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Where Leadership Experts Get It Wrong

Written by: on  November 1, 2011

Winning charisma, razor sharp intelligence and personality characteristics such as extraversion are the keys to great leaders, right? Forget it! The most recent research in psychology explodes this myth and reveals the real skills that great leaders possess.

Beyond Sticks and Carrots

Two decades of research into leadership has long challenged the idea that good leaders use their authority to dominate follows and tell them what to do by enforcing compliance. Instead, we’re told that real leaders are people who posses exceptional charisma, but consider this: research published in a recent edition of The Scientific American Mind challenges the idea that effective leaders can use their charismatic personalities to manipulate others into conformity. Although coercion through using sticks or carrots may work in the short term, neither strategy has the power to drive sustainable change. And, according to the latest findings, no fixed set of personality traits, charismatic or otherwise, can guarantee great leadership either.

According to these reports, a new picture of leadership skills has emerged that better accounts for leadership performance.  In particular, this research points to three keys insights:

(1) Leaders are most effective when they tap into the aspirations people hold in their hearts. In other words, when they understand what people want, and help people make the link between their aspirations and what the business can achieve for them.

(2) They recognize the fundamental need that people have to belong to a group, so they build shared identities for people at work so people feel ‘one of the gang.’

(3) They possess advanced skills in being able to engage with the real drivers of performance in people – emotions.

Masters of Mood

Great leaders have the skills to manage their emotions well and influence the emotions of other people toward positive outcomes. In other words, leaders must become masters of mood and lead organizations that excite energize and enthuse their customers.

Yes, but what specifically are these skills, can you really measure them, and more importantly how can people in business build them quickly and cost-effectively?

After analysing more than ten years of scientific data exploring the link between emotional intelligence and leadership, research psychologists at RocheMartin have identified ten skills that powerfully predict leadership effectiveness. These skills form the basis of an exciting new model of emotional intelligence and leadership – Emotional Capital. In addition, they can now be measured accurately in any business using a powerful new psychometric tool – the Emotional Capital Report (ECR)

Ten Dynamic Emotions that Drive Leadership Success

The most effective leaders score higher than the average on each of these ten particular scales of emotional intelligence. The highest scores were on: Self-Reliance – the emotional power to accept responsibility, back personal judgments and be self-reliant in planning and making important decisions; Self-Confidence – the ability to maintain self-respect and personal confidence; Relationship Skills – the knack for characterized by positive expectations.

In terms of leading a business, these three competencies enable a leader to model self-assured behaviour; communicate a clear view of the organization’s vision and direction; inspire the confidence of others, and gain their support and commitment to building successful relationships – not only with employees and customers, but with everyone the business touches.

A second cluster of high scores that distinguish these leaders include: Optimism – not just ‘the glass is half full’ kind, but optimism as a strategy – as a way of dealing with difficulties and sensing opportunities. Emotionally intelligent leaders look on the brighter side of life and sense opportunities even in the face of adversity. They are resilient, can see the big picture and where they are going, and are able to focus on the possibilities of what can be achieved.

Secondly, they score well on Self-Knowing – emotionally intelligent leaders are aware of their emotional experience and have the capacity to recognize how their feelings and emotions impact on their personal opinions, attitudes and judgments. In other words, they remain open to discovering new things about themselves and are not afraid to modify their behaviour. Thirdly, this cluster includes Self-Actualization – high scores on this skill suggest that these leaders know how to manage their reserves of emotional energy and have achieved an effective level of emotional balance. They appear to thrive in setting challenging personal and professional goals and their enthusiasm is likely contagious.

The final group of skills that differentiate effective leaders from the rest include: Straightforwardness– this suggests the ability to express feelings, thoughts and beliefs openly in a straightforward way, while respecting the fact that others may hold a different opinion or expectation. The second skill in this cluster includes Adaptability – the ability to adapt thinking, feelings and actions in response to changing situations and be tolerant of others, and receptive to new ideas. In other words, they are champions of change. Not surprisingly, they also score well on Empathy. This is the skill that enables a person to grasp the emotional dimension of a business situation and create resonant connections with others. This is also the skill that makes talent dance in an organization. Finally, they score well on Self-Control – emotionally intelligent leaders have the ability to manage their emotions well and restrain their actions until they have time to think rationally. They are able to stay calm in stressful situations and maintain productivity without losing control. This skill is critical to building and maintaining a consistent leadership presence and for becoming a ‘trusted advisor’ to people.


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