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Are you a great leader?

Last updated on: May 06, 2015 13:51 IST
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Virender Kapoor is the former director of Symbiosis Institute of Management and knows a thing or two the making of a great leader.

Here's what he has to tell you, our dear readers.


What makes great leaders?

Ratan Tata wasn't a school topper.

Steve Jobs was a college dropout.

Gandhi wasn't a gold medalist; neither was Patel.

Nehru returned home after an expensive overseas education with an indifferent record.

And yet these men led great companies, great movements; one of them became the prime minister of India!

What did they have in them?

These men were great because they were committed to something they were convinced about, they cared for others, were men of integrity; they loved what they did and most of them demonstrated great self control.

These virtues have nothing to do with IQ or academic excellence.

These qualities are collectively called Emotional Intelligence (EI).

Emotional intelligence matters a lot for your success

Buddha spoke of an equanimous mind 2600 years ago; Aristotle discussed anger management two centuries back.

Even today, we are struggling with expressing and controlling our emotions, struggling with anger and self-control.

We have been practicing these over the centuries but possibly didn't realise the importance of such human traits.

In the last couple of decades, research showed that Emotional Intelligence is something that matters more than conventional intelligence measured with IQ tests and has been established as a new benchmark for success.

Human civilisation has come a long way from the times of survival of the fittest.

Back in the day wars were won on brute force and modern technology was still a tiny speck in the distant future, what mattered was brawn.

You were sought after if you were strong.

The latter half of the 19th century saw what we now know as the Second Industrial Revolution. Inventions and discoveries were based on physics, Chemistry, Math and Biology.

Therefore, much weightage was given to these.

Analytics and logical reasoning soon became the mainstay of society.

IQ emerged as a concept of intelligence based on logical reasoning and intellect.

New benchmark for human competence

In the last 40-50 years we evolved into a service-based economy, the individual became the focus of attention.

We began to realise that while the gun may be important, man behind the gun was more important.

Why we prefer one airline over may be all others, when all fly the same aircraft, use same airports and runways?

It is the service that counts and that depends on staff performance and human interaction.

Relationship building, connecting with people, dealing with others therefore became important in a service based economy scenario.

How you deal with a nasty boss or a difficult customer has nothing to do with IQ.

Yet these are most important for our day-to-day work.

These worldly human abilities account for 80 per cent of your success and determine how far we go.

You may be intelligent and talented but if you lack interpersonal skills you are more likely to fail.

Amitabh Bachchan is a great actor but he also makes an effort to reach out to his audiences, through blogs or tweets or promotional events etc.

He is very punctual and courteous to his co-stars.

He is the one who bounced back after serious health problems.

APJ Abdul Kalam is not just a talented scientist but also a good human being; was it a surprise then that it was he and not anyone else in his team that was chosen to be the President?

In the movie The Imitation Game, the genius Alan Turing is reminded that if he didn't reach out to his colleagues, he wouldn't achieve success.
Turing and his team went on to create the Turing Machine -- a precursor to today's computers -- that would break the German Nazi codes during World War II.
Again, it was teamwork, being able to accommodate others in your grand plan and empathy mattered in this case too.

Components of Emotional Intelligence

Intrapersonal skills

  • Self awareness: Before you can even start to become emotionally intelligent, you must know your own strengths and weaknesses.

Make an accurate self assessment.

For instance, you would yourself know whether you have self-confidence, do you get angry very quickly, are you a recluse or do you have mood swings.

Thereafter have the courage to accept these weaknesses.

  • Self management: Once you know your weaknesses you can start working on these and gradually change your personality.

You can practice self control, can consciously become more adaptable, accommodating and start taking initiative.

Interpersonal Skills

  • Social awareness: It simply means to get to know others.

You must be able to empathise with others, must learn to know how others feel, grasp the sensitivity levels of people, as no two people are the same.

It also means organisational awareness, who is doing what job and why.

  • Relationship management: Once you are aware about the people you need to deal with, you start managing relationships accordingly.

You can become a better team player a leader, an opinion maker or influencer and learn to communicate to people appropriately.

Emotional competence is learnable

High IQ is a genetic bonanza. Either you have it in you or you don't.

For instance, you cannot work hard and become, an Einstein.

If you are not great with numbers, you may work very hard yet you may not score very high on math.

Largely these are inborn skills.

In case of Emotional Intelligence, the good news is that you can learn these, you can cultivate these good habits over a period.

Sure, there are those who are better with people than the others but empathy is not a trait you cannot cultivate.

Caring for others similarly can be developed; conflict management can be learnt.

One of the most important qualities of a great leader is empathy.

A great leader is someone who can empathise with his followers, who can connect with his team and works not only with his head but also with his heart.

Such people hold the hand of a colleague in crisis or extend a helping hand when a teammate is down and under.

Apart from making you a better person, these skills can take you places. And isn't that good enough reason to cultivate them?

Virender Kapoor is the former director of Pune's Symbiosis Institute of Management and the founder of Management Institute for Leadership and Excellence and the co-founder Orange ivy play schools.

He is also the author of Leadership: The Gandhi Way, A Wonderful Boss: Great People to Work With and Passion QuotientInnovation the Einstein Way. His forthcoming book is Winning Instinct: Decoding the Power Within.

Photograph (used for representational purposes only): Donald Clark/Creative Commons

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