HBR Emotional Intelligence Series
by Harvard Business Review
Harvard Business School Publishing
2019, 176 pages, $19.99 Paperback
ISBN 13 -978-1633696648

Book reviewed by Kavita Khajuria, MD

“…a sweet spot between despair and arrogance…”

As part of the Emotional Intelligence Series, fourteen essays explain how to use emotional intelligence to promote confidence at work. Authors include Gallo, Kanter, Molinsky and Chamorro-Premuzic, to name a few. It turns out that no one is immune to bouts of insecurity at work, regardless of rank, and the imposter syndrome is more prevalent that we realize. Opportunities and risks are encouraged to be embraced to facilitate growth, with a disregard of what others think, albeit to an extent. Confidence – the compounded accumulation of ‘small wins’, requires investment of energy, discipline, and professionalism. And it’s not just a self-absorbed venture – confidence reportedly inspires others and simultaneously boosts happiness and self-esteem. Confidence is also noted to grow when one anticipates down slides and prepares for alternatives. It’s the art of moving on, rather than getting stuck in the ‘blame game’. Recurrent themes include openness to new situations, expanding the comfort zone, and learning from missteps – authors note a learning mindset to cultivate growth and resilience. Yet navigation of change requires flexibility and ongoing new performances. Preparatory mental secrets of top athletes are shared, including the benefits of rituals to ‘get into the groove’, and meditation on ones ‘greatest hits’ before getting out there. Readers are cautioned on ‘little’ learning, the beginners bubble and overconfidence. The difference between winners and losers is spelled out. Other topics include ways to look more confident during presentations, the power of positive body language, various facets of the ‘voice’, and characteristics of great leaders. Tools are shared on management of self-doubt and the inner critic. The content eventually turns to gender – differing perceptions of confidence of women and men, and as research shows – there’s a long way to go. Gender oriented incompetence, Freud’s perception on the process of leadership, and research results on personality related differences are shared, as well as barriers to leadership positions for women. On a differing note, the concluding chapter offers reasons as to why less confident people may be more successful. This is an interesting, easy, and relatively quick read.