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)
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 is one aspect of developing self-awareness. During self-reflection you consider:
- Timing of peak performance. When are you at your best?
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.”
- What am I doing that makes people feel weak or powerless?
- When do you see me elevating the power of others? What am I doing?
- 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?
Good stuff, Dan. Mistakenly believe that improving technical skills and knowledge is the path to success, and they discount the importance of people skills to their own detriment. I was having a conversation with a colleague about this very idea just last week.
Thanks Michael. It’s one of those things we need to keep coming back to. It’s easy to believe if we just learn some new technical skill we’ll succeed. Cheers
Good article. I agree that ones leadership skills are born within a community of serving others, not in a silo of isolation.
Thanks Mark. I appreciate you dropping in today. There is a dangerous seduction in isolation. It feels safe, but it’s actually dangerous.
Great subject. As a young CPA one of the older Managers told me something similar.
When you start out in many jobs you need both technical skills and to be able to work on your own and grind out results. This is maybe 90% of the time. The other 10% is people interaction.
As you move up to middle and senior Management this changes gradually. Middle Managers still need technical skills to teach and supervise others but it is more 50-50 with people activities. By senior Management it is 90% plus people with a bit of technical so that your team has faith in you. Not a bad lesson!
Thanks Brad. You were fortunate to receive wise advice when you were young. I assume you heeded it as well. 🙂
I’m not sure of the percent at each level, but the idea that we need to increase EQ as we move up is powerful. Sadly, EQ often goes down as leaders move up.
So its interesting on these traits: Values.Strengths.Timing of peak performance. When are you at your best?Results. I find myself continuously thinking through the day (very early on my drive in) as to how I move thru these and other strengths. What I’ve found though is that its more important and effective to take your technical skills and put the “ideas” or “thoughts” or “directions” in a format that various groupings of people can understand. One has to have the skill set to mold those technical competence expressions into different forms and formats and words for different groups. From that one can be successful and move successes forward. A different set of people engagement but very important in the overall approach one takes.
Thanks Roger. If I understand your comment, you’re coming at this from a relational angle. The paradigm is bring your strengths into the context of the people around.
Dan: You are so correct, the “paradigm” is how to bring my strengths into the context of people around me. As I’ve stated in a number of ways before that is my biggest challenge with internal staff especially when internal staff just does not want to accept said strengths and as my colleagues have said about internal staff; “they are just content to come to work and its just a job”. That in essence is the most frustrating part of how our leadership team approaches, mentors, coaches and asks for results from our staff. I seem to get more acceptance for my transferred strengths from outside people I deal with which makes me feel good about that aspect.
Sadly I did not hear of Emotional Intelligence till after being a leader. My first reaction was “oh great one more touchy feely idea. It was presented at the same time as “Servant Leadership”. You can not have one without the other. It changed everything I do as a leader.
Thanks Walt. Your comment reminds me that the soft stuff is the hard stuff. Glad you jumped in to share your experience. Very helpful.
Another particularly brilliant set of ideas, Dan – thank you!
Hopefully, this will be a section in your book. ☺
Anne McIntyre-Lahner, MS
Director of Performance Management
Connecticut Department of Children and Families
505 Hudson Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Thanks Anne. Interesting idea. 🙂
Wait? What? You are writing a book? OH I so need that info. Heck I will even pay for it, wont even try to win a free one.
slowly but surely.
I would happily pay for a book of these blogs