Four Pillars of Leadership,

Pillar 2: Emotional Intelligence,

Organizational Awareness


In this week’s blog post, I continue the series on Pillar 2 of the 4 critical components of a leader, Emotional Intelligence, by looking at the 3rd component of Emotional Intelligence, Organizational Awareness.

Emotional Intelligence remains a key ingredient in the development of corporate leaders. More and more it’s becoming THE key component of what organizations demand in quality leadership. This week, we will look at the 3rd component of Emotional Intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman, Organizational Awareness.

Organizational Awareness is defined by the author of the original book on emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman, as having the ability to read a group’s emotional currents and power relationships, as well as the ability to identify influences, networks, and overall dynamics within an organization.

While I will always argue that all aspects of emotional intelligence are critical to leadership success, I will state that, especially in law enforcement leadership, a leader’s ability to practice organizational awareness is perhaps THE one aspect that will determine long-term success as a law enforcement leader.

An emotionally intelligent leader who practices organizational awareness can do the following:

  • Make more informed decisions based on the tangible and intangible data. They know what the appetite for a decision is, who needs to be influenced, and why and how to influence them.
  • Develop a clear strategy to getting things done because they know the internal (and external) landscapes.  The emotionally intelligent leader can identify the right person or team for the right job at the right time.
  • Communicate in a way that resonates (and in a way that supercedes the “negative” influencers within the organization) by understanding the unwritten language and tone of their organization.
  • Build a coalition that gets things done. They have the ability to motivate others to work towards a shared goal.

Perhaps the best example of Organizational Awareness is the character “Radar” in the Emmy-Award-Winning-TV Series, M*A*S*H.  For those Millennials and iGens not familiar with the show, it is about a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War.  While much of the show centers on the real work and off-duty antics of the surgical staff, it is Radar that time and again proves to be the true “hub” of the wheel.

Radar was the company clerk and, by many standards, quite naive in the ways of the world, but he was the one character in the show that could make things happen. No matter what the need was (blood, medical supplies, jeeps, tents, etc.) it was Radar that possessed the organizational awareness and knowledge of how the Army supply chain worked to get what his unit needed.

We’ve all known a “Radar” who just gets things done.  While all components of Emotional Intelligence are critical to the long-term success of a leader, many who rise to the top possess Organizational Awareness. They see the players (positive and negative) and understand how to work them and the system more maximum impact. This doesn’t make them manipulative, but rather aware of the specific needs and wants of each group operating within the system.

Leaders who understand and master Organizational Awareness will find it most useful in navigating change within the organization, improving communication within and among their peers, superiors and colleagues and in making the right decisions regarding personnell placement. Using your understanding of how each piece works with the other in support of the organizational mission is key to making informed decisions.

When one considers Organizational Awareness as a law enforcement leader or the leader of any other organization, you must look outside the organization as well. What are the external as well as the internal pressures that impact your organization. As a Chief of Police for more than 17 years in two distinctly different organizations, I learned very quickly that it wasn’t just me that impacted my organization, but the local political climate, the media, and my superiors who were civilian appointed and elected officials. Understanding their impact and influence on me and my organization AND how best to navigate those was a key to my success and is the key to your success as a leader.

Next week we will finish up Pillar 2: Emotional Intelligence by discussing how Organizational Awareness becomes truly  effective by understanding how to Manage Relationships in the Organization.

Until then, keep the growth going by sharing this and our other posts on social media.  I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this post by seeing your comments on it. Please login to comment and, if you haven’t done so already, please sign up for free to comment on the blogs and podcasts. 

Dean