The Truth About What Makes A Great Leader

Susan S Freeman Blog

Emotional IntelligenceBecause the Step Up Leader system relies heavily on developing emotionally awareness and competent leadership for clients, I wanted to highlight a recent interview with Daniel Goleman from Forbes about what makes a great leader.

Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses.  He reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half; with more than 5 million copies in print worldwide in 30 languages, and has been a best seller in many countries.

 The Harvard Business Review will announce in their April issue that his article “The Focused Leader” won the McKinsey award, which recognizes their best articles of the year. That article was derived from his book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence,” and that excerpt – along with his key leadership articles from business journals – is included in his new collection What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

In the following brief interview, Goleman talks about the types of leadership characteristics that are most important in the business world, the difference between smart and wise, the leadership triple focus, and what the real definition of leader really is.


What types of leadership characteristics typically yield better business results?

Studies conducted by companies evaluating their own executives have proven that the top 10% of performers displayed superior competencies in emotional intelligence, rather than in purely cognitive thinking. Capabilities like self-confidence and initiative; bouncing back from setbacks and staying cool under stress; empathy and powerful communication, collaboration; and teamwork all make for better business results.

What’s the difference between smart and wise and why does it matter?

In my book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence I make the distinction between leaders who are “smart,” in the sense of good at running a business and getting quarterly results, and “wise,” meaning leaders who have a larger sense of the social and environmental systems we operate within, as well as an expanded view of stakeholders. The smart leader can get results in the short-term, the wise leader can net results in both the short and the long-term.

What should someone who isn’t passionate about their work do?

I like Howard Gardner’s concept of “good work,” which combines what you’re excellent at doing with what engages you and feels meaningful. Someone who is not passionate about the work they do now might consider how to make a portion of their job “good work,” or how to enlarge that portion over the course of their career.

Can you discuss the leader’s “triple focus”?

Leaders need an inner focus to be aware of their own feelings, values and intuitions, and to manage themselves well. A focus on others allows a leader to read people well, which is key to managing relationships – the art of leading itself. And an outer focus lets a leader understand the larger forces and systems that she must navigate and to determine the best strategy going forward.

Do you think that managers should all be leaders or that all leaders are managers and why?

I view anyone with a sphere of influence as a “leader,” whether or not she has that explicit job description. In that sense every manager is a leader already, or should be.


How would you evaluate your leadership for “triple focus?” 

Step Up Leader is committed to helping successful, high-achieving leaders access the Natural Leader within.    Our unique approach combines Eastern philosophy with Western strategic discipline.  Clients learn to quickly access their own “triple focus” with our system.  When they do, they experience passion, clarity and exceptional results.

 We invite you to apply for a complimentary strategic consultation.

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