What Makes a Leader?

Leadership is a concept that should be well understood by people at all levels. In this paper, the researcher critically reads an article titled ‘What makes a leader’, written by Goleman Daniel a publication of 1998. This will be followed by presentation of three major things that were interesting to the researched, things the reader disagreed with and finally three questions the reader has about article or what it means for leaders.

One of the most interesting and new concepts presented in the article is emotional intelligence. According to the author, emotional intelligence includes the following components, ability to motivate self and others, having empathy, demonstrating the ability to freely and easily socialize, self awareness and self regulation. These components are an integral part of a successful leader. However, this does not mean that other leadership characteristics do not contribute to an effective and successful leader.

Another important and interesting thing from the article is the issue related to who can become an effective leader. In most cases, individuals who are thought to have the desired leadership skills end up performing poorly. I agree that leaders having emotional intelligence use the aforementioned components to create a favourable environment in which a firm prospers.

On the other hand, those who seem to be ineffective leaders end up performing beyond what was expected of them when given leadership role. It has been shown that leaders are born and not made. Individuals can undergo through trainings in order to acquire better leadership skills. However, the concept of emotional intelligence is in-born. This is the major reason why some individuals who are not deemed to be the right fit for a leadership position end up performing extremely well.

It was also interesting that in most cases the management fails to recognize and appreciate leaders who exhibit intellectual emotion. Usually, leaders or employees who freely show their emotions are considered to be weak leaders or not fit to be future leaders. This is one of the reasons why most firms recruit new leaders who eventually fail in meeting the firm’s mission, vision and objectives.

I do not agree with the concept that one can easily learn the concept of intelligence emotions. In my view, and what I have seen from well known leaders such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gate and Richard Brandson, is that it is not easy for managers and future leaders to acquire major components of intelligent emotion. For instance, noting and accepting one’s weaknesses is an issue that cannot be taught rather it is in-born and have been nurtured since childhood. I do not believe that “one can teach old dog new tricks”.

On the same note, although the author indicates that motivation is an important component of leadership, I do not fully agree with the notion that external motivators are not important. Based on the existing literature, although internal motivation, which comes from individuals plays a major role in creating a bunch of effective and successful leaders, lack of external motivator usually ‘kills’ their morale.


  1. Apart from self-regulation, what other components can help leaders avoid acting unethically, especially when opportunities present themselves?
  2. It is my understanding that too much socializing between the leader and his subject might be a recipe for disaster, where and when do leaders draw a line between leadership and socialization as well as empathy?
  3. What set of external motivators can help individuals nurture their leadership skills?