What makes a star performer?

Avantika Sinha
Sep 04, 2012

Everyone has heard of EQ – Emotional intelligence but, what is the hard case for developing soft skills at senior leadership levels?

Daniel Goleman, the leading name in the field, started with the assumption that the competencies that companies rate their employees on have some correlation with superior performance and he examined 181 competency models from different companies to find out what they were actually measuring. He found that 67% of the competencies were actually soft skills rather than cognitive or technical skills.

This finding was augmented by research conducted by Ruth Jacobs and Wei Chen of Hay/Mcber who spoke to hundreds of top executives at fifteen global companies including IBM, Pepsico and Volvo. They found that statistically the difference between those regarded as star performers (top 5%) and average performers was primarily attributable to higher ratings attained by the stars on these soft skill parameters.

Not only that but the higher up in an organization they went the more pronounced was this effect. In fact for senior leadership positions 90% of the difference between the stars and average employees was attributable to difference in ratings on emotional competencies such as influence, team leadership, political awareness, self confidence and achievement drives.Only 10% was due to any cognitive or technical skills (mainly strategic thinking).

Emotional intelligence starts with self awareness since it’s only when you are aware of your own thoughts, emotions, motivations, capabilities, etc that you can control them. And it’s only after you understand yourself that you can begin to understand and thereby influence others. It’s no wonder that when the 75 members of the Stanford Business School Advisory Council were asked for the most important capability for leaders to develop their answer was near unanimous – self awareness.

How would you go about developing your capability of self awareness?