Are You the Naked Emperor?

Are You the Naked Emperor?


Hi, I’m Tom Melton and I have the privilege of working with leaders, executives, and directors of organizations challenging them to look at their own life and start to walk a path to become better.

If you’re interested in getting better, which I think we all, I have a few ideas I want to share with you.

You surely know the parable of the Emperor and his clothing – it’s pretty familiar – where the Emperor who was naked and no one would tell him and so he finds that he’s walking around all the time and everyone acts like he’s clothed and interestingly after a while people actually think he is clothed. He doesn’t know any different so he’s not very self-aware.

Eventually, someone comes up and tells him that he’s naked! Typical of a leader, he is surprised by this new reality and the messenger gets the ax.

So maybe some of you find yourself in that position. But the interesting thing is that I find in dealing with heads of organizations is that most of us never think when we hear that parable that we’re the Emperor! We’re very aware of everybody else and how they’re walking around naked, but not ourself.

I talked to one CEO of a company who said, “Oh yeah yeah Bob, he’s clueless.” And why is he clueless? Well, because no one ever tells him or when they do tell him he doesn’t receive the information.

At the heart of that whole parable is what is commonly called nowadays Emotional Intelligence. It comes from Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence. It’s the idea that how we relate to other people is a huge variable in the way we operate in our organizations and our companies and so on. I want to just give you a kind of a core of what we look at around emotional intelligence.

There are three basic elements of emotional intelligence that need to be examined.

The very first and the foundational is what we would call self-awareness. In other words, am I aware of what I’m feeling, aware of my emotions? And one of the goals of healthy emotional intelligence is to be able to know what you’re feeling before anybody else knows. Typically it’s the other way around. I’ll come home and my wife will say, “How’s it going today?”, and I go, “Fine.” And she says, “Well how are you feeling” and I don’t in a sense need to say anymore. I typically say “It’s fine, okay. It’s fine.” But it isn’t fine. And she is knowing what I’m feeling before I am knowing it.

So one of the processes in emotional intelligence is spending time to examine what am I feeling, why am I feeling it, where is it coming from, and as we do that, it takes us to the second piece of emotional intelligence which is being aware of how our presence in our setting affects other people.

So you see it in a board meeting, you see it in your office. You come walking into the office in the morning and you about run over some guy on the in the parking lot, and your wife was mad at you when you left, and you come in and you’re just, “Hi, how are you doing?”, or you don’t need to say anything and it affects everybody. Pretty soon, as soon as you walk by, people are saying “What’s wrong with him?” and “I don’t know; we’d better not say anything today.”

So the question is, you may be aware that if you’re feelings are really uptight, but you don’t pay attention to how that impacts other people. As you become more aware of that and then you understand how it impacts other people, then you’re able to do the third piece of emotional intelligence.

That is to learn how to regulate your emotional intelligence.

One of the subtexts of that that we talked about that I won’t go into in depth now, but it’s very integral to this, and that is body language. It’s amazing to me how many the CEOs, executives, and leaders of organizations I speak to that are really impervious to this whole idea.

I’ll ask them, “Do you ever notice other people’s body language if you’re having a board meeting or a staff meeting and they’re sitting there with their arms crossed like this or they’re looking at their handheld?” Whatever it is, there’s a language that’s being spoken that typically speaks louder than what the person would say. So you say, “Bob are you interested in this subject?” and he may say, “Yeah” but if you look at his body language you’d say well you’re not interested in this.

So a part of that whole progression of first being self-aware, secondly being aware of how you impact other people, and third, being able to regulate it has a huge impact on the way that you lead and the way that you influence.

The most dangerous thing is to be suffering from the Emperor’s clothing syndrome. And that would mean you don’t know you’re suffering from it.

How does that happen? Well a part of regulating and part of being aware of how you’re impacting and the ability to regulate it and grow is by bringing other people into it. So if you did just nothing other than in your next staff meeting to talk about I’m learning this, and then ask people how do you experience me in this last meeting, what did you see when I got real big and enthusiastic, help me, that would be huge.

There’s a line in the Jerry Maguire movie years ago where the agent was Jerry Maguire with Cuba Goodings character and he said help me, help you. As a leader of an organization, we need to have that kind of understanding with our people that we’re leading is to ask them to help you to bring them into the Emperor’s clothing syndrome. If I’m naked, tell me.

But, when they tell you, if you then fire them, don’t be surprised if you don’t get anywhere.

All of this is connected – starting with self awareness, then the awareness of how you impact other people, and then that you regulate that.

That’s just a little bit for you to think about today and there’ll be more coming at you next week.