Without a strong, emotionally intelligent leader, personal and professional failure is much more likely to occur than is accomplishment.  

Effective leadership depends on the so-called “soft skills” that a leader possesses. But soft leadership skills are anything but soft. Soft skills depend more on transferable competencies and abilities and less on the experiences and accomplishments listed on a resume.  Circumstances and situations change. What worked in the past might not work the same in the future. Repeatable results will come from the ability to apply past knowledge and adapt it to new problems.  The ability to do this requires emotional intelligence and has become increasingly important considering the demands placed on managers and leaders of organizations today.

Emotional intelligence is even more critical when the need to effectuate organizational change arises. A few thought leaders have asserted recently both the existence and importance of soft leadership skills, thereby providing evidence that they do indeed matter. 

McKinsey Quarterly recently focused on leadership development in the context of major operations improvement.  While conceding that major organizational changes demand unwavering focus on business details at a granular level, McKinsey further stated that “…senior executives overlook the “softer” skills their leaders will need to disseminate changes throughout the organization and make them stick.”  In other words, leaders selected for their strategic and operational prowess will fail when they can’t get others to respond.

The same week McKinsey published its article Inc. Magazine wrote that there are, in essence, “8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses.”  In short, they were all extensions of the Inc. article’s basic premise that “business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.”  That simple statement encapsulates what emotional intelligence is all about:  The ability to strike a balance between the practical need for tough, often difficult business decisions with the emotional and psychological needs of those upon whose efforts the organization relies to succeed.  

To be an effective leader, one must possess the ability to:

1) communicate goals and actions,

2) motivate others to meet those goals, and

3) provide appropriate responses when dissatisfaction results from 1 and/or 2. 

Call these abilities whatever you like – soft leadership skills or emotional intelligence.  It doesn’t matter.  They just matter. 

What’s your emotional intelligence? Learn how to test your EI skills here.