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     What distinguishes
   the outstanding leader
                                   What Makes a Leader?
                                   by Daniel Goleman
from the merely adequate?

 Emotional intelligence—
  a powerful combination
 of self-management skills
   and the ability to work
        with others.

      New sections to
     guide you through
         the article:
     • The Idea in Brief
     • The Idea at Work
  • Exploring Further . . .

                                   PRODUCT NUMBER 3790
T H E   I D E A   I N     B R I E F                                                                                   What Makes a Leader?

                  A       to define the ideal leader, many
                  would emphasize traits such as intelligence,
                                                                                       attribute that distinguishes outstanding per-
                                                                                       formers from those who are merely adequate.
                  toughness, determination, and vision. Often                          For example, in a 1996 study of a global food
                  left off the list are softer, more personal quali-                   and beverage company, where senior managers
                  ties—but recent studies indicate that they are                       had a certain critical mass of emotional intelli-
                  also essential. Although a certain degree of                         gence, their divisions outperformed yearly
                  analytical and technical skill is a minimum                          earnings goals by 20%. Division leaders without
                  requirement for success, what is called                              that critical mass underperformed by almost
                  “emotional intelligence” may be the key                              the same amount.

T H E   I D E A   AT       W O R K

                  T      are five components to emotional
                  intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation,
                                                                                            starts with empathy—taking into account
                                                                                            the feelings of others when making deci-
                  motivation, empathy, and social skill. All five                           sions—as opposed to taking on everyone’s
                  traits sound desirable to just about everyone.                            troubles.
                  But organizations too often implicitly discour-
                  age their people from developing them.                                 EXAMPLE:
                                                                                         Consider two division chiefs at a company forced
                                                                                         to make layoffs. One manager gave a hard-
                  Self-management skills
                                                                                         hitting speech emphasizing the number of
                   1. Self-awareness. Emotional intelligence                             people who would be fired. The other manager,
                      begins with this trait. People with a high                         while not hiding the bad news, took into account
                      degree of self-awareness know their weak-                          his people’s anxieties. He promised to keep them
                                                                                         informed and to treat everyone fairly. Many exec-
                      nesses and aren’t afraid to talk about them.
                                                                                         utives would have refrained from such a show
                      Someone who understands that he works
                                                                                         of consideration, lest they appear to lack tough-
                      poorly under tight deadlines, for example,
                                                                                         ness. But the tough manager demoralized his
                      will work hard to plan his time carefully,                         talented people—most of whom ended up
                      and will let his colleagues know why. Many                         leaving his division voluntarily.
                      executives looking for potential leaders
                      mistake such candor for “wimpiness.”
                   2. Self-regulation. This attribute flows from                         5. Social skill. All the preceding traits culmi-
                      self-awareness, but runs in a different direc-                        nate in this fifth one: the ability to build
                      tion. People with this trait are able to con-                         rapport with others, to get them to cooper-
                      trol their impulses or even channel them                              ate, to move them in a direction you desire.
                      for good purposes.                                                    Managers who simply try to be sociable—
                                                                                            while lacking the other components of
                   3. Motivation. A passion for achievement for
                                                                                            emotional intelligence—are likely to fail.
                      its own sake—not simply the ability to
                                                                                            Social skill, by contrast, is friendliness with
                      respond to whatever incentives a company
                                                                                            a purpose.
                      offers—is the kind of motivation that is
                      essential for leadership.                                        Can you boost your emotional intelligence?
                                                                                       Absolutely—but not with traditional training
                                                                                       programs that target the rational part of the
                  The ability to relate to others
                                                                                       brain. Extended practice, feedback from col-
                   4. Empathy. In addition to self-management                          leagues, and your own enthusiasm for making
                      skills, emotional intelligence requires a                        the change are essential to becoming an effec-
                      facility for dealing with others. And that                       tive leader.

                  HBR OnPoint © 2000 President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.
         IQ and technical skills are important, but emotional
             intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership.

                       What Makes a
                                            by daniel goleman

                                                           very businessperson
                               knows a story about a highly intelligent, highly
                               skilled executive who was promoted into a leader-
                               ship position only to fail at the job. And they also
                               know a story about someone with solid – but not
                               extraordinary – intellectual abilities and technical
                               skills who was promoted into a similar position
                               and then soared.
                                 Such anecdotes support the widespread belief
                               that identifying individuals with the “right stuff”
                               to be leaders is more art than science. After all, the
                               personal styles of superb leaders vary: some lead-
                               ers are subdued and analytical; others shout their
                               manifestos from the mountaintops. And just as
                               important, different situations call for different

                               Daniel Goleman is the author of Emotional Intelligence (Ban-
                               tam, 1995) and Working with Emotional Intelligence (Bantam,
                               1998). He is cochairman of the Consortium for Research on
                               Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, which is based at Rut-
                               gers University’s Graduate School of Applied and Professional
                               Psychology in Piscataway, New Jersey. He can be reached at

art work by cr aig fr a zier                        Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.
w h at m a k e s a l e a d e r ?

types of leadership. Most mergers need a sensitive       abilities like analytical reasoning; and competen-
negotiator at the helm, whereas many turnarounds         cies demonstrating emotional intelligence such as
require a more forceful authority.                       the ability to work with others and effectiveness in
  I have found, however, that the most effective         leading change.
leaders are alike in one crucial way: they all have a       To create some of the competency models, psy-
high degree of what has come to be known as emo-         chologists asked senior managers at the companies
tional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical      to identify the capabilities that typified the organi-
skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as     zation’s most outstanding leaders. To create other
“threshold capabilities”; that is, they are the entry-   models, the psychologists used objective criteria
level requirements for executive positions. But my       such as a division’s profitability to differentiate the
research, along with other recent studies, clearly       star performers at senior levels within their organi-
shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua        zations from the average ones. Those individuals
non of leadership. Without it, a                                             were then extensively interviewed
person can have the best training                                            and tested, and their capabilities
in the world, an incisive, analyti-         Effective                        were compared. This process re-
cal mind, and an endless supply                                              sulted in the creation of lists of
of smart ideas, but he still won’t
make a great leader.
                                       leaders are alike                     ingredients for highly effective
                                                                             leaders. The lists ranged in length
  In the course of the past year,
my colleagues and I have focused
                                         in one crucial                      from 7 to 15 items and included
                                                                             such ingredients as initiative and
on how emotional intelligence
operates at work. We have exam-           way: they all                      strategic vision.
                                                                                 When I analyzed all this data,
ined the relationship between                                                I found dramatic results. To be
emotional intelligence and effec-         have a high                        sure, intellect was a driver of out-
tive performance, especially in                                              standing performance. Cognitive
leaders. And we have observed
how emotional intelligence
                                           degree of                         skills such as big-picture think-
                                                                             ing and long-term vision were
shows itself on the job. How can
you tell if someone has high
                                           emotional                         particularly important. But when
                                                                             I calculated the ratio of technical
emotional intelligence, for exam-                                            skills, IQ, and emotional intelli-
ple, and how can you recognize it         intelligence.                      gence as ingredients of excellent
in yourself? In the following                                                performance, emotional intelli-
pages, we’ll explore these questions, taking each of     gence proved to be twice as important as the others
the components of emotional intelligence – self-         for jobs at all levels.
awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy,            Moreover, my analysis showed that emotional
and social skill – in turn.                              intelligence played an increasingly important role
                                                         at the highest levels of the company, where differ-
                                                         ences in technical skills are of negligible impor-
Evaluating Emotional Intelligence                        tance. In other words, the higher the rank of a per-
Most large companies today have employed trained         son considered to be a star performer, the more
psychologists to develop what are known as “com-         emotional intelligence capabilities showed up as
petency models” to aid them in identifying, train-       the reason for his or her effectiveness. When I com-
ing, and promoting likely stars in the leadership        pared star performers with average ones in senior
firmament. The psychologists have also developed          leadership positions, nearly 90% of the difference
such models for lower-level positions. And in re-        in their profiles was attributable to emotional intel-
cent years, I have analyzed competency models            ligence factors rather than cognitive abilities.
from 188 companies, most of which were large and            Other researchers have confirmed that emotional
global and included the likes of Lucent Technolo-        intelligence not only distinguishes outstanding
gies, British Airways, and Credit Suisse.                leaders but can also be linked to strong perfor-
   In carrying out this work, my objective was to        mance. The findings of the late David McClelland,
determine which personal capabilities drove out-         the renowned researcher in human and organiza-
standing performance within these organizations,         tional behavior, are a good example. In a 1996 study
and to what degree they did so. I grouped capabili-      of a global food and beverage company, McClelland
ties into three categories: purely technical skills      found that when senior managers had a critical
like accounting and business planning; cognitive         mass of emotional intelligence capabilities, their

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    The Five Components of Emotional Intelligence at Work

                          Definition                                      Hallmarks

   Self-Awareness         the ability to recognize and understand        self-confidence
                          your moods, emotions, and drives, as
                          well as their effect on others                 realistic self-assessment

                                                                         self-deprecating sense of humor

   Self-Regulation        the ability to control or redirect             trustworthiness and integrity
                          disruptive impulses and moods
                                                                         comfort with ambiguity
                          the propensity to suspend judgment –
                          to think before acting                         openness to change

   Motivation             a passion to work for reasons that go          strong drive to achieve
                          beyond money or status
                                                                         optimism, even in the face of failure
                          a propensity to pursue goals with
                          energy and persistence                         organizational commitment

   Empathy                the ability to understand the emotional        expertise in building and retaining
                          makeup of other people                         talent

                          skill in treating people according to          cross-cultural sensitivity
                          their emotional reactions
                                                                         service to clients and customers

   Social Skill           proficiency in managing relationships           effectiveness in leading change
                          and building networks
                          an ability to find common ground and
                          build rapport                                  expertise in building and leading teams

divisions outperformed yearly earnings goals by                right approach, develop their emotional intelli-
20%. Meanwhile, division leaders without that                  gence. (See the insert “Can Emotional Intelligence
critical mass underperformed by almost the same                Be Learned?”)
amount. McClelland’s findings, interestingly, held
as true in the company’s U.S. divisions as in its divi-
sions in Asia and Europe.                                      Self-Awareness
  In short, the numbers are beginning to tell us a             Self-awareness is the first component of emotional
persuasive story about the link between a compa-               intelligence – which makes sense when one con-
ny’s success and the emotional intelligence of its             siders that the Delphic oracle gave the advice to
leaders. And just as important, research is also               “know thyself” thousands of years ago. Self-aware-
demonstrating that people can, if they take the                ness means having a deep understanding of one’s

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w h at m a k e s a l e a d e r ?

emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives.         Such self-knowledge often shows itself in the
People with strong self-awareness are neither overly     hiring process. Ask a candidate to describe a time
critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Rather, they are   he got carried away by his feelings and did some-
honest – with themselves and with others.                thing he later regretted. Self-aware candidates will
   People who have a high degree of self-awareness       be frank in admitting to failure – and will often tell
recognize how their feelings affect them, other peo-     their tales with a smile. One of the hallmarks of
ple, and their job performance. Thus a self-aware        self-awareness is a self-deprecating sense of humor.
person who knows that tight deadlines bring out             Self-awareness can also be identified during per-
the worst in him plans his time carefully and gets       formance reviews. Self-aware people know – and
his work done well in advance. Another person            are comfortable talking about – their limitations
with high self-awareness will be able to work with       and strengths, and they often demonstrate a thirst
a demanding client. She will understand the              for constructive criticism. By contrast, people with
client’s impact on her moods and the deeper rea-         low self-awareness interpret the message that they
sons for her frustration. “Their trivial demands         need to improve as a threat or a sign of failure.
take us away from the real work                                                 Self-aware people can also be
that needs to be done,” she might                                            recognized by their self-confi-
explain. And she will go one step          Self-aware                        dence. They have a firm grasp of
further and turn her anger into                                              their capabilities and are less
something constructive.
   Self-awareness extends to a
                                        job candidates                       likely to set themselves up to fail
                                                                             by, for example, overstretching
person’s understanding of his or
her values and goals. Someone
                                          will be frank                      on assignments. They know, too,
                                                                             when to ask for help. And the
who is highly self-aware knows
where he is headed and why; so,         in admitting to                      risks they take on the job are cal-
                                                                             culated. They won’t ask for a
for example, he will be able to be                                           challenge that they know they
firm in turning down a job offer        failure – and will                    can’t handle alone. They’ll play
that is tempting financially but                                              to their strengths.
does not fit with his principles or
long-term goals. A person who
                                         often tell their                       Consider the actions of a mid-
                                                                             level employee who was invited
lacks self-awareness is apt to
make decisions that bring on in-
                                          tales with a                       to sit in on a strategy meeting
                                                                             with her company’s top execu-
ner turmoil by treading on buried                                            tives. Although she was the most
values. “The money looked good                smile.                         junior person in the room, she did
so I signed on,” someone might                                               not sit there quietly, listening in
say two years into a job, “but the work means so lit-    awestruck or fearful silence. She knew she had a
tle to me that I’m constantly bored.” The decisions      head for clear logic and the skill to present ideas
of self-aware people mesh with their values; conse-      persuasively, and she offered cogent suggestions
quently, they often find work to be energizing.           about the company’s strategy. At the same time,
   How can one recognize self-awareness? First and       her self-awareness stopped her from wandering into
foremost, it shows itself as candor and an ability to    territory where she knew she was weak.
assess oneself realistically. People with high self-        Despite the value of having self-aware people in
awareness are able to speak accurately and openly –      the workplace, my research indicates that senior
although not necessarily effusively or confession-       executives don’t often give self-awareness the credit
ally – about their emotions and the impact they          it deserves when they look for potential leaders.
have on their work. For instance, one manager I          Many executives mistake candor about feelings for
know of was skeptical about a new personal-shopper       “wimpiness” and fail to give due respect to employ-
service that her company, a major department-store       ees who openly acknowledge their shortcomings.
chain, was about to introduce. Without prompting         Such people are too readily dismissed as “not tough
from her team or her boss, she offered them an ex-       enough” to lead others.
planation: “It’s hard for me to get behind the rollout      In fact, the opposite is true. In the first place, peo-
of this service,” she admitted, “because I really        ple generally admire and respect candor. Further,
wanted to run the project, but I wasn’t selected.        leaders are constantly required to make judgment
Bear with me while I deal with that.” The manager        calls that require a candid assessment of capa-
did indeed examine her feelings; a week later, she       bilities – their own and those of others. Do we have
was supporting the project fully.                        the management expertise to acquire a competitor?

96                                                           harvard business review        November–December 1998
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                   Can Emotional Intelligence Be Learned?

  For ages, people have debated if leaders are born or       coach could be tapped to let the executive know when
  made. So too goes the debate about emotional intel-        she has been observed failing to listen. She would
  ligence. Are people born with certain levels of em-        then have to replay the incident and give a better re-
  pathy, for example, or do they acquire empathy as a        sponse; that is, demonstrate her ability to absorb what
  result of life’s experiences? The answer is both. Scien-   others are saying. And the executive could be directed
  tific inquiry strongly suggests that there is a genetic     to observe certain executives who listen well and to
  component to emotional intelligence. Psychological         mimic their behavior.
  and developmental research indicates that nurture             With persistence and practice, such a process can
  plays a role as well. How much of each perhaps will        lead to lasting results. I know one Wall Street execu-
  never be known, but research and practice clearly          tive who sought to improve his empathy – specifically
  demonstrate that emotional intelligence can be             his ability to read people’s reactions and see their per-
  learned.                                                   spectives. Before beginning his quest, the executive’s
     One thing is certain: emotional intelligence in-        subordinates were terrified of working with him. Peo-
  creases with age. There is an old-fashioned word for       ple even went so far as to hide bad news from him.
  the phenomenon: maturity. Yet even with maturity,          Naturally, he was shocked when finally confronted
  some people still need training to enhance their emo-      with these facts. He went home and told his family –
  tional intelligence. Unfortunately, far too many train-    but they only confirmed what he had heard at work.
  ing programs that intend to build leadership skills –      When their opinions on any given subject did not
  including emotional intelligence – are a waste of time     mesh with his, they, too, were frightened of him.
  and money. The problem is simple: they focus on the           Enlisting the help of a coach, the executive went to
  wrong part of the brain.                                   work to heighten his empathy through practice and
     Emotional intelligence is born largely in the neuro-    feedback. His first step was to take a vacation to a for-
  transmitters of the brain’s limbic system, which gov-      eign country where he did not speak the language.
  erns feelings, impulses, and drives. Research indi-        While there, he monitored his reactions to the unfa-
  cates that the limbic system learns best through           miliar and his openness to people who were different
  motivation, extended practice, and feedback. Com-          from him. When he returned home, humbled by his
  pare this with the kind of learning that goes on in the    week abroad, the executive asked his coach to shadow
  neocortex, which governs analytical and technical          him for parts of the day, several times a week, in order
  ability. The neocortex grasps concepts and logic. It is    to critique how he treated people with new or differ-
  the part of the brain that figures out how to use a com-    ent perspectives. At the same time, he consciously
  puter or make a sales call by reading a book. Not sur-     used on-the-job interactions as opportunities to prac-
  prisingly – but mistakenly – it is also the part of the    tice “hearing” ideas that differed from his. Finally, the
  brain targeted by most training programs aimed at en-      executive had himself videotaped in meetings and
  hancing emotional intelligence. When such programs         asked those who worked for and with him to critique
  take, in effect, a neocortical approach, my research       his ability to acknowledge and understand the feel-
  with the Consortium for Research on Emotional In-          ings of others. It took several months, but the execu-
  telligence in Organizations has shown they can even        tive’s emotional intelligence did ultimately rise, and
  have a negative impact on people’s job performance.        the improvement was reflected in his overall perfor-
     To enhance emotional intelligence, organizations        mance on the job.
  must refocus their training to include the limbic sys-        It’s important to emphasize that building one’s
  tem. They must help people break old behavioral            emotional intelligence cannot – will not – happen
  habits and establish new ones. That not only takes         without sincere desire and concerted effort. A brief
  much more time than conventional training pro-             seminar won’t help; nor can one buy a how-to manual.
  grams, it also requires an individualized approach.        It is much harder to learn to empathize – to internal-
     Imagine an executive who is thought to be low on        ize empathy as a natural response to people – than it is
  empathy by her colleagues. Part of that deficit shows       to become adept at regression analysis. But it can be
  itself as an inability to listen; she interrupts people    done. “Nothing great was ever achieved without en-
  and doesn’t pay close attention to what they’re say-       thusiasm,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. If your goal
  ing. To fix the problem, the executive needs to be mo-      is to become a real leader, these words can serve as a
  tivated to change, and then she needs practice and         guidepost in your efforts to develop high emotional
  feedback from others in the company. A colleague or        intelligence.

harvard business review       November–December 1998                                                                     97
w h at m a k e s a l e a d e r ?

Can we launch a new product within six months?             Second, self-regulation is important for competi-
People who assess themselves honestly – that is,        tive reasons. Everyone knows that business today is
self-aware people – are well suited to do the same      rife with ambiguity and change. Companies merge
for the organizations they run.                         and break apart regularly. Technology transforms
                                                        work at a dizzying pace. People who have mastered
                                                        their emotions are able to roll with the changes.
Self-Regulation                                         When a new change program is announced, they
Biological impulses drive our emotions. We cannot       don’t panic; instead, they are able to suspend judg-
do away with them – but we can do much to man-          ment, seek out information, and listen to execu-
age them. Self-regulation, which is like an ongoing     tives explain the new program. As the initiative
inner conversation, is the component of emotional       moves forward, they are able to move with it.
intelligence that frees us from being prisoners of         Sometimes they even lead the way. Consider the
our feelings. People engaged in such a conversation     case of a manager at a large manufacturing com-
feel bad moods and emotional impulses just as           pany. Like her colleagues, she had used a certain
everyone else does, but they find                                            software program for five years.
ways to control them and even to                                            The program drove how she col-
channel them in useful ways.                                                lected and reported data and how
   Imagine an executive who has           People who                        she thought about the company’s
just watched a team of his em-                                              strategy. One day, senior execu-
ployees present a botched analy-
sis to the company’s board of
                                        have mastered                       tives announced that a new pro-
                                                                            gram was to be installed that
directors. In the gloom that fol-
lows, the executive might find
                                        their emotions                      would radically change how in-
                                                                            formation was gathered and as-
himself tempted to pound on the                                             sessed within the organization.
table in anger or kick over a chair.       are able to                      While many people in the com-
He could leap up and scream at                                              pany complained bitterly about
the group. Or he might maintain
a grim silence, glaring at every-
                                         roll with the                      how disruptive the change would
                                                                            be, the manager mulled over the
one before stalking off.
   But if he had a gift for self-regu-
                                        changes. They                       reasons for the new program and
                                                                            was convinced of its potential to
lation, he would choose a differ-
ent approach. He would pick his           don’t panic.                      improve performance. She eagerly
                                                                            attended training sessions – some
words carefully, acknowledging                                              of her colleagues refused to do
the team’s poor performance                                                 so – and was eventually promoted
without rushing to any hasty judgment. He would         to run several divisions, in part because she used
then step back to consider the reasons for the fail-    the new technology so effectively.
ure. Are they personal – a lack of effort? Are there       I want to push the importance of self-regulation
any mitigating factors? What was his role in the de-    to leadership even further and make the case that it
bacle? After considering these questions, he would      enhances integrity, which is not only a personal
call the team together, lay out the incident’s conse-   virtue but also an organizational strength. Many of
quences, and offer his feelings about it. He would      the bad things that happen in companies are a func-
then present his analysis of the problem and a well-    tion of impulsive behavior. People rarely plan to ex-
considered solution.                                    aggerate profits, pad expense accounts, dip into the
   Why does self-regulation matter so much for          till, or abuse power for selfish ends. Instead, an op-
leaders? First of all, people who are in control of     portunity presents itself, and people with low im-
their feelings and impulses – that is, people who are   pulse control just say yes.
reasonable – are able to create an environment of          By contrast, consider the behavior of the senior
trust and fairness. In such an environment, politics    executive at a large food company. The executive
and infighting are sharply reduced and productivity      was scrupulously honest in his negotiations with
is high. Talented people flock to the organization       local distributors. He would routinely lay out his
and aren’t tempted to leave. And self-regulation has    cost structure in detail, thereby giving the distribu-
a trickle-down effect. No one wants to be known as a    tors a realistic understanding of the company’s pric-
hothead when the boss is known for her calm ap-         ing. This approach meant the executive couldn’t al-
proach. Fewer bad moods at the top mean fewer           ways drive a hard bargain. Now, on occasion, he felt
throughout the organization.                            the urge to increase profits by withholding informa-

98                                                         harvard business review       November–December 1998
                                                                                w h at m a k e s a l e a d e r ?

tion about the company’s costs. But he challenged         A cosmetics company manager, for example,
that impulse – he saw that it made more sense in        was frustrated that he had to wait two weeks to get
the long run to counteract it. His emotional self-      sales results from people in the field. He finally
regulation paid off in strong, lasting relationships    tracked down an automated phone system that
with distributors that benefited the company more        would beep each of his salespeople at 5 p.m. every
than any short-term financial gains would have.          day. An automated message then prompted them
   The signs of emotional self-regula-
tion, therefore, are not hard to miss: a
propensity for reflection and thought-
fulness; comfort with ambiguity and
change; and integrity – an ability to say
no to impulsive urges.
   Like self-awareness, self-regulation
often does not get its due. People who
can master their emotions are some-
times seen as cold fish – their consid-
ered responses are taken as a lack of
passion. People with fiery tempera-
ments are frequently thought of as
“classic” leaders – their outbursts are
considered hallmarks of charisma and
power. But when such people make it
to the top, their impulsiveness often
works against them. In my research,
extreme displays of negative emotion
have never emerged as a driver of good

If there is one trait that virtually all ef-
fective leaders have, it is motivation.
They are driven to achieve beyond ex-
pectations – their own and everyone
else’s. The key word here is achieve.
Plenty of people are motivated by exter-
nal factors such as a big salary or the
status that comes from having an im-
pressive title or being part of a presti-    People who are in control of their feelings can tame their emo-
gious company. By contrast, those with       tional impulses and redirect them in useful ways.
leadership potential are motivated by a
deeply embedded desire to achieve for the sake of        to punch in their numbers – how many calls and
achievement.                                             sales they had made that day. The system short-
   If you are looking for leaders, how can you iden-     ened the feedback time on sales results from weeks
tify people who are motivated by the drive to            to hours.
achieve rather than by external rewards? The first           That story illustrates two other common traits of
sign is a passion for the work itself – such people      people who are driven to achieve. They are forever
seek out creative challenges, love to learn, and         raising the performance bar, and they like to keep
take great pride in a job well done. They also dis-      score. Take the performance bar first. During per-
play an unflagging energy to do things better. Peo-       formance reviews, people with high levels of motiva-
ple with such energy often seem restless with the        tion might ask to be “stretched” by their superiors.
status quo. They are persistent with their ques-         Of course, an employee who combines self-aware-
tions about why things are done one way rather           ness with internal motivation will recognize her
than another; they are eager to explore new ap-          limits – but she won’t settle for objectives that
proaches to their work.                                  seem too easy to fulfill.

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w h at m a k e s a l e a d e r ?

   And it follows naturally that people who are         tional commitment are fundamental to leader-
driven to do better also want a way of tracking         ship – just try to imagine running a company with-
progress – their own, their team’s, and their com-      out them.
pany’s. Whereas people with low achievement mo-
tivation are often fuzzy about results, those with
high achievement motivation often keep score by         Empathy
tracking such hard measures as profitability or mar-     Of all the dimensions of emotional intelligence,
ket share. I know of a money manager who starts         empathy is the most easily recognized. We have all
and ends his day on the Internet, gauging the perfor-   felt the empathy of a sensitive teacher or friend; we
mance of his stock fund against four industry-set       have all been struck by its absence in an unfeeling
benchmarks.                                             coach or boss. But when it comes to business, we
   Interestingly, people with high motivation re-       rarely hear people praised, let alone rewarded, for
main optimistic even when the score is against          their empathy. The very word seems unbusi-
them. In such cases, self-regulation combines           nesslike, out of place amid the tough realities of the
with achievement motivation to overcome the             marketplace.
frustration and depression that come after a set-          But empathy doesn’t mean a kind of “I’m okay,
back or failure. Take the case of an another portfo-    you’re okay” mushiness. For a leader, that is, it
lio manager at a large invest-                                               doesn’t mean adopting other
ment company. After several                                                  people’s emotions as one’s own
successful years, her fund tum-
bled for three consecutive quar-
                                       The very word                         and trying to please everybody.
                                                                             That would be a nightmare – it
ters, leading three large insti-
tutional clients to shift their
                                      empathy seems                          would make action impossi-
                                                                             ble. Rather, empathy means
business elsewhere.
   Some executives would have         unbusinesslike,                        thoughtfully considering em-
                                                                             ployees’ feelings – along with
blamed the nosedive on cir-                                                  other factors – in the process of
cumstances outside their con-        out of place amid                       making intelligent decisions.
trol; others might have seen the                                                For an example of empathy
setback as evidence of personal
failure. This portfolio manager,
                                    the tough realities                      in action, consider what hap-
                                                                             pened when two giant broker-
however, saw an opportunity
to prove she could lead a turn-
                                    of the marketplace.                      age companies merged, creat-
                                                                             ing redundant jobs in all their
around. Two years later, when                                                divisions. One division man-
she was promoted to a very senior level in the com-     ager called his people together and gave a gloomy
pany, she described the experience as “the best         speech that emphasized the number of people who
thing that ever happened to me; I learned so much       would soon be fired. The manager of another divi-
from it.”                                               sion gave his people a different kind of speech. He
   Executives trying to recognize high levels of        was upfront about his own worry and confusion,
achievement motivation in their people can look         and he promised to keep people informed and to
for one last piece of evidence: commitment to the       treat everyone fairly.
organization. When people love their job for the           The difference between these two managers was
work itself, they often feel committed to the orga-     empathy. The first manager was too worried about
nizations that make that work possible. Commit-         his own fate to consider the feelings of his anxiety-
ted employees are likely to stay with an organiza-      stricken colleagues. The second knew intuitively
tion even when they are pursued by headhunters          what his people were feeling, and he acknowledged
waving money.                                           their fears with his words. Is it any surprise that the
   It’s not difficult to understand how and why a       first manager saw his division sink as many demor-
motivation to achieve translates into strong leader-    alized people, especially the most talented, departed?
ship. If you set the performance bar high for your-     By contrast, the second manager continued to be a
self, you will do the same for the organization when    strong leader, his best people stayed, and his divi-
you are in a position to do so. Likewise, a drive to    sion remained as productive as ever.
surpass goals and an interest in keeping score can         Empathy is particularly important today as a
be contagious. Leaders with these traits can often      component of leadership for at least three reasons:
build a team of managers around them with the           the increasing use of teams; the rapid pace of global-
same traits. And of course, optimism and organiza-      ization; and the growing need to retain talent.

100                                                         harvard business review      November–December 1998
                                                                                 w h at m a k e s a l e a d e r ?

   Consider the challenge of leading a team. As any-    miliar with Japanese culture, he read the client’s
one who has ever been a part of one can attest,         face and posture and sensed not rejection but inter-
teams are cauldrons of bubbling emotions. They are      est – even deep consideration. He was right: when
often charged with reaching a consensus – hard          the client finally spoke, it was to give the consult-
enough with two people and much more difficult as       ing firm the job.
the numbers increase. Even in groups with as few          Finally, empathy plays a key role in the retention
as four or five members, alliances form and clash-       of talent, particularly in today’s information econ-
ing agendas get set. A team’s leader must be able to    omy. Leaders have always needed empathy to de-
sense and understand the viewpoints of everyone         velop and keep good people, but today the stakes
around the table.                                       are higher. When good people leave, they take the
   That’s exactly what a marketing manager at a         company’s knowledge with them.
large information technology company was able to          That’s where coaching and mentoring come in. It
do when she was appointed to lead a troubled team.      has repeatedly been shown that coaching and men-
The group was in turmoil, overloaded by work and        toring pay off not just in better performance but
missing deadlines. Tensions were high among the         also in increased job satisfaction and decreased
members. Tinkering with procedures was not              turnover. But what makes coaching and mentoring
enough to bring the group together and make it an       work best is the nature of the relationship. Out-
effective part of the company.                                             standing coaches and mentors get
   So the manager took several                                             inside the heads of the people
steps. In a series of one-on-one
sessions, she took the time to lis-
                                        Social skill is                    they are helping. They sense how
                                                                           to give effective feedback. They
ten to everyone in the group –
what was frustrating them, how
                                         friendliness                      know when to push for better
                                                                           performance and when to hold
they rated their colleagues,
whether they felt they had been        with a purpose:                     back. In the way they motivate
                                                                           their protégés, they demonstrate
ignored. And then she directed                                             empathy in action.
the team in a way that brought it      moving people                          In what is probably sounding
together: she encouraged people                                            like a refrain, let me repeat that
to speak more openly about their
frustrations, and she helped peo-
                                       in the direction                    empathy doesn’t get much re-
                                                                           spect in business. People wonder
ple raise constructive complaints
during meetings. In short, her
                                          you desire.                      how leaders can make hard deci-
                                                                           sions if they are “feeling” for all
empathy allowed her to under-                                              the people who will be affected.
stand her team’s emotional makeup. The result was       But leaders with empathy do more than sympa-
not just heightened collaboration among members         thize with people around them: they use their
but also added business, as the team was called on      knowledge to improve their companies in subtle
for help by a wider range of internal clients.          but important ways.
   Globalization is another reason for the rising im-
portance of empathy for business leaders. Cross-
cultural dialogue can easily lead to miscues and
                                                        Social Skill
misunderstandings. Empathy is an antidote. Peo-         The first three components of emotional intelli-
ple who have it are attuned to subtleties in body       gence are all self-management skills. The last two,
language; they can hear the message beneath the         empathy and social skill, concern a person’s ability
words being spoken. Beyond that, they have a deep       to manage relationships with others. As a compo-
understanding of the existence and importance of        nent of emotional intelligence, social skill is not as
cultural and ethnic differences.                        simple as it sounds. It’s not just a matter of friendli-
   Consider the case of an American consultant          ness, although people with high levels of social
whose team had just pitched a project to a potential    skill are rarely mean-spirited. Social skill, rather,
Japanese client. In its dealings with Americans, the    is friendliness with a purpose: moving people in the
team was accustomed to being bombarded with             direction you desire, whether that’s agreement on
questions after such a proposal, but this time it was   a new marketing strategy or enthusiasm about a
greeted with a long silence. Other members of the       new product.
team, taking the silence as disapproval, were ready        Socially skilled people tend to have a wide circle
to pack and leave. The lead consultant gestured         of acquaintances, and they have a knack for finding
them to stop. Although he was not particularly fa-      common ground with people of all kinds – a knack

harvard business review     November–December 1998                                                           101
w h at m a k e s a l e a d e r ?

for building rapport. That doesn’t mean they social-      nity that cut across levels, divisions, and nations.
ize continually; it means they work according to          He then used this de facto team to put up a corpo-
the assumption that nothing important gets done           rate Web site, among the first by a major company.
alone. Such people have a network in place when           And, on his own initiative, with no budget or for-
the time for action comes.                                mal status, he signed up the company to participate
   Social skill is the culmination of the other di-       in an annual Internet industry convention. Calling
mensions of emotional intelligence. People tend to        on his allies and persuading various divisions to
be very effective at managing relationships when          donate funds, he recruited more than 50 people
they can understand and control their own emo-            from a dozen different units to represent the com-
tions and can empathize with the feelings of others.      pany at the convention.
Even motivation contributes to social skill. Re-            Management took notice: within a year of the
member that people who are driven to achieve tend         conference, the executive’s team formed the basis
to be optimistic, even in the face of setbacks or fail-   for the company’s first Internet division, and he
ure. When people are upbeat, their “glow” is cast         was formally put in charge of it. To get there, the
upon conversations and other so-                                             executive had ignored conven-
cial encounters. They are popular,                                           tional boundaries, forging and
and for good reason.                                                         maintaining connections with
   Because it is the outcome of the         Emotional                        people in every corner of the or-
other dimensions of emotional                                                ganization.
intelligence, social skill is recog-
nizable on the job in many ways
                                           intelligence                         Is social skill considered a key
                                                                             leadership capability in most
that will by now sound familiar.
Socially skilled people, for in-
                                         can be learned.                     companies? The answer is yes,
                                                                             especially when compared with
stance, are adept at managing                                                the other components of emo-
teams – that’s their empathy at           The process is                     tional intelligence. People seem
work. Likewise, they are expert                                              to know intuitively that leaders
persuaders – a manifestation of
self-awareness, self-regulation,
                                           not easy. It                      need to manage relationships
                                                                             effectively; no leader is an island.
and empathy combined. Given
those skills, good persuaders
                                         takes time and                      After all, the leader’s task is to get
                                                                             work done through other people,
know when to make an emotional
plea, for instance, and when an           commitment.                        and social skill makes that possi-
                                                                             ble. A leader who cannot express
appeal to reason will work better.                                           her empathy may as well not
And motivation, when publicly                                                have it at all. And a leader’s moti-
visible, makes such people excellent collaborators;       vation will be useless if he cannot communicate his
their passion for the work spreads to others, and         passion to the organization. Social skill allows lead-
they are driven to find solutions.                         ers to put their emotional intelligence to work.
   But sometimes social skill shows itself in ways
the other emotional intelligence components do            It would be foolish to assert that good-old-fash-
not. For instance, socially skilled people may at         ioned IQ and technical ability are not important
times appear not to be working while at work. They        ingredients in strong leadership. But the recipe
seem to be idly schmoozing – chatting in the hall-        would not be complete without emotional intelli-
ways with colleagues or joking around with people         gence. It was once thought that the components of
who are not even connected to their “real” jobs. So-      emotional intelligence were “nice to have” in busi-
cially skilled people, however, don’t think it makes      ness leaders. But now we know that, for the sake of
sense to arbitrarily limit the scope of their relation-   performance, these are ingredients that leaders
ships. They build bonds widely because they know          “need to have.”
that in these fluid times, they may need help some-           It is fortunate, then, that emotional intelligence
day from people they are just getting to know today.      can be learned. The process is not easy. It takes
   For example, consider the case of an executive in      time and, most of all, commitment. But the bene-
the strategy department of a global computer man-         fits that come from having a well-developed emo-
ufacturer. By 1993, he was convinced that the com-        tional intelligence, both for the individual and for
pany’s future lay with the Internet. Over the course      the organization, make it worth the effort.
of the next year, he found kindred spirits and used
his social skill to stitch together a virtual commu-      Product no. 3790      To place an order, call 1-800-988-0886.

102                                                           harvard business review         November–December 1998
B        O I ON G      U P H E
         O R       G                                                                                  What Makes a Leader?

                        “The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact” by          “The Ways Chief Executive Officers Lead”
                        Henry Mintzberg (Harvard Business Review,          by Charles M. Farkas and Suzy Wetlaufer
                        March–April 1990, Product no. 90210)               (Harvard Business Review, May–June 1996,
                                                                           Product no. 96303)
                        Whereas Goleman emphasizes emotional
                        intelligence, Mintzberg focuses on specific        CEOs inspire a variety of sentiments ranging
                        skills. In this HBR Classic, Mintzberg uses his    from awe to wrath, but there’s little debate
                        and other research to debunk myths about           over CEOs’ importance in the business world.
                        the manager’s role. Managerial work involves       The authors conducted 160 interviews with
                        interpersonal roles, informational roles, and      executives around the world. Instead of find-
                        decisional roles, he notes. These in turn          ing 160 different approaches, they found five,
                        require the ability to develop peer relation-      each with a singular focus: strategy, people,
                        ships, carry out negotiations, motivate subor-     expertise, controls, or change. The five com-
                        dinates, resolve conflicts, establish informa-     ponents of emotional intelligence, singly or in
                        tion networks and disseminate information,         combination, have a great effect on how each
                        make decisions with little or ambiguous            focus is expressed in an organization.
                        information, and allocate resources. Good
                        self-management skills are characteristic of
                        most leaders; outstanding leaders also have
                        the ability to empathize with others and to
                        use social skills to advance an agenda.

                        “The Work of Leadership” by Ronald A.              John P. Kotter on What Leaders Really Do
                        Heifetz and Donald L. Laurie (Harvard              by John P. Kotter (1999, Harvard Business
                        Business Review, January–February 1997,            School Press, Product no. 8974)
                        Product no. 4150)
                                                                           In this collection of six articles, Kotter shares
                        Successfully leading an organization through       his observations on the nature of leadership
                        an adaptive challenge calls for leaders with a     gained over the past 30 years. Without leader-
                        high degree of emotional intelligence. But         ship that can deal successfully with today’s
                        Heifetz and Laurie focus on the requirements       increasingly fast-moving and competitive
                        of adaptive work, not on emotional maturity.       business environment, he warns, organiza-
                        The principles for leading adaptive work           tions will slow down, stagnate, and lose their
                        include: “getting on the balcony,” forming a       way. He presents his views on the current
                        picture of the entire pattern of activity; iden-   state of leadership through ten observations
                        tifying the key challenge; regulating distress;    and revisits his now famous eight-step
                        maintaining disciplined attention; giving the      process for organizational transformation. In
                        work back to the people; and protecting            contrast to Goleman’s article on emotional
                        voices of leadership from below.                   intelligence, which is about leadership quali-
                                                                           ties, Kotter’s work focuses on action: What
                                                                           does a leader do to lead? And how will leader-
                                                                           ship need to be different in the future?

                                         HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING
                                                          U.S. and Canada: 800-988-0886
                                                        617-783-7500 • Fax: 617-783-7555

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