The One Essential, Indispensable Ingredient Of A Great Leader

I was having lunch and the person I was talking with told me she loved her accountant.

“I love him. I just love him,” were her exact words.

“Why,” I asked her? “What makes someone love their accountant?” “Or their lawyer, for that matter?” I added silently.

Her answer boiled down to an innate sense that her accountant looks out for her. She trusts him. She knows that he is genuinely happy about the successes she reports and truly commiserates with her when she falls short. She has an emotional connection with her accountant. And I would have bet serious money that I never would have occasion to write that sentence.

The term “emotional intelligence” was coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book of that name. Three years later, Goleman applied his theory of emotional intelligence to business in his article for Harvard Business Review entitled, “What Makes a Leader?”

I have found, however, that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities;” that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.

Goleman professes that there are five components to emotional intelligence that combine to set the business leadership boundary between good and great:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skill

If you click the link, you’ll be able to see Goleman’s definitions and key indicators for each component.

Time and time again, I have seen the truth of Goleman’s findings borne out in conversations with clients and business owners of all ages, personality types and industries. Technical skill in a given field is simply the price of entry.

What separates people we do business with because they’re there and people we want to do business with is the emotional connection – empathy – our sense that they genuinely care.

The thing is you can’t fake it. It has to come from someplace real. And your clients have to know it.

Emotional intelligence aside, there’s one more thing that sticks with me from my lunch that day – and it bothers me.

It marked the first time in my life that I envied an accountant.

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