Leadership, like the tale of Eskimo's 100+ words for snow, is a complicated subject. It is loaded with expertise, responsibility and social expectations. Stogdill's Handbook of Leadership contains more than 100 definitions for leadership! And this doesn't include our own ideas about what a leader should be. In trainings we like to conduct an exercise in which we ask the participants to make a list of characteristics of their Best Boss and their Worst Boss. What kind of characteristics do you think most people come up with? Typically participants say their best boss is a good listener, they're understanding, calm, share credit, have integrity, develops employees and some even say they're humane! Worst boss characteristics usually include micromanaging, lying or two-faced, abuse of power and being stubborn. Not once has anyone said their boss had the best qualifications or the worst technical expertise. This gives us a glimpse into what people consider to be a good or bad leader. So how do leaders exercise the social qualities that are expected of them if there is no Masters degree in social awareness? This leads us to the question - Are leaders born or made?
To address this debate we turn to the business world hot topic of Emotional Intelligence. Harvard Business Review, Fortune 100, TIME, among others have recently highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence and success. Daniel Goleman defines Emotional Intelligence as the ability to identify, assess, and control one's own emotions, emotions of others, and that of groups. In a study of 200 large global companies Goleman finds 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...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." As a result, many companies are using Emotional Intelligence as a recruiting tool and thanks to Goleman expanding the capabilities of leadership positions by identifying them and testing for them.
So back to the question, are leader born or made? The research on emotional intelligence indicates that it is both. The bad news, some are born with more than others. The good news, the competencies of emotional intelligence- self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills- can all be improved and developed.
Learn more about Emotional Intelligence.