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What Places Some Leaders at an Astounding Advantage?

Some Leaders Have an Amazing Advantage 

We all know the importance of technical expertise, extensive experience, and cognitive aptitude. Most of us share the adage that leadership is ‘getting someone else to do something we want done because he wants to do it’. As leaders, we’re dealing with complex situations and… we’re dealing with people.

The more complex our roles and responsibilities, the more important soft skills become. While cognitive abilities and technical expertise are absolutely necessary, what distinguishes top performers is our ability to handle people.

We’ve all read about the importance of emotional intelligence. After all, the best leaders of our time integrated soft skills into their practices long before emotional intelligence ever became a mainstream concept.

Interpersonal incompetence corrodes workplaces.

A deficiency in such competencies results in the inability to translate or convey cognitive skills and technical expertise. If we can’t transform our experience into actionable practice, we’re simply not as effective. We need to be able to weave our professional skill and competence with other [soft] areas that enable us to connect with others.

Common Industries & How Soft Skills Impact Performance

Some common industries where leaders who weave soft skills to enhance performance include:

  • Social services: being gentle, empathetic, and calm
  • Finance: respecting customers private and personal situations
  • Education: creating a cohesive culture among professors; connecting with teachers
  • CPAs: capitalizing on enhanced social skills
  • Law enforcement: integrating superior listening and negotiation skills
  • Information technology (IT): sustaining and taking advantage of teamwork
  • Scientists: honing influence and motivation

In lower level positions, such as front line workers or support staff, cognitive skills must closely align with specific jobs. As such, the more complex our role, the greater the level of expertise required to execute our responsibilities – the more crucial this becomes. The higher we sit in the organizational hierarchy, so to speak, the more this applies: emotional competence places the best leaders  at an astounding advantage.

What separates the average or mediocre and the top performer? What is the secret ingredient that our best leaders share? “On average, close to 90 percent of their success in leadership was attributable to emotional intelligence” (Goleman, 1998, p. 34).


Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.