What Makes a Leader?

In his article “What Makes a Leader?” (1998), Daniel Goleman explains the connection between emotional intelligence (EI) and success in business. Goleman emphasizes the fact that leadership qualities are defined not so much by some predetermined principles as by a set of suitable features pertaining to a person. The author mentions that while such features are different for every person, all prosperous leaders have one common quality, called EI. He admits that technical abilities and intelligence quotient are necessary for a good executive, but he considers EI an indispensable quality for organizing successful leadership. Goleman says that no matter how smart or well-trained a person is, he or she cannot attain the best results without EI. In his article, Goleman shows the connection between EI and productive accomplishment, explains the way EI works, and suggests hints that help in recognizing EI abilities in oneself and others. The author pays attention to all elements of EI: self-regulation, empathy, self-awareness, social skill, and motivation.

To assess EI, Goleman investigated nearly two hundred companies’ competency models. His target in performing this task was to establish the personal abilities that led to excellent performance in these firms and to figure out the extent to which these abilities had an impact. Goleman classified the abilities into three types: purely technical skills, cognitive skills, and abilities that indicated EI. The psychologists in the organizations asked the senior managers to single out the capabilities personifying the most effective leaders within the companies. In so doing, they became able to generate some of the competency models. To generate the others, objective principles were applied to discern the most outstanding performers in the organizations. Further, Goleman performed interviews with the chosen employees with the aim of correlating their capabilities. He discovered that EI turned out to be twice as significant as IQ and technical skills. Additionally, he found that the higher the position of an excellent employee, the more impact EI had on the employee’s performance. To prove the reliability of his findings, Goleman provides a summary of other research papers dedicated to the connection between excellent performance and EI.

Goleman considers self-awareness the basic element of EI. He defines it as a profound comprehension of an individual’s advantages and disadvantages, requirements, and emotions. Self-awareness helps people to organize their work in the most efficient way as they come to identify their assets and drawbacks and come up with the best solutions in advance. Goleman notices that notwithstanding the importance of self-awareness, executives in the companies often neglect this feature when searching for leaders. He says that the executives make a big mistake by firing those employees who admit their faults when in fact this makes them much better candidates for promotion. Goleman emphasizes that being honest about one’s abilities and perspectives differentiates a great leader from an ordinary worker. Unfortunately, frankness is often mistaken for cowardice, and candid people are underestimated.

Self-regulation is the next significant element of EI. Goleman explains it as a process that allows people to regulate their emotions. He remarks that all people have bad moods and negative impulses, but only people owning self-regulation know how to eliminate the impact of their emotions on their work performance and the people surrounding them. Goleman explains that if an executive has no self-regulation, his or her behavior may affect employees in an adverse way. Outbursts of anger will never lead to anything good, while calm explanation of the team’s failures and thinking of possible solutions make work more productive and the employees friendlier and more dedicated. Also, Goleman remarks that self-regulation boosts the competitive abilities of a firm. People who can manage their emotions meet the new requirements more easily and thus can make their company more competitive and prosperous.

Goleman emphasizes the significance of motivation for a good leader. He remarks that this is a feature that all outstanding leaders have in common. Motivated people strive to accomplish more and to drive others to do so. Goleman notices that while many employees are inspired by prestige or high income, truly dedicated leaders are motivated by mere achievement. He says that such leaders enjoy challenges, do their job passionately, show great energy in everything they are doing, and seek for new methods to improve the quality of work. Goleman mentions that motivated people are optimistic even in really dangerous circumstances, and they are apt to follow their progress, as well as the advancement of their team. Commitment to what one is doing is considered a crucial part of a motivated leader.

Empathy is the easiest quality to identify among the EI components. An empathetic leader does not have to work to perceive others’ emotions and strive to make everyone satisfied. Goleman remarks that business empathy presupposes careful dealing with employees’ feelings in the course of making intelligent resolutions. The author emphasizes the significance of empathy in modern business affairs and names several reasons to prove his point. First of all, it is connected with the growing use of teams. Next, the fast progress of globalization is playing a role. Also, empathy is necessary in connection with the need to employ talented people. A leader needs to feel and comprehend the opinions of all team members. Goleman believes that interpersonal relationships play a crucial role in building a successful company.

Another ability that is necessary for a prominent leader, as described by Goleman, is social skill. He emphasizes that this skill is more complicated than it may seem. Social skill is not only about having a friendly disposition. Goleman describes this quality as friendliness with an aim: A leader needs to be able to make people turn the way he or she wishes. Leaders owning social skill know many people, and they can find common interests with anyone. Goleman mentions that this does not presuppose constant socializing. Rather, these leaders realize that anything significant needs to be done in a team. The author considers social skill the apex of EI elements.

Goleman remarks that EI is an inseparable part of any successful leader, which gives benefits both to the person and the company where he or she works. Each of the EI elements has unique functions, meaning that all of them must be present in an outstanding leader. Goleman admits that it is not an easy matter, but EI can be learned if it does not naturally pertain to a person. According to scientific research, EI is present in everyone at a genetic level, while psychological research shows that natural environment also occupies a significant place in the development of EI. Goleman concludes that with proper enthusiasm and desire to learn, anyone can become a great leader.