Do you have what it takes to become a leader? | Singapore Business Review - The Latest News, Headlines, Insight, Commentary & Analysis
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Do you have what it takes to become a leader?

By Prof Sattar Bawany

The New Realities: Results-Based Leadership
We are operating in a hypercompetitive business environment. The world moves faster today when compared to 10 years ago. Companies feel the pressure to decrease time to market and improve the quality of products while delivering on ever-changing customer expectations to maintain competitive posture – that is, be adaptive and nimble. Driving results is difficult even for companies who have the benefit of dedicated and knowledgeable employees and business leaders to leverage.

In the early years leadership studies, the so-called “trait theory” took the view that there is a set of traits that separates the leader from the pack. Traits purported to be characteristic of leaders included intelligence, a drive to dominate others, being extroverted and having charisma. Today, people often point to the importance of emotional intelligence in achieving leadership effectiveness.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Effectiveness

The idea that success in both life and in work (at least where managing people is a significant factor) became highly credible and organisations have recognised how their best leaders and managers need to develop their understanding of themselves and others.
In 1995 Daniel Goleman published the best seller "Emotional Intelligence" which has done a great deal for popularising the concept.

Reuven BarOn is an internationally acknowledged expert and pioneer in emotional intelligence and has been involved in defining, measuring, and applying various aspects of this concept since 1980. He coined the term “EQ” (“emotional intelligence) in 1985 to describe his approach to assessing emotional intelligence.

There is growing evidence that the range of abilities that constitute what is now commonly known as emotional intelligence plays a key role in determining success in life and in the workplace. Recent research has uncovered links between specific elements of emotional intelligence and specific behaviors associated with leadership effectiveness and ineffectiveness. The study using BarOn EQ-i® (Emotional Quotient Inventory), an assessment of emotional intelligence, found that, higher levels of certain emotional intelligence components appear to be connected to better performance in leadership roles. The study also identified potential problem areas that could contribute to executive derailment.

The development of the BarOn model of emotional intelligence evolved from Dr. Reuven Bar-On’s early clinical experiences. Based on these experiences, he asked the question: Why are some individuals more able to succeed in life than others? After a thorough review of the factors thought to determine success in general, Bar-On found that predicting success is not always based on cognitive intelligence. Many cognitively intelligent people flounder in life, while many less cognitively intelligent individuals succeed and prosper.

Effective Leadership Styles

Drawing on research of more than 3,000 executives, Daniel Goleman explores which precise leadership behaviours yield positive results. The findings were published in the March 2000 Harvard Business Review article “Leadership That Gets Results”. In that article he outlines six distinct leadership styles, each one springing from different components of emotional intelligence.

Each style has a distinct effect on the organizational climate or the working atmosphere of a company, division, or team, and, in turn, on its financial performance. The styles, by name and brief description alone, will resonate with anyone who leads, is led, or, as is the case with most of us, does both. Commanding leaders demand immediate compliance. Visionary leaders mobilize people toward a vision. Participative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony. Democratic leaders build consensus through participation. Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and self-direction. And coaching leaders develop people for the future.

Flexible leadership, however, involves being able to adapt your leadership style according to the situation and the state of the team - e.g.: taking charge when a team is forming but playing the role of coach when a team is managing itself well. This is critical in developing and sustaining employee engagement.

The fact that leadership qualities are dependent on context is demonstrated in the film ‘Twelve O'Clock High’. In this film, which was produced in 1949, as a squadron starts to suffer increasing losses during the war, the leader's people-oriented approach starts to fail. He is replaced by a dictatorial bully who turns the squadron round and restores their pride (in a modern setting, such leadership behavior would often be regarded as unacceptable).


Organizations need leaders to visualize the future, motivate and inspire employees, and adapt to changing needs. On-going research indicates that, with the right leadership development support including executive coaching, those with leadership potential can be developed into outstanding leaders. Emotional Intelligence competencies are perhaps the most challenging for leaders to develop effectively and yet it is the one that often has the most impact. As emotionally intelligent leaders rise through the ranks of an organization, their profile becomes more visible to employees and their increased power can have greater impact.

Prof Sattar Bawany, Honorary Academic Advisor of IPMA and Adjunct Professor of Strategy of PGSM. He is also the Co-Chair of Human Capital Committee of American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham Singapore). He can be contacted at and Website:

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