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11 C’s of Soft Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. | Jan 3, 2021

emotional intelligence2 - 11 C's of Soft Leadership and Emotional Intelligence"No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." —Theodore Roosevelt

There is an increasing awareness and importance about emotional intelligence ever since Daniel Goleman authored the book Emotional Intelligence in 1995.  This concept was based on the works of Howard Gardner (Harvard), Peter Salovey (Yale) and John D. Mayer (New Hampshire).  The phrase, 'emotional intelligence' was coined by Dr. Jack Mayer and Peter Salovey. Salovey & Mayer define emotional intelligence as follows:  "Emotional Intelligence, also called EI and often measured as an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), describes an ability, capacity, or skill to assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups. A form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one's thinking and action."

Building Emotional Intelligence

People acquire emotional intelligence when they work in groups.  It is not a solo act, but a group activity. Hence, to acquire emotional intelligence, it is essential to take an active part in group activities. Similarly, executives who reach higher positions must have higher emotional intelligence as it needs more people skills and less technical skills.

It is essential to take the time to recognize the emotions, feelings, and drives of the people around you. However, it is easier said than done. We must understand the causes of people's feelings to understand them better. We must learn lessons from time to time to bring out behavioral changes among ourselves to master the art of emotional quotient. Finally, it is essential to develop empathetic listening to build EQ.

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Here are some tips to build emotional intelligence:

  • Empathize with others. Step into the shoes of others and understand and appreciate things from their perspective. It makes things easier for you and helps you earn respect from others.  You can build bridges with others easily.
  • Take an active interest in others to help. Respect others' feelings, egos, and emotions. Look for similarities, not differences.  When you create a common ground with others, you can connect with them easily and quickly.
  • Love your mother but don't hate another person's mother. Respect others' cultures, languages, creeds, ethnicities, religions, and nationalities. It creates a broad mindset resulting in wider acceptance.
  • Link your intentions with actions as it creates credibility in the people around you.
  • Always keep anger at bay as anger is the enemy of the individuals.  Anger drains valuable energies and creates negative vibes. When in anger drink water to enable you to cool down.  Do breathing exercises.  When you breathe deeply, more oxygen gets inside your brain and relieves you from anxiety.
  • Emphasize assertiveness which is the art of saying ‘No’ firmly but politely.  Neither aggressiveness nor submissiveness works.
  • Take intrapersonal feedback whenever something goes wrong to correct quickly. You are the best judge for your actions and feelings.  You are true to your conscience.  Intrapersonal feedback improves your behavior.
  • Blend your head and heart to make decisions based on logic and analysis.


Soft Leadership―11 Characteristics

1. Character

Warren Bennis says, "Successful leadership is not about being tough or soft, sensitive or assertive, but about a set of attributes. First and foremost is the character."  The collapse of companies like Enron, Lehman Brothers, and World Com reminds the world about the leaders lacking character at their core.  The problem lies with the leaders who lack strong character resulting in such downfalls.  The character is one of the key components of soft leaders. It is through their strong character they lead their people by influencing and guiding them. People look at leaders who have impeccable integrity and who walk the talk. Hence, most companies emphasize character during leadership development programs.

2. Charisma

One of the greatest characteristics of soft leaders is their charisma.  Soft leaders make other people more important and valuable through their charisma.  Charisma helps in connecting with others easily as people feel valued and pleased to talk with these leaders.

Marianne Williamson says, "Charisma is a sparkle in people that money can't buy. It's invisible energy with visible effects."

Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus said, “Charisma is the result of effective leadership, not the other way around.” Research reveals that charisma is a skill that can be honed by training, experience, and practice.  There is an urge in all human beings to be liked by others. Charisma paves the way for being liked by others.  There are various components of charisma such as warmth, smile, grace, body language, voice, and confidence. A person is said to be charismatic when there is a coincidence in all these components.

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3. Conscience

Sophocles said, "There is no witness so terrible and no accuser so powerful as conscience which dwells within us."

Conscience is one of the major key components of soft leaders as a clear conscience makes them stand out from other leaders.  People expect leaders to be ethical and responsible.  They also look up to leaders whose conscience cares for them.  Conscience differentiates right from wrong. Leaders must have a clear conscience to convince themselves to enable them to persuade others. If there is a chasm between the word and the deed conscience reminds the same.   Mahatma Gandhi was always clear with his conscience. He unveiled the mistakes he had made in his life in his autobiography.  Every person makes mistakes but how many unveil and admit the same. In fact, it requires a lot of courage to reveal wrong-doings on their part.

4. Conviction

Conviction is another key ingredient for soft leadership without which the soft leaders cannot lead successfully.  It is their convictions that take soft leaders forward and make their people move forward toward achieving their goals.  Walter Lippmann aptly said, "The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other people, the conviction and the will to carry on."

5. Courage

Courage is an integral part of soft leadership.  According to Aristotle, courage is the first virtue, because it makes all of the other virtues possible.  Courage does not mean fighting physically with others.  Courage doesn't mean being aggressive at all times.

Mark Twain rightly remarked, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear."

Courage is about standing by your values and morals and principles and policies despite being pressurized by others and receiving threats from others.  Courage is also a major key component for soft leaders because courage commands confidence from their followers.

6. Communication

James Humes said, "The art of communication is the language of leadership." The success of soft leadership depends more on communication than anything else. It is through communication leaders express their ideas, ideals, and insights and persuade others to follow them.

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Leadership is all about handling people to accomplish goals and objectives. While handling people communication becomes the core component through which leaders connect with others.  As leadership styles are different to touch different people with different emotions, needs, egos, and feelings, there are different communication styles such as aggressive communication, submissive communication, assertive-aggressive communication, and assertive communication.

Nitin Nohria observed, "Communication is the real work of leadership."  It is through the magic words leaders influence and inspires others to do the impossible things.  Soft leaders demonstrate assertive communication to connect with others and carry forward them toward their goals.

The leaders must adopt an assertive communication style ideally and other styles from time to time to make their leadership effective.  Because of the key role communication plays while leading others, we can assert that effective communication is the sister of leadership.

7. Compassion

Kahlil Gibran says, "Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair but manifestations of strength and resolution."

Compassion is all about genuinely caring for your people.  Compassion commands great inner strength, courage, and power.  Compassion makes a huge difference in making leaders as soft leaders.  Soft leadership flows from the fountain of compassion.  The real leaders are the ones who encourage others, care for others, empathize and demonstrate compassion with others. Only such leaders have the ability to influence and maximize the potential of their people and organizations.

8. Commitment

Soft leaders have another great characteristic of commitment as it makes them command respect among others.  It is their firm commitment toward their causes that wins acclaim from others.  If you want your life to be successful you must be committed.  For instance, when you love your family, you must demonstrate your firm commitment.  Commitment consumes your time but it builds longevity in relations.

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As a leader, if you demonstrate your commitment people trust you and treat you with the utmost respect.  Commitment is the bridge between the word and the deed.

9. Consistency

Consistency is another important ingredient for soft leadership. Leaders must demonstrate their consistency to have a profound impact on their people. People expect leaders to be predictable, responsible, and credible. Failure to demonstrate consistency leads to a credibility crisis.  Consistency is essential in every area of life and is required to be noticed as a credible and responsible person.  Consistency helps in leadership branding and memory recall.

10. Consideration

Consideration is one of the major characteristics of soft leaders as soft leaders basically care for their people. They respect their followers.  Consideration includes recognizing the good work done by others and appreciating them promptly, liberally and graciously. This is the trait of the leaders with people-orientation rather than task-orientation. The transactional leaders are fundamentally task-oriented while transformational and soft leaders are people-oriented with a big heart to care for and consider others.  Consideration includes caring and respecting others with an empathetic attitude. It deals with stepping into the shoes of others and looking at things from others' perspectives.  It makes people win the confidence of others as it helps them connect with others quickly.

11. Contribution

Stephan Girard said, "If I thought I was going to die tomorrow, I should nevertheless plant a tree today." We are what we are here today because of the amazing contributions made by several soft leaders to this mankind regardless of their areas of interest.  The contribution includes precious time, money, energy, ideas, knowledge, and assistance to society.  Genuine and selfless contribution takes to true leadership.  People respect the leaders who contribute their best to society without hankering for wealth, power or prestige.

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Mother Teresa once remarked, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Don’t expect anything in return when you add value to others. Remember, what goes around comes around in a different form.  If everybody contributes something to others imagine the kind of world we would live in and the kind of world that we would pass on to our next generation.

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Professor M.S. Rao - 11 C's of Soft Leadership and Emotional IntelligenceProfessor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is an international leadership guru and an internationally acclaimed executive coach, educator, author, speaker, and consultant. He is a C-Suite advisor and a sought-after keynote speaker globally.  He earned a Ph.D. in Soft Skills.  He has forty years of experience in leadership development and conducts training programs for various corporates and educational institutions. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. His areas of interest include leadership, executive coaching, and executive education. He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe)

Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India


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