Terminal velocity is achieved when an object (usually falling from the sky) reaches its maximum speed. When it can go no faster, it has reached terminal velocity; in other words it has reached its full potential. I’m sure there’s much more to it than that, but since I’m not a scientist that simple explanation will have to do.
Some questions I have begun to ask myself recently are: Does everyone have a terminal velocity when it comes to leadership? Is the terminal velocity the same for everybody? And most importantly, can a person increase his or her leadership terminal velocity?
The heart of these questions really is how much of leadership is learned and how much of it is innate? and Is leadership more an issue of nature or nurture? According to Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee in their best selling book Primal Leadership , the answer is a resounding both! They cite emotional intelligence, the ability to connect with others, as a crucial leadership skill. A skill that their studies show can be learned by those who don’t have it and improved by those who were born with it.
The primary premise of Primal Leadership is that emotional intelligence, and competency in the four domains of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship-management, will lead to greater leadership effectiveness. Different objects have different levels of terminal velocity. A bowling ball, for example, has a greater terminal velocity than a pillow. But, steps can be taken to increase the terminal velocity of the pillow. It can be folded more tightly, the pillow case can be removed to make it more aero-dynamic etc. It may never have the same terminal velocity as the bowling ball, but it can improve its performance. This is also the case with people. We have each been born with varying degrees of emotional intelligence. Some are born with a higher level of emotional intelligence while others need to work harder to acquire the competencies. To increase leadership terminal velocity, a person needs to be willing to put in the effort to learn new skills and take steps to increase his or her emotional intelligence.
As a leader, I hope you want to increase your terminal velocity; to reach your full leadership potential. You may feel like you’re a born leader or you may feel like you’ve had to work at it. Either way, you’ll likely need to make a few adjustments, but I think the results will be worth the effort!