I recently came across Daniel Goleman’s 1996 Harvard Business Review’s article “What Makes a Leader”.  The article highlights that leaders must have high levels of technical skills, IQ, and emotional intelligence. Through studies, Goleman found that while all three are important, emotional intelligence is nearly twice as important than the other two factors when identifying the high performing leaders.

Emotional intelligence is broken down by self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. The first three are focused within the self. A leader must have a good understanding of who they are and how they react to the world around them. Upon this understanding, they must regulate as necessary for the situation. Motivation is key towards personal growth and in moving others into action.

Empathy and social skill pertain to others. Goleman mentions that empathy is a word that is nearly unthinkable in a business context, yet encourages us to reconsider that perspective. Through empathy can we work to understand those we lead and enable them to be fully involved in the process of daily activities helping the team to grow. Social skill acknowledges part of a leader’s job is to connect with others and while this may be apart from normal job duties, it is critical in forming relationships that can achieve high levels through future years.

What stands out most notably to me regarding this article is the fact that I thought it was rather recent. I purposefully hadn’t looked at the date as to prevent any previous judgments. I would’ve guessed it was written from the 2010-2014-time frame, simply since I knew it wasn’t a recent edition I was viewing. The content is relevant today. Occasionally through an article, or featured section, or video we hear one example of a leader who operates with such emotional intelligence; however, it is not the norm. These types of articles always seem to applaud this forward-thinking approach. Focusing on people more than bottom line. Looking within for growth and integrating such efforts within a team.

It has been over 20 years since this article was published. It is time for people to swallow some humble pie, accept that effort and a feeling of being uncomfortable must be sacrificed for the good of their career and those they lead. It should seem inexcusable that integrating emotional intelligence is not the common practice. This should not stand out anymore, rather it needs to be demanded. It leads to stronger leaders, employees, and organizations.

Regardless of the position you are in, there are ways for you to look within and experience growth and then strive to work with others, whether they are formally within your ranks, peers, or other workers in departments. This experience will make a change day by day, often unnoticeable in the moment, but through consistency progress will be made. Who knows, potentially one day a formal position will be offered to you to put all this practice into action and have an even greater impact.


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