Forced awkward hugs, aggressive invasion of personal space, and forcing a handshake on people in distress, are all warnings about Scott Morrison’s Emotional Intelligence and Inauthentic Leadership style.
I Want to Wipe that Smirk Off His Face!
We collectively cringed as Scott Morrison forced a hug on New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. We watched in awkward trepidation as Morrison took up more and more of Shorten’s personal space in the Leader’s Debate. Shorten aptly nicknamed him “The Space Invader.”
There are generations of mother’s out there collectively internally screaming, that they ‘just want to wipe that smirk off his face‘ every single time he displays this bizarre, inappropriate emotion.
Anger and disbelief summed up our response this week as Scott Morrison forced a handshake on a Fire Fighter who had just lost his home. We were further angered when he forced another handshake on a 20 year old pregnant mother, who had just lost her home. Gobsmacked, we watched, as she pleaded to him for help and he turned and walked away. Our arms extended, shaking and closed fisted, rose as the metaphorical pitchforks they rightly were.
The Warning Signs were Clear. Morrison would be a Poor Leader
Most importantly, the forced awkward hug on Jacinda Arden, the space invading of Shorten’s personal space and Morrison’s constant discordant smirking, alone, are warning signs.
The high focus on self, refusing to acknowledge fault, dismissing criticism, the inability to reflect on his own actions, the constant deflection to sports, refusing to acknowledge facts, a focus on him (or him and Jen) instead of ‘us’ (the people), refusal to acknowledge reality, blatant lies (even with video evidence!), a history of ruthless incivility, history of lack of empathy, his self-identity as a saviour, nicknaming himself and a lack of judgement are also warning signs.
Moreover, these are warning signs of a leader displaying low emotional intelligence and poor leadership skills. Clearly, Walkley award winning journalists should have examined this more closely; before the election.
What Political Historian Norman Abjorensen wrote about Morrison in The Canberra Times today, shows that Morrison is not struggling as a new Prime Minister. This is the latest excuse, inexperience and the challenge of a new Prime Minister; but clearly, this is who he has always been. The warning signs were all there from those who know him; but yet also voted for him as the Leader of the Liberal Party. (No wonder Julie Bishop quit!)
In a number of interviews with current and former colleagues, what emerged was a picture of a complex and secretive figure, both ambitious and ruthless, and with little capacity for empathy or care about anyone who stood in his way.Norman Abjoresen, The Canberra Times 04.01.2020
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is touted as more important than IQ for leadership. You can be great at transactional tasks; but unless you can drive emotions and bring people along and feel the appropriate feelings and display the appropriate emotions – genuinely; nothing will work as well as it should. For example, if a Prime Minister smirks when he should be displaying empathy; he is exposed as inauthentic and out of touch.
There are five dimensions to emotional intelligence. I will discuss four of these dimensions as they apply to Scott Morrison. These are: Self-Regulation, Self-Awareness, Empathy and Social Skills. I have omitted Motivation for brevity.
Morrison and Emotional Self-Regulation
What Self-Regulation of emotions warns us about Scott Morrison; is he is more likely to push us into unsafe, and unfair environments. Leaders with High EQ keep us safe and environments fair.
Self-Regulation isn’t about with-holding emotion. Nor is it showing regular dramatic outbursts of anger and shouting (In fact, that is aligned with low EQ). It is about regulating emotion and applying the right emotion at the right time. This means a person must have the ability to understand the context and the situation at hand to respond. As a Prime Minister, Scott Morrison fails at doing this at a National level as well as when he communicates to each of us as individuals.
A leader high in emotional intelligence is able to reflect on a situation and be thoughtful about it.
Morrison’s holiday in Hawaii, his secrecy around his holiday, his incompetence of clear deputy leadership at that time, his downplay of the natural bushfire disaster unfolding, are all signs of low emotional intelligence and being unable to reflect and act in a time of crisis.
Uncertainty and Change
If Morrison had the level of high emotional intelligence required of a Leader of high office, he would be able to be accept uncertainty and change and lead us through change with integrity.
There is not a starker contrast, than the entire world – the actual entire world actively working on strategies to reduce carbon emissions and act on climate change and a Prime Minister who carries a lump of coal into Parliament like a Life Like Baby Doll, he must lovingly look after all day for motherhood class.
A Global Pariah
Leaders with Low EQ will be judged by other leaders, due to the disconnect of genuine feelings about an issue and the emotions displayed about an issue. Morrison’s feelings and displayed emotions about Climate Change, and his flippancy towards action, is out of kilter with the global leadership community. The way leaders act has a ripple effect. Due to this, Morrison is already ridiculed globally. He will become increasingly isolated and become a global pariah in the community of international leaders passionate about climate change. This in-turn, will affect Australia’s standing in the global community, which could cause us significant damage to our reputation and trade options.
Morrison’s Self-Awareness is on Permanent Holiday
As a Pentecostal who participates in prayer, Morrison gives off the persona of one who is very emotionally self-aware. Furthermore, his first major speech as Prime Minister directed people to look inside his heart. Self-Awareness is about being in touch with your own emotions and feelings. Morrison paints himself as a man who is comfortable with his emotions and be level-headed enough to not get swept away by them.
Daniel Goleman, the leading expert on Emotional Intelligence, defines Self-Awareness as the most important dimension of leadership. Regardless of how Morrison paints himself as self-aware, his behaviour demonstrates otherwise. To be succinct, Morrison’s self-awareness is on permanent holiday.
Leaders with High Self-Awareness are in Tune with Emotion
Leaders with high self-awareness constantly reflect and challenge their own feelings, beliefs and emotions. They have constant goals about how to respond and behave in all situations. They actively seek feedback to improve their responses. They question why they feel a certain way about issues and events.
Most importantly, leaders with high EQ are able to develop their emotional responses in line with societal feeling rules and emotional display rules. These are the feelings and emotions we display, acceptable within our society. In short, a leader high in self-awareness should be in tune with how we are feeling and express genuine emotion to reflect back at us.
Leaders with high self-awareness, do not just reflect the same emotion we feel back at us. Their level of awareness is such, that even if they are feeling upset and distressed, they identify that others are feeling the same. They have a deep understanding of why they are feeling this way. Therefore, they display the emotions needed for others to feel safe and secure. They provide leadership and strength in dark times. Morrison fails demonstrably in this area.
It is Not About Me. (Oh Yes it is!)
Scott Morrison is facing increasing criticism about his responses and behaviour. Even those on his own side of politics are speaking out. NSW Liberal MP, Andrew Constance also echoing public sentiment that Morrison got the welcome he deserved, when when asked about Morrison’s visit to his fire ravaged community.
Morrison’s response to anger towards him, is “He doesn’t take it personally and it’s not about him.” Just by looking at this one response, we can examine how Morrison has a low level of self-awareness. Notably, he is missing a key leadership trait.
Leaders with low self-awareness are incapable of examining their own emotional responses. In addition, they focus more on self, than others. They also project a sense of being a victim, where they can. They deflect and are uncomfortable talking about negative events. They also downplay situations.
When Morrison indicates, ‘he doesn’t let it (the anger) bother him’, he positions himself as a victim. A victim that is ‘strong’ and is not bothered by the anger of others towards him. In addition, he makes the event about himself and not about the fact that others are angry at his behaviours and actions. He deflects by saying, that it is not about him. When the anger is indeed about him.
There have been numerous other examples. The deflection of a poor choice of holiday time, to satisfying the wishes of his children. His beliefs about volunteer pay and his inability to reflect on these feelings dismissing them as heroes ‘wanting to be there.’ His “it can wait” attitude about emergency COAG, meetings with fire chiefs. His deep feeling of sporting camaraderie that we can take comfort in the hero worship of the cricket in times of a country on fire and so forth.
Morrison demonstrates Low Self-Awareness
If Scott Morrison had a high level of Self-Awareness, he would be able to reflect and understand why he has the feelings he has about certain issues. He would be able to identify that these feelings are incongruent with the feelings of Australians. Feedback would be crucial to him, that his emotions are coming across as callous and dismissive. He would take heed of feedback that his words and actions are making people feel insecure, angry and frightened. He would challenge himself to find the right emotion and words to comfort us and to lead us through this dark time. He does not.
Empathy – Jacinda Ardern He is Not!
If there is an example of a leader with perfect high level empathy as a construct of Emotional Intelligence, it is Jacinda Ardern. The empathy Prime Minister Ardern displays is high level in all three categories of empathy, that make up the EQ Empathy dimension. These are: Cognitive Empathy, Emotional Empathy and Compassionate Empathy.
Leaders with high level empathy are able to know and understand how others are feeling (cognitive empathy). They feel the same feelings as them at a deep level (emotional empathy) and they act with delicate compassion, but with lightning speed to move to help, when needed (Compassionate Empathy). Morrison is a total abject failure at this level.
Similar to the failed response to Hurricane Katrina in USA, Morrison has displayed a puzzling lackadaisical response to emergency co-ordination and urgency. In discussions about Leaders’ response to Hurricane Katrina, Daniel Goleman (Leading EQ Expert) highlights the importance of the poor response. He notes that victims were further victimised due to the indifference that the leadership showed. The abundance of TV Screens reflecting this, changed nothing.
Similarly, we watched in distress, upset, anger, tears, so many emotions as we witnessed yesterday, victims of the monstrous bush-fire, being further victimised by the indifference of a Prime Minister. A Prime Minister whose only concern was to pose as someone who cared, by literally grabbing victims’ hands and forcing them to shake his. Satisfied that he had his screen grab moment, he walked off, as he was being asked to provide more assistance.
Morrison has taken us down the dark spiral and we have crossed into the Abyss. A place beyond the netherworld, more sinister than a Prime Minister eating raw onions, or nodding for three minutes without saying anything in an interview.
Cognition, Emotion and Compassion
As a Prime Minister, it is crucial that Scott Morrison has a high level of empathy. Not only is he presiding over increasing poverty and joblessness, but now unprecedented catastrophic bush-fires that will go on for months. Bush-fires that have taken everything from people, including their lives and their loved ones.
A leader with high-level empathy, would act as Jacinda Ardern has acted in times of crisis in New Zealand. Sadly, the contrast could not be more stark. There are so many examples to give, but briefly, he would have shown cognitive empathy towards the concerns of fire chiefs, trying to meet with him for months. In addition, he would have had emotional empathy and displayed that he felt genuine emotion and empathy for fire victims and exhausted fire fighters and most importantly, he would have demonstrated compassionate empathy and acted with dedication and timely precision to do everything he could to prevent such a catastrophic event, but also respond to the needs of those affected, in abundance. He would have called urgent review and action of all climate action policies. He has failed on all levels.
However, it is not inarguable that Morrison and those around him are quite aware that he has poor empathy skills. We taxpayers just paid $190,000 for an empathy coach for him.
He Doesn’t Play Well With Others
It is every parent’s nightmare to have another parent call and say Johnny can’t come to the party because he doesn’t play well with others. In a nutshell, this sums up the necessity for leaders to have high level social skills.
Successful Leaders need high level social skills. In basic terms within EQ this is about being friendly, but with purpose. It is not just friendly banter, or being the biggest skulling bonehead dolt at the footy. Nor is it asking the open ended question repeatedly, “How good is…” with no meaning. High level social skills inspire and influence people.
Social skills in EQ are high level interpersonal skills required to bring people together for a purpose, high level negotiation, effective communication skills and change management skills, to name a few. Leaders with high level social skills also take ownership of responsibility seriously. Once again, Morrison fails at this level with great magnitude.
How the Popular Party Animal Got Fleas
Some may argue that Morrison was just elected as the Prime Minister of Australia and this means that he has great social skills. It is true that we see him at the footy and cricket with happy mobs. He delves into our blokey culture of beer drinking with more photo ops. Let’s not forget that awful attempt at Fatman Scoop’s Be faithful (Hands Up) song in Parliament! We see him in thumbs up photos with adoring fans. So how did the popular party animal end up with fleas?
Daniel Goleman explains that we often mistake leaders who display aggression (such as invading Shorten’s space in the leader’s debate), the blokey tough guy stance (footy, drinking, thumbs up), and archetypal leaders, ie. the mongrel leader archetype, (shouty and demeaning to opposition) or hero archetypes (everyone’s mate – Scomo) for great leaders. Goleman says that we often mistake these traits for brilliance in a leader.
However, the test is when they make it to the top. For Morrison, this is what is playing out now and he is not doing well at all. The answer of popularity is that perception of a leader’s ability in times of crisis is not judged in manufactured situations. It is judged when the leader has to apply his or her skills. In fact, it stands to reason that when a large majority of people put their faith in a leader and that leader fails them in a time of desperation and crisis, he will be sent to the dog house. And that is how he got fleas.
High Level Social Skills
If Scott Morrison had high level social skills, he would be right now effectively managing the biggest change since the industrial revolution we have faced. In a country where mining is a key industry and the shift that is required to address climate change; he is failing every single worker and every single community that needs jobs investment right now. This is an urgent requirement, not only to act on climate change; but to ensure mining regions are not left behind in poverty and joblessness when the market makes up his mind for him.
In addition, he would have demonstrated the social skills required to negotiate, direct, lead and co-ordinate the necessary prevention of and response to the more destructive natural disaster in our history.
He would not have gone off to Hawaii, or played cricket at Kirribilli House, or watched the Fire Works from his comfortable surroundings as people were fleeing terrified for their lives. He would have made himself available and communicated effectively his heartfelt support. He would be providing constant updates around the clock. He would give strength to those who must keep going in their delegated tasks. Importantly, he would display genuine empathy in his interpersonal encounters with victims and emergency workers.
Scott Morrison has failed dismally at every level. No. he doesn’t play well with others. He shouldn’t be at the party, let alone lead it!
Insecurity, Danger and Failure
The current crisis has exposed Scott Morrison as a failed leader. Using the concept of Emotional Intelligence, we can examine more closely why he has failed.
The terrifying aspect of seeking to understand Morrison from this angle, is that leaders with low emotional intelligence fail not just themselves, but us.
Everything about emotional intelligence underpins how safe we feel, how fair and equitable we are, how our paths to our own individual success is paved, the skills to develop the nation’s industry to name a few. Crucially, how we survive a time of crisis. The question on everyone’s lips should be – this is a natural disaster – what happens if there is a war?
It is two and half years to the next election and there are no jokes anymore. We are in for dangerous times ahead. The only hope we have is if the Liberal Party tests their new rule and he has a two thirds majority of the party to over-throw him. Otherwise, the cross bench could join together as a show of no confidence and refuse to pass any legislation and bring down parliament to an election.
Sadly, I think the only thing we can do is hang on. It will be a very dangerous and unpleasant ride ahead. Let’s hope we survive it. More importantly, let’s hope we survive him!
Two Things to Think About
I will leave you with a little food for thought. Goleman warns that there is a dark side to high cognitive empathy. In Narcissist, Sociopaths and Machiavellian Leaders, they are acutely aware of the pain and suffering caused; but have no sympathy for the victims to do anything about it.
I think the most fitting ending to a piece about a man who is all about himself, is to use a quote from the man’s Maiden Speech in Parliament. At the time, Morrison was talking about Africa, but it is remarkably fitting for Australia today: As Scott Morrison once warned back in 2008:
When the history books are written, our age will be remembered for … what we did—or did not do to put the fire out ..Scott Morrison, Maiden Speech, 2008