyes of the law, which is as it should be, and the court of public opinion follows suit.

One of the best attributes of Abiy is that he is open and honest about the ups and downs of leadership and Ethiopian politics. Leaders can make mistakes but unless those mistakes are called out, there is nothing to ensure that they will learn from it. Emotional intelligence is vital for leaders just as technical skills are. It is something that we miss on the political as well as social fronts.

A leader that portrays confidence, professionalism, accountability, emotional intelligence and humility in equal measure will balance out unintended expectations and speculations. It is about having a leader who understands the impact of unverified statements.

Experience teaches us slowly at the expense of mistakes. Perfection may not be expected of leaders in all situations at all times. Nevertheless, the most successful leaders have the ability to make it a priority and avoid emotional statements or give into momentary misapprehension.

By Eden Sahle
Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law and international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

Published on Aug 04,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 953]



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