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Are leaders born or made?Orange_Line_Break

Answer: Good question. It’s one that we get asked a lot. Many people assume that leaders are born. They come into the world with a natural capacity to lead. This is the basic tenet of the great man theory, popularized by historian Thomas Carlyle in the 19th century. The mythology behind some of the world’s most famous leaders helped contribute to this notion. Think Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. Carlyle suggested that effective leaders were those gifted with divine inspiration and the right characteristics to take control of a situation and lead people to safety or success.

Today, we know that great leaders are distinguished not by their birthright or even their level of intelligence, but by their emotional intelligence (EI). Author Daniel Goleman first applied EI to leadership with his 1998 Harvard Business Review article called, “What Makes a Leader?”

According to Goleman, these skills can be strengthened by training, practice and coaching. The five EI skills are:

Self-awareness – knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and impact on others

Self-regulation – controlling or redirecting disruptive impulses and moods

Motivation – relishing achievement

Empathy – understanding the emotional makeup of others

Social skill – building rapport with others to move them in desired directions

EI may sound like a social virtue, but Goleman found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results. We are all born with certain levels of EI. The good news is that we can enhance our EI by breaking old behavioral habits and creating new ones. The process is not easy. It takes time and commitment. But the effort is well worth it, both for the leader and the organization as a whole.

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