Is a natural-born leader a real thing?
Do babies emerge with the innate ability to guide others—once they learn to walk, talk, and handle their basic needs? Or are they the merely humans who have been correctly nurtured to cultivate leadership?
I believe some people have more natural leadership ability than others. Some youngsters are kinder, more empathetic, and intuitive than others. They exude confidence that attracts others to them. But I don’t think it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Leadership can be learned.
Daniel Goleman propelled the concept of “emotional intelligence”—possessing and using key emotional skills that deliver greater insight (an idea originally formulated by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey). Goleman cited self-awareness, self-confidence, self-control, and social awareness as traits that elevate people to leadership status. His research—spanning hundreds of companies and 20 years—showed that people with an average IQ will outperform those with exemplary IQs 70 percent of the time.
It’s not what you learned from books and teachers, but your inner emotional intelligence that guides you to lead others successfully.
A leader is not a barker.
Gone are the days of “leaders” commanding, “because I said so.”
Today’s culture wants to be involved in decisions (like it or not), to be part of the conversation, not dictated to by an overlord.
When you can control your moods and emotions, your trustworthiness and integrity grows in your followers’ perception.
A leader listens AND hears.
An emotionally intelligent person listens to others, and doesn’t feel the need to drive the conversation or be the center of it. A leader understands that there is always more to learn from other people, and that you should never discount a person’s potential for creative problem-solving.
According to new research, the #1 most important leadership trait worldwide is high ethical and moral standards. “…when leaders clearly communicate their expectations, they avoid blindsiding people and ensure that everyone is on the same page.”
A high “EQ” is also defined by hearing what others say—not just the words, but the underlying meaning. This skill combines both awareness and empathy. It contributes to the ability to find and retain talent and solve problems efficiently and effectively. Test your own Emotional Intelligence (EQ) here.
Here’s an example from Goleman:
Consider two division chiefs at a company forced to make layoffs.
One manager gave a hard-hitting 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 di-vision voluntarily.
Emotional intelligence is not personality. Your personality is hard-wired, and won’t likely change, unless you’re visited by three spirits in the night.
Your EQ is a practiced effort of sharpening leadership skills, requiring awareness and effort.
Women need to find balance between being too soft and too tough—the dreaded “B” word. We have the ability to nurture, but need to explore the boundaries of applying the right amount of empathy while avoiding being perceived as a pushover.
I challenge you to boost your EQ.
Whether you lead a small group of volunteers, a team of workers, or your family, become the leader they need and value.
Natural-born or not, step up and lead!
 Goleman, Daniel, “What Makes a Leader?”, Best of Harvard Business Review 1998.
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