Elliot D. Cohen Ph.D.

What Would Aristotle Do?

How to Improve Leadership Skills with Logic-Based Training

LB Training can increase emotional intelligence, and make you a better leader.

Posted Jun 11, 2018

"Business People," by Ivan Atanasso, CC by 2.0
Source: "Business People," by Ivan Atanasso, CC by 2.0

In training many prospective philosophical practitioners in Logic-Based Therapy and Logic-Based Consultation (LBT&C), I have almost invariably been told by my trainees that their studies have helped them to hone in on their own irrational thinking and emotions, and the self-destructive behavior to which they lead. 

Many of these trainees have been professors of philosophy. However, such antidotal evidence more broadly supports the practical value of LB training for professionals in other leadership positions. In particular, there is a salient connection between LBT&C and what, in 1990, two psychology professors, John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey called “Emotional Intelligence.” This connection lies in that the former tends to build the same practical skills as the latter. Based on studies later conducted by psychologist Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence can be at least as important, if not more important than IQ as a predictor of success in corporate management and other leadership capacities. 

So, can LBT&C help to build the same skills that increase the likelihood that a person occupying leadership positions—managers, lawyers, physicians, administrators, educators, etc.—will be successful in these roles?

If Goleman is right about the importance of emotional intelligence as a predictor of success in leadership roles such as corporate management, and if LBT&C teaches the basic skills that build emotional intelligence, then there is strong reason to believe that the answer to the latter question is in the affirmative. Adding to this, the consistent feedback from trainees in LBT&C appears to be corroborative.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Put in operational terms, what skills make a person emotionally intelligent?   According to Goleman, in his book, Emotional Intelligence (pp. 43-44), there are five such skills:

  1. Self-awareness or knowing one’s emotions: This involves “recognizing a feeling as it happens.” People who are out of touch with their own feelings may be influenced by them without realizing it, thereby affecting the efficacy of their decisions. On the other hand, being in touch with their emotions can help them avoid being unduly influenced by these emotions in making decisions, and may even inform them in useful ways. For example, “Do I truly love this person, or am I just succumbing to social pressures to get married?”
  2. Managing emotions: This builds on self-awareness inasmuch as you are more likely to control irrational emotions if you are aware of them in the first place. Thus, you can better control your behavioral response to a certain employee if you are in touch with your negative feelings toward this person.
  3. Motivating oneself: This skill, in turn, supports managing your emotions. It involves “delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness.” It means that you have the willpower to overcome impulses that obstruct rational decision-making and action. “I know I feel like ranking this guy out for his stupidity, but it will not help matters, and will only destroy my ability to work with him in the future.”
  4. Recognizing emotions in others: This involves empathy, which is the ability to resonate with how others are feeling. This enables you to gain rapport with others and thereby motivate them to do better. “It sounds like you are really feeling lonely going through this messy divorce on your own. It must be hard to keep focused on your work. If you feel like talking about it, my door is always open.” 
  5. Handling Relationships: This is largely “managing emotions in others,” according to Goleman. Being able to empathize with how others are feeling is clearly a condition of helping others to manage their own emotions. As I understand this aspect of emotional intelligence, it is the ability to empower others to make constructive change. It is the ability to create a caring and supportive environment in which others feel free to explore their own feelings, become aware of them, and manage them. The emotionally intelligent person does not tell others how to feel, but instead helps them to own their emotions in order to manage them cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally. “I realize how shitty I have been acting. I was really pissed off at you. But I see now that it’s affecting our work relationship. I will try harder to put this behind us.”

The Six Steps of the Logic-Based Method and How Each Supports the Above Emotional Intelligence Skills

The Logic-Based Method presents a process for dealing with problems of everyday living through the use of philosophy and logic. Its keynote is that people create their own emotional and behavioral headaches by deducing self-destructive conclusions from irrational premises. The six steps of LBT&C capture the five skills of emotional intelligence described above. Here are the steps and the skills they support:

STEP 1:  IDENTIFY THE EMOTIONAL REASONING 

In this step, one keys into the reasoning that is leading to the self-destructive conclusion. This reasoning has two components: 

  1. Emotional Object (O):  What a person is upset about. “My boss did not appreciate how qualified I was and passed over me for someone less qualified for this promotion.”
  2. Rating of the Emotional Object (R):  How the person is evaluating the emotional object. “My boss is a fool.”

The Emotional Reasoning can be constructed from O + R by using this valid form:

If O then R

O / Therefore R

For example:

  • If my boss did not appreciate how qualified I was and passed over me for someone less qualified for this promotion, then my boss is a fool.
  • My boss did not appreciate how qualified I was and passed over me for someone less qualified for this promotion.
  • Therefore, my boss is a fool.

Empathizing in Step 1

In helping someone to get clear about her emotional object, one must be able to get inside the other’s subjective world in order to see exactly what the person is feeling. “Oh, I see that you feel really unappreciated because you thought you were the most qualified for the promotion and your boss hired someone you feel is less qualified instead.” In the LB process, active listening is very important as is the ability to reflect back what another is saying in a way that conveys to this person that one really understands what she is going through. Here, one is authentically there with the client, and does not attempt to judge her as a person. In the immortal words of psychologist Carl Rogers, one displays “congruence” and “unconditional positive regard.” In this LB step, one uses what Blythe Clinchy calls “connected knowing”; that is, one attempts to understand how the other perceives the world from her subjective perspective, rather than to doubt, or look for faulty thinking.

STEP 2:  CHECK FOR FAULTY THINKING IN THE PREMISES

In this second stage, one continues to be authentic and does not judge the other. In contrast to Step 1, in this second step, one begins to examine the premises of the other’s emotional reasoning to see if they are rational. To accomplish this task, LBT&C provides a catalog of Eleven Cardinal Fallacies. These are faulty thinking errors that have a proven track record of frustrating personal and interpersonal happiness. Each of these fallacies also has a corrective “guiding virtue” that provides an aspirational goal for overcoming each fallacy. As I describe in my latest book, Logic-Based Therapy and Everyday Emotions, these fallacies and their respective guiding virtues are as follows:

LBT’S Eleven Cardinal Fallacies

  1. DEMANDING PERFECTION: Perfect-a-holic addiction to what one can’t have in an imperfect universe.
    Guiding Virtue:  Metaphysical Security (security about reality itself notwithstanding its imperfections)
  2. AWFULIZING: Reasoning from bad to worst.
    Guiding Virtue:  Courage
  3. DAMNATION: Shitification of self, others, and the universe.
    Guiding Virtue:  Respect
  4. JUMPING ON THE BANDWAGON: Blind, inauthentic, antidemocratic and parrot-like conformity.
    Guiding Virtue:  Authenticity
  5. CAN’TSTIPATION: Obstructing one’s creative potential by holding in and refusing to excrete an emotional, behavioral, or volitional can’t.
    Guiding Virtues:  Temperance; Self-Confidence; Patience, & Tolerance
  6. DUTIFUL WORRYING: Dutifully and obsessively disturbing oneself and significant others.
    Guiding Virtue:  Prudence
  7. MANIPULATION: Bullying, bullshitting, or well poisoning to get what one wants.
    Guiding Virtue:  Empowerment
  8. THE WORLD-REVOLVES-AROUND-ME THINKING: Setting oneself up as the reality guru.
    Guiding VirtueEmpathy
  9. OVERSIMPLIFYING REALITY: Pigeonholing reality or prejudging and stereotyping individuals.
    Guiding Virtue:  Objectivity
  10. DISTORTING PROBABILITIES: Making generalizations and predictions about the future that are not probable relative to the evidence at hand.
    Guiding Virtue:  Foresightedness
  11. BLIND CONJECTURE: Advancing explanations, causal judgments and contrary-to-fact claims about the world based on fear, guilt, superstition, magical thinking, fanaticism, or other anti-scientific grounds.
    Guiding Virtue:  Scientificity

Managing Emotions in Step 2

Identifying such fallacies in one’s own emotional reasoning can help a person in a leadership position to key into their irrational thinking and therefore avoid self-defeating confrontations with others over which they have authority. For example, consider the following emotional reasoning secretly entertained by an irate manager:

  • If John screwed up then he is a worthless screw-up
  • John definitely screwed up this time.
  • Therefore, he’s a worthless screw-up!

Because this reasoning drives the manager’s emotional response (in this case strong anger), in becoming aware of it, he is able to key into a fundamental aspect of his emotion. “I now see just how I’m angering myself.” This in turn can help him to manage his emotion because he now sees exactly what he is thinking to make himself so angry.   

He can also key into the damnation going on in his rating of John found in the major premise, namely his being a “worthless screw-up.”  This rating, in turn, he deduces in the conclusion (“He’s a worthless screw up”). Being able to formulate and key into fallacious premises inside emotional reasoning can therefore be an invaluable way to manage emotions—one’s own and those of others.

STEP 3:  REFUTE ANY FALLACY FOUND IN THE PREMISES

The point of refutation is to prove that the thinking is irrational, and LBT&C teaches a variety of refutation styles. One important approach is to show that the fallacy engenders an absurdity. “If John is a screw-up for messing up this time then that must mean that we are all screw-ups, even me, because we all have screwed up. So I need to be careful not to confuse the act with the person. Otherwise I will be screwing up too!”

Motivating Oneself in Step 3

In refuting the faulty thinking in one’s emotional reasoning, one has given oneself a good reason to surrender the irrational thinking that drives the self-destructive emotions and behavior. This is an important step toward overcoming irrational thinking. It first leads to a state of cognitive dissonance. The latter is a state of conflict between one’s rational thinking and one’s irrational thinking. So, you realize that you are being irrational but still feel like damning John for messing up.  According to LBT&C, this state of conflict is a good start because you now see that you need to make a constructive change. As will be shown, it is through the sixth step of the process that this constructive change can be accomplished.

STEP 4:  IDENTIFY THE APPROPRIATE GUIDING VIRTUES

The stated constructive change is more readily made when a person has an idealistic goal toward which to strive. In calling it “idealistic,” I mean that it can never be fully actualized but provides something to aspire to in continually improving one’s skills. It is not enough to avoid the pitfalls of irrational thinking. Rather, the goal is to strive toward excellence. This emphasis on virtue or excellence resonates well with taking a leadership role. Role models are appreciated and emulated when they exemplify the best of human striving, rather than simply the competence attained by avoiding irrational thinking. For instance, the virtue of damnation—of self or others, is that of Respect. In LBT&C this means unconditional acceptance of self and others. It means respecting the rational autonomy and self-determination of self and others, not treating oneself or others as mere objects to be manipulated for ulterior motives; and not engaging in self-deception or deception of others.  To be respectful toward self and others means that one also exemplifies further supporting virtues such as Honestly, Authenticity, Empowerment of Others and Rational Autonomy.  For example, one cannot begin to be respectful without being honest! 

Handling Relationships in Step 4 

This step offers ample opportunity to promote healthy interpersonal relationships among leaders and those over whom they hold authority.  Thus, a leader who is respectful to self and others will be honest with John about his performance; not try to hide behind a veil of pseudo-perfectionism (“I’m perfect and you’re not”); facilitate constructive change by empowering those over whom he has authority; and use language to guide future actions toward constructive change, rather than to goad, intimate, threaten, or manipulate it. So a respectful manager does not say “We don’t want losers working here; are you a winner or a loser?” or “I would hate to have to let you go!” Better to say “It can be a useful learning experience. Do you have any thoughts about how to avoid this type of mistake in the future?” In this way, the manager empowers the employee rather than subverts his autonomy, and relegates him to a mere thing that has malfunctioned.

STEP 5:  ADOPT A PHILOSOPHY THAT PROMOTES THE GUIDING VIRTUE

This step of the LB method is one that invites creativity and independence in developing emotional intelligence. The core idea here is to adopt a philosophical world view that would provide guidance in aspiring toward the guiding virtues in question. Whether we realize it or not, we all have “philosophies” about life. Thus, a person might subscribe to the “Golden Rule,” which says to treat others as you would wish to be treated; or to not treat others in ways you would not wish to be treated. In contrast, another person may be more pragmatic and put a “What goes around comes around” spin on the latter: “Treat others with respect if you want them to treat you with respect back.” The former, originally attributed to Jesus, closely aligns with the duty-based ethics of the Eighteenth Century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. In contrast, the latter aligns with the ethical egoism of the Sixteenth Century philosopher, Thomas Hobbes. While philosophical counselors and consultants have the training and fount of knowledge to help clients expand on the philosophical underpinnings of their world views, what is most important is that the philosophy fits the world view of the person who is adopting it.   

As long as the philosophy is itself free of any of the Cardinal Fallacies, and provides guidance in making progress toward the guiding virtues, it is acceptable. A chosen world view needs to resonate well with the person adopting it. Some people are duty-based thinkers so that Kant’s philosophy works well with them, while others may be ethical egoists and prefer Hobbes over Kant. I always instruct trainees to be careful not to dictate philosophies to their clients because this can lead to mismatches where the philosophical view does not feel comfortable enough to motivate a client’s constructive change.

Motivating Oneself In Step 5

Quite clearly, if the philosophy is a good fit, it can be a great motivation toward constructive change. So you can’t give a religious person Nietzsche who proclaimed that “God is Dead”; and you can’t give an atheist Saint Thomas Aquinas who entreats us to get closer to God. The best antidote to irrational thinking and motivator toward the guiding virtues is what works for the person. Leaders adopt philosophies that motivate them toward excellence in the work environment as well as in the broader arena of life. They are also aware that force-feeding their philosophies to others over whom they have authority is likely to backfire. They therefore adhere to the basic tenet of LBT&C, which is to respect personal autonomy in guiding one’s ship of life toward virtue.

STEP 6: APPLYING YOUR PHILOSOPHY

This final step of the LB method is where the rubber meets the road. The goal here is to heed the wisdom of one’s philosophy by building and implementing a plan of action based on the philosophy. For example, to not treat others as you would not want to be treated, you should make it part of your plan to avoid doing the specific things you would not want done to you. Thus, for example:

  • Do not publicly ridicule employees
  • Do not lie, manipulate or deceive them
  • Do not needlessly overburden them with work
  • Do not make them work long hours with inadequate break times;
  • Do not underpay or otherwise exploit your work force

Motivating Oneself in Step 6

According to LBT&C, building willpower to make constructive change lies in practice. The more one practices the exercise of willpower, the stronger one’s willpower muscle will become. In applying the action plan created in Step 6, I always ask clients what they tend to do when they are under the grips of their irrational emotions. For example, would you actually seek out John and manipulate, intimidate, or threaten to fire him? If so, then you would be asked to apply your new empowering philosophy instead, as you work on strengthening your willpower. Indeed, willpower can be practiced. Even resisting a food you like but which is unhealthy can be a way to strengthen your willpower. Excellent leaders have strong willpower muscles! This requires practice, and LBT&C emphasizes practice as a way to reinforce positive, forward-moving habits in alignment with one’s philosophy geared toward one’s guiding virtues.

Concluding Remarks

Based on what I have said here, it is apparent that LBT&C supports all of the emotional intelligence skills identified by Goleman.  It is therefore reasonable to use it in the service of becoming a better leader, inasmuch as increasing one’s emotional intelligence does improve one’s leadership skills. 

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