There is a Chinese proverb which says “A man without a smiling face must not open a shop”. Which is incredibly sage advice and worthy of far more comment than I am going to give it now.
At the recent IoD conference Jack Welch talked about how the best leaders were “excited about their people”.
At its heart all business is about people. Businesses are run for people, by people. It therefore follows that one of the key requirements for any business leader is to have people, the human element, at their own heart and at the centre of their own thoughts and understanding.
Not only are people the customers of businesses but it is the people within the business that constitute the main strengths, assets and differentiators of any business.
At the same conference Richard Branson defined a business as something designed to “make other people’s lives better”.
It may seem a little odd in this world of ever present, dominant and ever changing technology, where very often we seem determined to do away with the human element that I feel a need to remind ourselves that people are at the very heart of what we do as business leaders.
Very often business leaders and, in particular, entrepreneurs come from a place where their background is about a particular skill or set of competencies. They can either do something, or they have invented something, or they have expertise in a specific area. As the business grows, they suddenly find the game changes and the skills that got them here, the skills of doing, are no longer quite so important and that the human skills are the ones that are most needed to get them to and keep them at the next level.
This ironic shift is what is referred to in a book by Daniel Goleman when the head of a global recruitment firm commented “CEO’s are hired for their intellect and business expertise- and fired for a lack of Emotional Intelligence”. At the end of it all probably the greatest set of skills that any business leader can develop are those skills that relate to the human element, the skills of Emotional Intelligence.