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the outstanding leader from the merely adequate? Emotional intelligence— a powerful combination of self-management skills and the ability to work with others.
What Makes a Leader?
by Daniel Goleman
New sections to guide you through the article: • The Idea in Brief • The Idea at Work • ExploringFurther. . .
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What Makes a Leader?
sk e d to deﬁne the ideal leader, many would emphasize traits such as intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision. Often left off the list are softer, more personal qualities—but recent studies indicate that they are also essential. Although a certain degree of analytical and technical skill is aminimum requirement for success, what is called “emotional intelligence” may be the key
attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers from those who are merely adequate. For example, in a 1996 study of a global food and beverage company, where senior managers had a certain critical mass of emotional intelligence, their divisions outperformed yearly earnings goals by 20%. Divisionleaders without that critical mass underperformed by almost the same amount.
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h e r e are ﬁve components to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. All ﬁve traits sound desirable to just about everyone. But organizations too often implicitly discourage their people from developing them.
Self-managementskills 1. Self-awareness. Emotional intelligence begins with this trait. People with a high degree of self-awareness know their weaknesses and aren’t afraid to talk about them. Someone who understands that he works poorly under tight deadlines, for example, will work hard to plan his time carefully, and will let his colleagues know why. Many executives looking for potential leaders mistake suchcandor for “wimpiness.” 2. Self-regulation. This attribute ﬂows from self-awareness, but runs in a different direction. People with this trait are able to control their impulses or even channel them for good purposes. 3. Motivation. A passion for achievement for its own sake—not simply the ability to respond to whatever incentives a company offers—is the kind of motivation that is essential forleadership. The ability to relate to others 4. Empathy. In addition to self-management skills, emotional intelligence requires a facility for dealing with others. And that
starts with empathy—taking into account the feelings of others when making decisions—as opposed to taking on everyone’s troubles.
EXAMPLE: Consider two division chiefs at a company forced to make layoffs. One manager gave ahardhitting speech emphasizing the number of people who would be ﬁred. The other manager, while not hiding the bad news, took into account his people’s anxieties. He promised to keep them informed and to treat everyone fairly. Many executives would have refrained from such a show of consideration, lest they appear to lack toughness. But the tough manager demoralized his talented people—most of whomended up leaving his division voluntarily.
5. Social skill. All the preceding traits culminate in this ﬁfth one: the ability to build rapport with others, to get them to cooperate, to move them in a direction you desire. Managers who simply try to be sociable— while lacking the other components of emotional intelligence—are likely to fail. Social skill, by contrast, is friendliness with apurpose.
Can you boost your emotional intelligence? Absolutely—but not with traditional training programs that target the rational part of the brain. Extended practice, feedback from colleagues, and your own enthusiasm for making the change are essential to becoming an effective leader.
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