What Makes a Leader?

Several themes, patterns, and inter-relationships emerge upon reflection on the course readings and concepts on critical thinking and decision making. Critical thinking affects decision-making of any kind. Over the decades, scholars have agreed that critical thinking is especially beneficial in business and economics. Kahneman and Charan (2013) note that great leaders are also associated with the ability to think critically about every decision they make regardless of it is financial or not. One thing that cuts across the discourses is emotional intelligence. According to Goleman (1998), emotional intelligence is the ability to control and express one’s emotions with empathy specifically in interpersonal relationships.

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According to Goleman (1998), one of the greatest assets of a memorable leader is a high degree of emotional intelligence. It is crucial to note that emotional intelligence enhances interpersonal relationships. For one to lead, he or she must have followers. Therefore, interpersonal relationships make up the core of leadership. Paul and Elder (2014) think that the best way to deal with people is to understand them. Having said so, Goleman (1998) argues that there are five components of emotional intelligence that affect leadership. The five elements are self-awareness, motivation, social skills, self-regulation, and empathy (Goleman, 1998).

It can be argued that the said five elements of emotional intelligence are recurrent in the course readings on critical thinking and decision making. Self-awareness in critical thinking allows the leader to trust his or her decisions (Hammond, Keeney, & Raiffa, 2015). Leaders must trust their decisions as this will affect their leadership style. Additionally, a leader that second-guesses each decision he or she makes will likely make wrong choices.

Motivation is critical in decision-making as well. This is particularly in the case of enticing followers or employees. It can be argued that at times, to determine whether something is right or wrong, one has to think about the motivation behind it. For example, if an employee approaches a leader to complain about another employee, proper decision-making allows the leader to question the motive behind the action taken by the employee.

Did the employee report his or her colleague because the latter’s behaviors were interfering with the work targets? Or did he or she report his/her colleague out of malice? Such questions allow the leader to make the right decision about the affected parties. Indeed, social skills, self-regulation, and empathy are also common themes in the course materials. Social skills allow a leader to interact well with his or her subordinates. On the same note, empathy ensures that the interpersonal relationships created are maintained. Self-regulation ensures that the leader does not over-indulge, thereby, make viable decisions.

The construct of emotional intelligence that is presented in the article by Daniel Goleman (1998) supports the perspective I have on the same. However, Goleman (1998) argues that emotional intelligence can be learned. I had not considered this perspective before as I believed emotional intelligence comes with maturity. Indeed, it is this ideology that is used to justify why leaders are rarely young. However, using Goleman’s (1998) argument, one can support the idea that youth leaders can be as influential as other older leaders. Goleman (1998), however, categorically states that even though emotional intelligence can be taught, the leader in question should be willing to accept the lessons and changes.


Goleman, D. (1998). What makes a leader? Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review.

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Hammond, S. J., Keeney, L. R., & Raiffa, H. (2015). Smart choices: A practical guide to making better decisions. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review.

Kahneman, D., & Charan, R. (2013). HBR’s 10 must reads on making smart decisions. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review.

Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2014). The miniature guide to critical thinking – concepts and tools (thinker’s guide) (7th ed). Sacramento, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking.

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