What Makes a Leader?

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Daniel Goleman’s article “What Makes a Leader?” was a very interesting analysis of the traits that make a leader. The article provides an examination of the relationship between emotional intelligence and the effective performance of leaders in organizations. His article looks at each component that makes up emotional intelligence and describes how to recognize these characteristics and their manifestations in the work environment. Goleman tells us that leaders need basic intelligence and job pertinent knowledge to be successful. He summarizes that although intellect is definitely a driver of outstanding performance, emotional intelligence plays an increasingly important role as a person reaches the highest levels of an organization. In reading this article, I immediately began to evaluate the leadership qualities of some of the people I have worked for and put them side by side with the characteristics Goleman dissects. This analysis made me immediately understand that of those supervisors that I admired during my years on active duty, they probably possessed a high level of emotional IQ. Of those I did not emulate, I would consider them to fall low on the emotional intelligence scale. Therefore, in this opinion paper, I will compare and contrast the five components of emotional intelligence as identified by Daniel Goleman with my experiences as a junior officer. The first component of emotional intelligence is Self Awareness. Self-Awareness is “a consciousness of ones emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives”. A self aware person is able to understand their own emotions and how they affect themselves, other people, and their job performance (Ott p. 99 rt). Someone who is self-aware is not afraid of attributing failure to themselves rather than the organization. I feel that majorities of people in the service are very success oriented (intentionally replacing the word goal oriented) but lack a true self-awareness. Policies and decisions are usually attributed to those higher in the chain of command; self-attribution is look at as a weakness. In 1990, I was taking my first Master’s Degree class at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. The class was a Professional Business writing class that was a requirement for all degree seekers. In the first lecture, the professor noticed about half the class was made up of military professionals. He stated “The highest grade you will receive in this class will be a B if you are a military person”. He went on to explain the phenomenon of that “military speak” is very passive in nature. I am not sure of the other students but it was a real eye opener for me to learn to break the habits I had learned in the military and was rewarded with a “B” grade. In my experience, success was based on how one conformed to the system. A person who conformed to the values and goals of their superiors would be rewarded with higher performance evaluations than their peers. In the military, where promotions are linked to these evaluations, along with tenure (or tie in rank), many people abandon their own needs and drives to maintain promotability. As for Goleman’s second component, Self-Regulation (in the Robbins text it is also referred to as self-management), I see eye to eye with his analysis. In many organizations, leadership does not demonstrate apposite self-regulation. We have all had an experience with supervisor who was a ‘screamer’. In an organization such as the military, many believe this type of personality is necessary. Unfortunately, this trait has a pattern of perpetuating itself from superior to subordinate in a closed work environment such as that onboard a naval vessel. The environment of trust and fairness that a person who possesses the traits of good self-regulation brings to the workplace reap benefits in better teamwork and subsequently increased productivity. In the civilian workforce, poor self-regulation has come to the forefront with...
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