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Leadership and emotional intelligence

By Chris Golis - posted Monday, 31 October 2011

Google 'Leadership' and you get 438 million hits. Google 'Emotional Intelligence' and you get 8.5 million hits. Google 'Emotional Intelligence+Leadership' and you get 4.6 million hits.

Obviously, the promoters of emotional intelligence (EQ) believe it to be a key to leadership. Indeed Daniel Goleman, whose book Emotional Intelligence sold 5 million copies, considers social intelligence the make-or-break leadership skill set. Goleman now collates his four EQ factors into two. Self- awareness of emotions and self management are now called self-mastery while social awareness (empathy) and social skills are together called social intelligence. According to Goleman, it is social intelligence or interpersonal skills that are distinguishing characteristic of 'star' leaders.

A study of 110 YPO (Young Presidents' Organisation) members found that it was a combination of flexibility and high self-regard that distinguished them from the public at large. Flexibility was defined as being able to change direction; independence as able to absorb information from a variety of sources and come up with a decision; while self regard is the ability to work out one's strengths and weaknesses and choose team members who were not yes-men but able to compensate for your weaknesses.


Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the Stanford Business School, has developed what I consider an excellent model of leadership. Professor Pfeffer is widely regarded by his peers as perhaps the leading writer on organisational structures, power and leadership.

In his seminal book Managing with Power-Politics and Influence in Organisations, he identifies six characteristics of the leader:


The first common characteristic of leaders (as opposed to other people) is their energy and physical stamina. Leaders are the first in the office and the last to leave. Before they get to the office and after they leave they participate in other activities. During the day they continue to be active in a round of meetings. They are rarely sick.


Contrary to the popular view, perhaps pushed by the recruitment consultants, successful general managers are not general. Typically the people who become managing directors do so by focusing their energy and avoiding wasted effort. They succeed by focusing their efforts in one industry and generally one company.



Successful leaders are aware of other people. They spend time thinking about the behaviour and personality of their colleagues and employees. They put themselves in other people's shoes.


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About the Author

Chris Golis is Australia's expert on practical emotional intelligence. He is an author, professional speaker and workshop leader. His site is

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