Leadership is emotional. People are often promoted into leadership positions based on their emotional intelligence, which research has shown to be twice as important for leaders as technical skills. Those high in this ability are rated as better leaders by the people who work for them as they know how to set a positive emotional tone in their organizations to lead success.

On this show, Jason Martin, Associate Dean of the Walker Library at Middle Tennessee State University, provides an overview of emotional intelligence and its importance to library leaders.


This podcast is brought to you by the School of Library and Information Management from Emporia State University, where library leaders are created—with program sites in Kansas, Utah, Oregon, Colorado, and South Dakota, and by the Park City Library, making film and podcasting possible with green screen and sound recording resources.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast, where we talk about libraries and leadership and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights in the profession.

Today we’re here with Jason Martin, who is the Associate Dean of the Walker Library at Middle Tennessee State University. He oversees library assessment, policy, and professional development.

Welcome, Jason.

Jason Martin:

Well, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here, Adriane.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #1: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and about your organization?  00:58

Jason Martin:

Sure, I’m currently the Associate Dean of the James E. Walker Library at Middle State Tennessee University. We’re here in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which is actually the geographic center of Tennessee. 

As the Associate Dean I oversee assessment, professional development, and policy here in the library. My research interests are on leadership and organizational culture. So, I’ve written a lot on transformational leadership, on emotional intelligence, organizational culture, and even on mindfulness and how we can use mindfulness as leaders to become better leaders.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #2: We’re here today to talk about emotional intelligence, and how to lead libraries, and set the emotional tone. Can you tell us what this consists of, and how it works? 01:42

Jason Martin:

It’s really two things that work together. Emotional intelligence is something that has been talked about, studied, and been debated for a long time—really as long as the idea of intelligence has been studied among psychologists. For a long time psychologists who studied intelligence thought that there were multiple intelligences.

In 1990, there were two psychologists who coined the term Emotional Intelligence, and they defined what it meant, and they gave some parameters of it. But, it was really Daniel Goldman, who in the mid-‘90s with his book, Emotional Intelligence, made the concept popular. Emotional intelligence really consists of four parts—sort of a two-by-two matrix of awareness and management both of self and others. So, it’s self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Emotional tone comes from this idea that every organization, whether it’s a library, or a bank, or a fire department, whatever it is—they have a particular organizational culture. Typically when we talk about organizational cultures, we talk about it from a cognitive perspective—when we talk about the work that’s performed, and how it’s performed, and who does it. This culture dictates a lot about who’s going to lead an organization, and who will work in an organization and stay there.

But there’s another part of that culture as well, which is the emotional part of the culture. It seems kind of strange sometimes to talk about emotions in the workplace. I’m a big fan of Mad Men. For those of you who don’t know, it’s based in a 1960’s ad agency, and none of these people would have ever talked about emotions in the workplace. You left it at the door. That’s really impossible for us to do. We’re human beings and we have emotions.

Emotional culture dictates how emotions are expressed in the workplace. When emotions aren’t expressed properly, it can lead to stress. It can lead to burnout. It can lead to depression. It can also lead to passive-aggressive behavior and sabotage. And, it can also lead to emotions being expressed very unconstructively—just big emotional outbursts in meetings, and yelling.

So, leaders can use emotional intelligence to model good organizational behavior. And, to use their emotional intelligence to influence the emotional culture in the library. And, to model how emotions should be expressed, and to be able to relate to others and influence them and influence how they express their emotions in the workplace.

All of this leads to a much healthier workplace—a workplace that’s more innovative, that’s more collaborative. It’s just a better place to work, fewer absentees, a just all around good workplace, a good environment for people to be in.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #3: And, we all want to work in a positive environment. So, this is a very important thing for us, as library leaders, to get a handle on. As a matter of fact, there’s been studies that show if leaders are good at emotional intelligence their employees rank them higher. So, can you tell us why is this important? What kind of things do we need to know?  05:16

Jason Martin:

There’s a lot of research on emotional intelligence in leadership like you said. Leaders are perceived to be better when they’re more emotionally intelligent. Organizations that have emotionally intelligent leaders, and also emotionally intelligent teams—people manage change much better, they’re much more innovative, and cutting edge. 

Those four parts of emotional intelligence all play a critical role in leadership. Not just in influencing the emotional culture, but also just in leading, and performing your job day to day. 

Self-awareness is critical. It’s one of the two cornerstones—really self-awareness, and social awareness, two cornerstones. Self-awareness for leaders, being aware of what you’re good at, and maybe what you need a little work on—other people you can bring into your leadership team to help round it out, and do those things that you’re not so good at.

Self-awareness, also though, is about knowing your values and knowing your purpose, and your principles. I think so much of leadership comes down to purpose and comes down to values. Being aware of those is so critical for a leader. I also think being aware of when things aren’t quite going the way you want them to, when maybe you’re not getting a message across. Or, a project that you’re trying to lead up, and get started isn’t really working very well. To have that self-awareness to know when that’s not working and make corrections. That’s really important because when you become a leader there’s fewer and fewer people who are going to tell you you’re not doing a good job. There’s a power imbalance there. No one wants to upset the boss, you know. That’s critical.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:


Jason Martin:

In self-management there’s two big things there. One is a work-life balance. We live in a day and age where we get emails sent to our phones all the time. We’re on all the time. We’re expected to give answers immediately. It can be difficult to turn that off. If you’re a leader in a library you typically have a heavy workload. 

Having that self-management component of emotional intelligence, knowing when to stop working, when to take a break, when to spend the time with your family and friends—to be able to recharge to get your mental and physical strength back, not to engage in bad behaviors as a way to relieve stress, but to actually engage in healthy activities to help you destress leads to fewer bouts of burnout. Self-management is also important though, because we need awareness of the things that we do, maybe some bad things that we do, and the management to be able to control them.

If you’re a dean, a director of a library, and you’re sitting in a meeting with your librarians and you’re sighing, and rolling your eyes, and clicking your pen, and you’re playing with your hair, or you’re on your phone, or whatever—those all send very bad messages to people who are there in the room. It’s disrespectful.You’re not interested. So, being able to manage those things is really important for leaders, especially talking about setting that emotional tone of respect, attentiveness, listening, and taking people seriously.

Social awareness is also so critical because it allows us to—really, the main component here is empathy and allows us to be able to make relationships with other people. So much of leadership comes down to the relationships that you have to be able to influence people to achieve work and achieve goals.

And also, being aware of your library. Understanding politics, and the culture, and the structure of your library, the cliques that are in your library, who are the influential people who work in the library—that’s social awareness, understanding that. Those are really critical things for a library leader.

Finally, relationship management—to be able to build those relationships. Like I said, leadership is an active influence. Strangers don’t influence other strangers. It really takes people that you know, and you trust, and you understand you have a relationship with to be able to influence. That’s such a large part of leadership, building those relationships, and maintaining, and managing those positive relationships.

Adriane Herrick Juarez :

Question #4: That’s fantastic. So, we must lead with self-awareness, managing our own emotions and creating some work-life balance for ourselves. And then, have others engage in the social awareness as well. I know we’ve all been in meetings where some of this stuff has been going on, the eye rolling, the other things that send that message that we don’t care, or this isn’t going well, or maybe emotions get out of control.  So, what kinds of framework or knowledge do we need to get to these places?   10:40

Jason Martin:

A large part of that is building that awareness, first of all, of who we are, and what we’re doing. A large part of that comes from understanding your values, and understanding who you are as a person, where you’re coming from, where you’re at right now, what got you there, and where you want to go and why. That’s really valuable. Not enough people engage in that behavior to really try and understand themselves and understand who they are.

Another part of that awareness is being aware of what we’re actually doing. A lot of times we might not be aware that we’re engaging in poor behavior in a meeting. Let’s say the eye-rolling or the clicking of pens, that might just be a nervous habit that we do, and we’re not aware of it.  

It’s bringing that awareness to our everyday actions, and being present and in the moment where we are, and being aware of what we’re doing. Once you have that awareness of what you’re doing, then you can break that pattern and say, Well, clearly, I’m engaging right now in bad behavior, I’m aware of that, so now I need to manage that, and to stop that. Self-awareness informs self-management. Once you become aware of those things, you can manage your behavior and manage your responses better. 

A large part of that comes from acting mindfully. I know mindfulness is a term that everybody uses now. It has really played a big part in my life. I’ve written an article about it and I’ve done some things about mindfulness. To engage in mindful activities that really help to build our everyday awareness so that we can then engage in more positive behaviors, and manage our actions and our responses better, I think are really important parts of that emotional intelligence framework.

Social awareness is really a lot about empathy. It’s interesting because there’s now becoming some debate between empathy and compassion. Those words actually mean different things. Empathy means taking on the feelings of another person. That can be very stressful if you do that a lot of times and can lead to burnout, whereas compassion is more about recognizing suffering and moving to help that person alleviate their suffering. So, there’s a difference there. 

Both of them involve recognizing when people need help, or recognizing emotions in others and being able to then help that person alleviate those negative or bad emotions. But, it’s just about the approach, and what you’re willing to take on. Like I said, a lot of people now are moving towards talking more about compassion in leadership versus empathy, because empathy can sometimes be a lot for a leader to be truly empathetic with a lot of people in a big library. It can lead to some burnout.

This relationship management, like I said, is being able to build those relationships, manage those relationships, to create positive relationships, being able to repair antagonistic relationships, being able to have a good working relationship even if some things may have gone wrong in the past, or if you got off to a bad start, being able to correct those, and fix those relationships.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #5: So, we start with ourselves, and I know there are a lot of tools out there that we as leaders can utilize to look closely at our own values and how we come across to our team and those around us. And then we move to compassion for those we work with. And then getting to this place where we can make this part of the organizational culture.

I just wonder how can we engage others? So, once we get to know ourselves a little better, what’s the next step? How do we engage others in understanding this and relating to this work and making it an important part of our libraries?  15:11

Jason Martin:

That’s always the big thing. That’s really what leadership is, is engaging others. Leaders have an important role to play in this if you’re talking about emotional culture. The front line librarians and staff play a much bigger role, actually, in enforcing cultural norms in the library. They’re really valuable, but you have to recruit the right people in your library. And, that’s social awareness. Understanding who are the influential people in your library. 

It isn’t the people who talk the most. It isn’t the people who have the loudest voices. It’s the people that others listen to, and follow, and respect. Having that social awareness to tell the difference to know who you need to go to enlist in this and say, Here’s what we’re trying to do in this library, and we really could use your help in this. Explaining to them the importance of it. And, showing them the importance of it.

You start off small, you move and get bigger and see successes. You see how important it is, then move on to bigger things. I think it’s really about understanding who those influential people are in the library and enlisting them, influencing them, and helping them to understand how important this work is. 

Most people probably already know this on some level. They might not have all these terms, and all the studies, but they understand the importance of being able to express themselves, and for other people to express themselves. They probably already know that there are changes that need to be made in the library. Bringing them onboard, and giving your support to them—helping them build a network of support that can go out and make these changes in the library. 

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #6: That sounds really good, and I know that we definitely all could feel when this is not working, and so it becomes very important to take a close look and figure out ways to do this well. 

I know that you’ve been doing this at Walker Library. And, in addition, you’ve developed some fantastic webinars with the Library and Leadership Management Association. So, I wonder, as you’ve been implementing, what have you seen in the library environment that has been a benefit of this kind of work?  18:00

Jason Martin:

I think it’s watching people. There’s a stereotype of librarians, this very—kind of quiet, mousy person, non-confrontational. And, that’s not always true. I’ve known librarians who have all kinds of personalities and all kinds of ways of expressing themselves. But, I’ve seen people who take these principles and apply them and do the work that we’re talking about. I’ve seen them go from people who are quiet, kind of sat in the corner, to people who are able to express themselves and were able to have physical conversations, and say important things that were maybe a little challenging or a little controversial. But, they needed to be said and done. They were able to take on that role because of building these good emotional intelligence skills and being able to build their emotional intelligence and do those things.

Throughout my career I’ve met people who you could tell they just had good emotional intelligence. They displayed the kind of warmth, genuine warmth that people just wanted to be friends with them. They had an easy-going manner. They were able to do the things that needed to be done when they needed to be done. They didn’t hide, they went out and did them. Even if it was something that they really, really didn’t want to do.

None of us, as leaders, want to give a bad review, or what have you, none of us want to do that, but those are important things that we have to do in our job and they can be done in a way that is beneficial to everybody. So, being able to work with people like that and just model them, and copy them, and then put my own little spin on it. These are things that I’ve seen in the library environment. And, I think it’s something that all of us can benefit from, and all libraries can really benefit from developing these skills.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #7: We can definitely all benefit. And, there’s nothing more rewarding as a leader when you see these kinds of things come out in people. When they become aware and when they become compassionate toward others, and when they have this kind of engagement. It’s fabulous. As you developed your models for creating this kind of culture in libraries, have you found any fabulous books or resources that you would recommend, and why?  20:54

Jason Martin:

I’ll give you the names of three books, and they’re all recent reads. They’re absolutely spectacular. One’s called, How to Be Happy at Work, it’s by Annie McKee. She talks about three things, purpose, hope, and friendships or relationships at work, that are the key to happiness, the key to fulfillment and satisfaction in our work lives. She has done a lot of work with emotional intelligence, and uses emotional intelligence and talks about it a lot in that book.

Another great read is called The Mind of the Leader. It’s by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, who developed this MSC model of leadership, which is mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion. Leaders who have these skills and use them have organizations with more satisfied workers and just this really great model. I think it’s this new model of what leaders need to bring in this new age of leadership.

And finally, a book that is a little bit different than those two, but it’s called

Extreme Ownership, and it’s written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin who are both Navy SEALs. Jacko Willink was a Lieutenant Commander in the battle of Ramadi of Task Unit Bruiser, which is a SEAL task unit in Iraq, which had one of the most sustained fighting and most causalities in Iraq. He and Leif, who was one of his platoon commanders, took what they learned there in battle and they brought it back to teach leadership to the SEALs. 

Now that they’re retired, they teach leadership to organizational leaders. Extreme Ownership came out of a situation in Iraq where there was a friendly fire death. It’s about, as a leader, taking responsibility and ownership for everything that happens in your organization. Breaking those things down, talking about chapters: Killing Your Ego; Cover and Move, are things that they learned in battle, but they have an application to all of our lives, even in libraries. It was a very great read, and I think it is a very inspirational read. All three of those books—read them all together. It’s going to give you a new mindset and a new way of looking at leadership and looking at organizations.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #8: It sounds like those will, very much—takes us down the road on this. Do you have anything else you’d like to share?  24:11

Jason Martin:

A lot of people think that emotional intelligence is something that you’re born with, that you have it or you don’t. But in fact, you can learn all of these concepts that we’re talking about today. You can learn all of these skills. 

Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not a touchy-feely, kind of emotional guy. But, I’ve seen the benefit of emotional intelligence to improve in those areas and it’s made a lot of difference in my professional life and in also my personal life. 

All of these things can be learned either together with a group of people, or a couple of people who also want to develop their emotional intelligence skills. You can work on practicing and getting feedback from everybody. You can really become better at this. Don’t think that you’re stuck wherever you are. You can go really far and learn a lot and develop these skills through practice, through feedback, if you have that support network of like-minded people.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #9: You’ve done great work in this area, and we appreciate it. As we close, I’d like to just ask, what does providing leadership in libraries mean to you personally?  25:27

Jason Martin:

I just want to bring benefit to the people that I work with, and to help them succeed to become the best at what they want to become, and what they want to do. That to me is what leadership is about. Whether it’s helping them to maybe change areas in their jobs, or to take a leap and become a leader in the library, or to develop new skills, or just find that sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in their work. It’s doing what I can to benefit them and help them, putting them first over anything that might benefit me. To me, that’s really what I try to do in leadership in my library.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

That sounds fantastic. Jason Martin, it’s been great to have you on this show today. Thank you for all of your work on emotional intelligence and setting the tone for our organizations. It’s been great to talk with you.

Jason Martin:

Thank you very much. Thank you for having me, Adriane. It’s been wonderful talking to you and the fact that I get to share this message. I think it’s important for people, not just leaders but everybody to learn about, and know about.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Definitely, and we’re glad you could be here today. Thank you.

Jason Martin:

Thank you.

You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Adriane Herrick Juarez. Our producer is Nate Vineyard. More episodes can be found at Library libraryleadershippodcast.com, where you can now subscribe to have new shows delivered right into your email inbox. You can also find the show on Apple iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.