Tony Gurr

Emotionally Intelligent LEADership – What can Tony Soprano “LEARN” EDUcators?

In Educational Leadership on 02/09/2011 at 12:57 pm


Tony (RIP)



I have a book on my bookshelf – “Tony Soprano on Management”.

I read it from time to time – but I have to admit it does not give me a lot of inspiration as “a parent” (sorry, Anthonyand not Tony’s son, A.J).

I have to admit – loved the show (and James) and wish it had gone on forever!


I also have a daughter (as you may know) but have never been convinced of Tony’s skills as a “parent” – as these clips from season one demonstrate: 


Parvati: There’s a Zuni saying: for every 20 wrongs a child does, ignore 19.
Tony: There’s an old Italian saying: you fuck up once, you lose 2 teeth. 

Tony: I was proud to be Johnny Soprano’s kid. When he beat the shit outta that guy, I went to the class. I told them how tough my father was.
Melfi: Do you think that’s how your son feels about you?
Tony: Yeah, probably. And I’m glad, I’m glad he’s proud of me. But that’s the bind I’m in, ’cause I don’t want him to be like me. 

Meadow: Sometimes you’re so naive. What do you think Dad does for a living?
A.J.: Waste management.
Meadow: Do you know any other garbagemen who live in a house like this? 

Meadow: Are you in the Mafia? 
Tony: Am I in the what? 
Meadow: Whatever you want to call it. Organized crime. 
Tony: That’s total crap, who told you that? 
Meadow: Dad, I’ve lived in the house all my life. I’ve seen the police come with warrants. I’ve seen you going out at three in the morning. 
Tony: So you never seen Doc Cusamano going out at three in the morning on a call? 
Meadow: Did the Cusamano kids ever find $50,000 in krugerrandts and a .45 automatic while they were hunting for Easter eggs? 
Tony: I’m in the waste management business. Everybody immediately assumes you’re mobbed up. It’s a stereotype. And it’s offensive. And you’re the last person I would want to perpetuate it… There is no Mafia. 
Meadow: Fine. 
Tony: Alright look, Mead, you’re a grown woman, almost. Some of my money comes from illegal gambling and whatnot. How does that make you feel? 


Tony, the head of the “family”, had a heart, had feelings – and panic attacks! His shrink, Dr. Melfi, tried to get him to open up. The problem was Tony was not the most emotionally-intelligent of Dr, Melfi’s clients!


Tony: This. Therapy. I HATE this fuckin’ shit! Seriously, we’re both adults here, right? So after all is said and done, after all the complainin’ and the cryin’ and all the fuckin’ bullshit… is this all there is? 


Let’s be honest here – with the exception of the “ducks”, emotions were never Tony’s strong point…

Perhaps, we could help Tony a little – if we talked about Emotional Intelligence (IQ).


Now, we could let him know about what Daniel Goleman said about Emotional Intelligence:


…and perhaps let him know about a few of the core concepts:

I’m guessing, however, Tony might say:


Forever the optimist, I’d probably try to explain a few more of the EQ ideas that have been thrown around:


Oh, yeah – and what about:

Mmmm…perhaps, me “sleeps with the fishes” tonite!


OK. OK – maybe it’s my fault! The terms Emotional Intelligence and Tony Sopranro do not collocate as well as I would like them to (don’t kill me)! Although, and in my defence, Goleman did talk about “primal leadership” and “destructive emotions”, too!

Tony would have trouble with these ideas – they simply are not in his lexicon!


A few things are, however:


Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) and Leadership were essentially a match made in heaven – and the business community jumped all over it! After all, the research showed us:

  • EQ is a better predictor of managerial and leadership success than IQ 
  • There is a high correlation between EQ scores and performance outcomes – those with higher EQ consistently have higher performance scores 
  • Individuals with high levels of competency in EQ are better able to engage their teams, foster cooperative working relationships and improve the overall effectiveness of others – and win over more customers

Sign me (and Tony Soprano) up for a programme, today!


What about EDUcation? 

We all know that leadership is one of the most significant of a range of complex variables that can determine the success (or otherwise) of a school, college or university. Leadership in education is about allthingslearning – the learning of others has to be at heart of the decision-making of any educational leader.

We know what happens when it isn’t – the boss (teamleader or colleague, even) from hell!


Think about it…

…when was the last time you heard a teacher saying the following about a principal, a director or a rector (even):

  • She should take a look in the mirror – before having a go at us!
  • He’s got the people skills of a “brick”!
  • She hasn’t got a clue about what is really going here, has she?

What these people are really saying is not so much about the knowledge or skill-set that others have (or may not have) – it’s much more about “consciousness”:


OK – so we know what Tony Soprano would probably say about this!

But the reason I like this particular “model” is that:

  • This particular model was developed by educators (Marcy Shankman and Scott Allen) – and also created to help promote Emotionally Intelligent Leadership EIL) in students!

For Shankman and Allen – leadership is not just for those in official roles in formal organisations, it is highly “learnable” and is all about people working together productively in the group rather than simply a top-down phenomenon. The fact that they wanted to create a practical guide for developing the EIL capacities of students is evidence of this – maybe, we educators can learn a few things, too.


Bada-bing! I am so “dead”!


If you want to learn more about EIL – try these: EIL Resources

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