Print Back What Makes a Leader: Overview How would you define the ideal leader? Traits like intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision are important, but so are the softer, more personal qualities -- often described as "emotional intelligence." Recent studies indicate emotional intelligence may be the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers from adequate ones. In a 1996 study of a global company, divisions of senior managers with high emotional intelligence outperformed yearly earnings goals by 20%. The other division leaders underperformed by almost 20%. Emotional intelligence governs effective performance, especially in leaders. Recognize emotional intelligence in yourself and in others, and become a strong leader. This QuickView answers these questions: Why is emotional intelligence important? What are the components of emotional intelligence? Can emotional intelligence be learned? Asked 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 a minimum 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%. Division leaders without that critical mass underperformed by almost the same amount. In 2002, Goleman proposed five components of 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-management skills 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 such candor 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 for leadership. 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 a hardhitting 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 whom ended 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 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 a purpose. 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. Note: See also the Emotional Intelligence QuickView to explore how the field of Emotional Intelligence has advanced since Goleman’s seminal work, and to obtain an Emotional Intelligence self assessment. What Makes a Leader: Abstract Why is emotional intelligence important? What are the components of emotional intelligence? Can emotional intelligence be learned? Why is emotional intelligence important? You probably know about a highly intelligent, highly skilled manager who was promoted into a leadership position only to fail at the job. And you also may know about someone with solid -- but not extraordinary -- intellectual abilities and technical skills who was promoted into a similar position and then soared. Personal styles of superb leaders vary. Some leaders are subdued and analytical; others more vocal. Different situations call for different types of leadership. Yet the most effective leaders all have high emotional intelligence. Studies show that intellect is a driver of outstanding performance. Cognitive skills such as big-picture thinking and long-term vision are crucial. But on comparing the ratio of technical skills, IQ, and emotional intelligence as ingredients of excellent performance, emotional intelligence proves to be twice as important as the others for jobs at all levels. IQ and technical skills matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities” -- they are entry-level requirements for management positions. Emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership -- once considered a "nice to have" quality, it's now deemed something leaders "must have." What are the components of emotional intelligence? Consider these components of emotional intelligence to recognize it in others and yourself. . Self- . Self-awareness means having a deep understanding of your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives. It's being honest -- with yourself and others. On the job, self-awareness means recognizing how your feelings affect your work. If tight deadlines trouble you, plan carefully and work in advance. Awareness Dealing with a demanding client, understand the client’s impact on your moods and use your frustration constructively. At the career level, it may mean refusing a lucrative offer that conflicts with your principles or long-term goals. Recognize self-awareness through: Self-knowledge -- Self-aware people are candid and assess themselves realistically. During a hiring process, for example, ask a candidate about a time when feelings took over and he lost self-control. Self-aware candidates will admit to failure with a smile -- showing a self-deprecating sense of humor. During performance reviews, self-aware employees will share their limitations and strengths, and want constructive criticism. Self-confidence -- Self-aware people know their capabilities and limits. They work from strengths but know when to get help. They take calculated risks. True story: A mid-level employee was invited to a strategy meeting with high-level executives. Despite being junior-most, she did not sit awestruck in fearful silence. Knowing her logical thinking and persuasive style, she offered cogent suggestions without wandering into unknown territory. Don't discount self-awareness when looking for potential leaders. Candor about feelings doesn't imply “wimpiness” or being “not tough enough.” Candor is admired, and called for during capability assessments. Do we have the management expertise to acquire a competitor? Can we launch a new product within 6 months? Self-aware people honestly assess themselves and their organizations. Self-Regulation . Biological impulses drive our emotions. You cannot bypass them, but you can manage them -- by having ongoing inner conversations. Control your emotional impulses and channel them usefully. Self-regulation helps: Create an environment of trust and fairness -- Your self-control and reasonable behavior, will spread throughout your organization. Politics and infighting will decrease. Adapt to ambiguity and change -- Self-regulation helps you cope up with today's rapid technology changes, and even break-ups or mergers. Focus on the potential of change programs, and move the initiatives forward. Enhance integrity -- Many misdeeds happen from impulsive behavior: people rarely plan to exaggerate profits, pad expense accounts, or abuse power. Don't give in to dubious opportunity. Integrity also builds organizational strength. True story: A company's senior executive was honest when negotiating with local distributors. At times he considered withholding cost information to drive a hard bargain or increase profits, but he countered these impulses. His self-regulation paid off in lasting relationships with distributors that outweighed any short-term benefits. Recognize self-regulation through the same signs: a propensity for reflection and thoughtfulness; comfort with ambiguity and change; and integrity -- an ability to control impulsive urges. Don't see people who can master their emotions as "cold fish." Considered responses don't reflect lack of passion. "Classic" leaders with fiery temperaments are not charismatic and powerful. Impulsiveness inhibits your success. Motivation . Motivation is being driven to achieve beyond expectations. Be motivated to achieve for the sake of achievement -- not by external factors like a big salary, an impressive title, or status. For a real drive to achieve: Be passionate about work -- Seek out creative challenges, love to learn, and take great pride in a job well done. Have an unflagging energy for improvement, and explore new alternatives. True story: A manager was frustrated that getting sales results took 2 weeks. He found an automated phone system that beeped each salesperson daily for their numbers. Feedback time on sales results reduced from weeks to hours. Raise the performance bar -- During performance reviews, motivated people often "stretch" their objectives for challenge. Keep score -- Track your progress, and also that of your team and company. Use hard measures like profitability or market share. Remain optimistic during downturns, and strive to overcome failure or frustration. Commit to IBM -- Passion for the work often translates to passion for the organization that provides the work. Commitment generates loyalty. Use these traits to become a strong leader. Raise the performance bar and keep score for the organization. Recognize these traits in others and build a motivated team. Spread your optimism and organizational commitment. Empathy . Empathy from a sensitive teacher or friend is valuable. Its absence in an unfeeling coach or boss is frustrating. Still, businesspersons are rarely praised or rewarded for their empathy -- the word seems so unbusinesslike. Empathy doesn’t imply an “I’m okay, you’re okay” mushiness. It means thoughtfully considering employees’ feelings -- along with other factors -- when making intelligent decisions. When announcing layoffs, for example, being empathetic means acknowledging the general worry and confusion, keeping people informed, and assuring fairness. Empathy is important because of: The increasing use of teams -- A team leader is often challenged by bubbling emotions and conflicting alliances and agendas. Use empathy to facilitate collaboration: understand the team's emotional makeup, and encourage open, constructive discussions. Rapid globalization -- Cross-cultural dialogue often causes miscues and misunderstandings. Empathy helps you get the underlying message, and appreciate the cultural and ethnic diversity. True story: When pitching a project for a potential Japanese client, an American team was greeted with a long silence. Despite this apparent disapproval, the lead consultant read the client’s face and posture and sensed not rejection but interest -- even deep consideration. He was right: they had won the job. The growing need for retention -- It takes empathy to develop and keep good people. Coaching and mentoring improves performance, job satisfaction, and retention. Get inside your protégés head to give effective feedback and boost motivation. "Feel" for your people even when making hard decisions. But do more than just sympathize: use your knowledge to improve IBM in subtle but important ways. Social Skill . Social skill is friendliness with a purpose: moving people in the desired direction -- for agreement on a new marketing strategy, or enthusiasm about a new product. Socially skilled people have a wide circle of acquaintances, and a knack for building rapport. They use their network when it's time for action. Social skill is the culmination of the other emotional intelligence dimensions. Socially skilled people are good team managers (through empathy), expert persuaders (through self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy), and excellent collaborators. They work in unconventional ways: chatting in hallways, or joking around with unrelated people. But that's networking -- they may need these resources tomorrow. Social skill is considered a key leadership capability -- as it gets work done through others. Use it to put the rest of your emotional intelligence to work. intelligence to work. Can emotional intelligence be learned? Are leaders born or made? A similar debate haunts emotional intelligence. Research suggests that emotional intelligence is both genetic and a result of life's experiences. But it can be learned. Emotional intelligence increases with age and maturity. It can improve through training that targets the brain's limbic system. This part of the brain governs feelings, impulses and drives, and learns best through motivation, feedback, and extended practice. Most programs mistakenly target the part of brain that grasps logic and concepts. Only the right training can help people break old behavioral habits and establish new ones. And it requires time, commitment, and individual attention. As an example, consider a manager with low empathy who's a poor listener, interrupts others, and lacks attention. To fix the problem, he needs motivation to change, feedback on faulty behavior, and practice on correct responses through role-play. Observing others who listen well and mimicking their behaviors also helps. It takes sincere desire and concerted effort to improve emotional intelligence. A brief seminar won’t help; nor can one buy a how-to manual. But it can be done. Note: For the latest insights about Emotional Intelligence and a Self Assessment to discover your strengths and improvement areas, access the Emotional Intelligence QuickView.