What’s Twice as Important as Technical Skill

The difference between top and average performers isn’t technical skill.

Yes, in order to succeed you need technical skill. But to thrive at top levels of organizational leadership you need something more than technical skill.

IQ and technical skill get your foot in the door. But …

“The higher you go up the ladder, the more emotional intelligence matters: for top leadership positions they are about 80 to 90 percent of distinguishing competences.” (Daniel Goleman)

Goleman lists the five components of emotional intelligence (EQ) in his classic 2004 HBR article, “What Makes a Leader.” (Subscription required)

  1. Self-awareness.
  2. Self-regulation.
  3. Motivation.
  4. Empathy.
  5. Social-skill.


You can’t effectively lead until you appreciate how you occur to others. In other words, the development of self-awareness requires others.

You can’t develop self-awareness in isolation.

Quiet reflection:

Quiet reflection is one aspect of developing self-awareness. During self-reflection you consider:

  1. Values.
  2. Strengths.
  3. Timing of peak performance. When are you at your best?
  4. Results.


Distance between the intent of your actions and the impact of your actions points to low self-awareness. You might intend to instill confidence in your team, but they respond with apprehension, for example.

Feedback enables you to discover how you occur to others.

When seeking feedback, declare an intention: “I’m working to create interactions that help people feel powerful.”

  1. What am I doing that makes people feel weak or powerless?
  2. When do you see me elevating the power of others? What am I doing?
  3. What might I do to help people feel powerful?

You can’t lead successfully until you appreciate how you occur to others.


The development of self-awareness is more about reflecting on action, intent, and impact, than on meditating in isolation. You often learn your values as you act, not before you act, for example.

What aspects of emotional intelligence seem most important to you?

How might you increase your self-awareness today?