Dr. Relly Nadler

Relly Nadler Psy.D., M.C.C.

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

Will Meg be Magic for HP?

Meg Whitman's Emotional Intelligence leadership under the Spotlight

Posted Sep 25, 2011

Meg Whitman the past CEO of eBay, is the surprising selection for new CEO of Hewlett Packard Company. She has been a powerhouse leader for most of her career. eBay was the fastest growing company in history for it's first eight years under her reign. Fortune's named her the Most Powerful Woman in 2004 and 2010 she was the republican gubernatorial candidate for California and lost to Jerry Brown.

I profiled her in Leading with Emotional Intelligence as an example of a high EI leader. Even considering this new challenge demonstrates her EI Competencies of Achievement orientation, Initiative, Confidence, Optimism and we hope Accurate Self Assessment. These are all on the personal side of the EI competencies. She will need the social side of the EI competencies to actually be successful to turn around HP.

HP Board of Directors in the last 13 months has fired Leo Apotheker and Mark Hurd for a combination of financial missteps, corporate espionage, and allegations of sexual harassment for Hurd. Under Apotheker's leadership their stock price dropped more than 40%.They recently announced they would divest HP personal computer - the world's largest, and shut down their smart phone tablet operations in favor of providing more business services, a risky move on face value.

I wonder how these major decisions are made? What their decision process is? How long was the due diligence for Meg's hiring and restructuring? Are the decisions demonstrating high group IQ? In my work with executive teams I think the norm has been the bigger the group the lower the collective IQ scores. This is because of egos and inability to truly move pass conflict into the synergy of high performing where creativity and innovation become the norm. It takes a high EQ leader to stretch and challenge differing ideas and then meld them into high IQ solution that everyone feels they have had a contribution and then can support and execute to.

Whitman has demonstrated high EI in many of the social competencies. These will be critical for her and HP to be successful. Change is the place where all one's EI competencies need to shine. The Social competencies include: Change Catalyst, Influence, lnspirational Leadership, Teamwork and Collaboration, Conflict Management, Building Bonds, Communication and Developing Others. 

An example of her Communication, Change Catalyst and Empathy  competencies are below from her first email excerpt to HP employees:

"Our hallways are filled with the industry's brightest and most talented people. We believe we all understand that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. Each and every one of you contributes to our success. The board wants to continue proving to our customers, partners and stockholders why HP is - and should remain - a leader in our industry.

A top priority for us will be to refocus the energy of the organization on our mission and on the performance necessary to accomplish it. We need you to be the ambassadors of HP and work both collaboratively and effectively to usher HP into the future. To reach that goal, we need your best work and a focus on execution.

We believe that HP matters. It matters to Silicon Valley, California, the United States and the world. We will maintain and build upon our proud and deep-rooted legacy. We understand the strength of this company, and we know we have the right tools and the talented people to achieve our goals and execute our strategy.

We want to hear directly from you. Good ideas come from everyone, so please send any thoughts you would like to share to employee survey. We also invite you to join Meg tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time as we discuss this announcement." (Lance Ulanoff, mashable.com)

Whitman was the youngest of three children and grew up in Long Island, New York. She went to Princeton University and majored in Economics and then attended Harvard Business School. She has always been driven and even had the Wall Street Journal delivered to her dorm room as an undergraduate. Whitman studied brand management at Proctor and Gamble and Strategy at Bain Consulting. She then worked at Disney, Stride Rite, Florist Transworld Delivery (FTD), and Hasbro.

In her 2010 book, The Power of Many, she describes her key leadership values, many which align with the EI competencies. She writes, "I believe that being willing and able to actively listen is a vital skill for any leader. Not only is listening the right thing to, an antidote to arrogance, it also leads to all sorts of competitive advantages." She saw the value of this in building the eBay community and wanted to empower California voters to experience the "power of many." 

Whitman is not flashy or charismatic like other CEOs, but yields her power in a folksy den mother approach where she is nurturing values. She is non-threatening, easy to talk to, and self-effacing. She called herself "frumpy but I deliver," demonstrating the trustworthiness competency.

Whitman's husband is a neurosurgeon at Stanford, and she recharges herself by spending time with her family, escaping a few times a year to go fly-fishing at her husband's family farm in Tennessee.

Below are my assessment of her EI strengths and this will be wonderful playing field for Whitman and all of us as an audience to see how successful this EI leader is in a new demanding and highly public arena.

Key EI Strengths/Competencies:

  • Confidence
  • Initiative
  • Leadership
  • Achievement orientation
  • Adaptability
  • Change catalyst
  • Service orientation
  • Empathy
  • Trustworthiness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Influence
  • Organizational awareness
  • Communication


Possible overused confidence 

More Posts