Are Leaders Born or Made? Focus on Emotional Intelligence

Are Leaders Born or Made?

Some evidence to help shape and challenge your thinking

In a award winning 1998 HBR article by Goleman, the Father of Emotional Intelligence, laid out many of the answers for the often asked question –Are Leader’s born or made?  

In his research and study of many large, complex and global companies, he found that while the qualities traditionally associated with leadership—such as intelligence, inspiration, toughness, determination, and vision—are required for success, they are insufficient to describe the total picture of what makes a great leader. Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

These qualities may sound “soft” and not “hard” business analytics”, but Goleman found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results. While emotional intelligence’s relevance to business has continued to spark debate over the past 15 years, Goleman’s article remains the definitive reference on the subject, with a description of each component of emotional intelligence and a detailed discussion of how to recognize it in potential leaders, how and why it connects to performance, and how it can be learned. It also remains top of my mind because when I understand that emotions and feelings enrich our lives it motivates me to learn as much as I can about myself and interactions with others. EI provides me with the opportunity to see life as an opportunity to grow and develop. I am motivated to risk and be curious about what I don’t know about the human condition.  As a result I become stronger in the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical spheres of my life because I am inspired to put “continuous” learning at the center of my life rather than living in the past or fearful of the future.

I truly believe what Bertrand Russel, a great American philosopher said. To paraphrase his thoughts and idea: Most people would rather go through life “sleep walking” and not thinking about the important work of thinking deeply, problem solving and taking constructive action about the things they value most in life. Remember there are many things we can influence and control in life and there are also things we can’t; knowing the difference and choosing to do something about creating a life on purpose and with meaning is in our hands.

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