4th July 2019

The Seven Attributes of The CEO

The Seven Attributes of The CEO

People aren’t logical, they are psychological. It is important that we understand the full import of this simple meme.

Human beings are not logical beings who are capable of doing emotions. We are emotional beings and we can occasionally do logic. Everything that we do, the clothes we wear, the words we choose, way we stand, the thoughts we think are all driven by emotions.

Our ability to be able to understand this; to understand what emotions are at play in any situation, primarily within us and then within others, is a set of competencies that we have labelled Emotional Intelligence (EI). At its most basic EI is awareness and control of our emotions, and the ability to identify and respond effectively to the emotions of others.

Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman first popularised the concept of Emotional Intelligence in his 1995 book of the same name, in the foreword of which is this quote “CEO’s are hired for their intellect and business expertise- and fired for a lack of Emotional Intelligence”. As organisations grow, indeed for them to grow, they need to become more collaborative. They involve more people and consequently to be an effective CEO we need to develop the people skills that probably weren’t the most important attributes when the business involved only a few people.

Emotional Intelligence is the foundational set of competences that underpin what we often refer to as the soft skills, although anyone who has ever committed to doing the work needed to develop those skills will know there is nothing very soft about that particular journey.


I referred to EI above as a set of competencies deliberately. The really good news about EI is that it is a set of competencies, so unlike our intelligence (IQ), which won’t change throughout our lives, EQ, the measure of our Emotional Intelligence, can and will increase as we get older. Because it is a set of competencies EQ can be coached and we can develop the skills and habits and way of looking at the world that can be measured as an increase in our EQ abilities. Indeed, we naturally become more Emotionally Literate as we grow older. A trait which we sometimes refer to as wisdom and typically women tend to have greater EQ than men.

Emotional Intelligence is fundamental to effective leadership and is foundational to the development of trust within a relationship or set of relationships, i.e. a business, collaboration, culture and motivation. The emotional health of an organisation is vital to its economic health.

If you have ever tried to list out the skills that mark out the best leaders you have ever encountered I will wager they will include things like being able to engender trust, being able to generate commitment, bringing out the best in people. EQ is the set of competencies that form the foundations of each and all of these skills.

Transformational leadership

EQ can also be measured. Since Goleman’s original work the interest in EQ has grown significantly. It has sponsored quite an industry and the Australian consulting psychologist Martyn Newman has researched Emotional Intelligence specifically in its relationship to Transformational Leadership. His first book ‘Emotional Capitalists’ is as much about leadership as it is about EI and his ECR report is an excellent measure of a person’s EQ scores across the 10 emotional competencies that research shows are the foundations of transformational leadership.

For any ambitious CEO or potential CEO the opportunity to measure yourself against these competencies, to understand where we are strong and not so strong and start the journey to further develop the skills we need to be truly excellent is one not to be missed.

Emotional Fitness

The author Susan Packard refers to the application of EI as Emotional Fitness. I like this term a lot and developing our own emotional fitness and the emotional fitness of the organisations we are part of is one of the most impactful things we can do, for ourselves, for our people and for our enterprise. That is why I must put the application of Emotional Intelligence as the number one attribute of the CEO. Simon Sinek said that if you don’t understand people you don’t understand business. Can you imagine what it feels like to work in an organisation that either doesn’t understand people or doesn’t care about what its people feel?  It must be some kind of dystopian hell. If you are struggling to imagine what it feels like just speak to the any of the millions of people who are actively disengaged from their place of work. They will be able to tell you, extremely graphically, what that feels like.


I asked Martyn Newman what the result of someone successfully working on their EQ might be and he answered with one word: -‘serenity’. This is reason enough to do the work. Susan Packard says in her book ‘Fully Human’ that ‘Emotional Fitness is, in essence, a place of steadiness. You can recognise it in people. They’re not flash in the pan types. They’re willing to pause and listen. They’re balanced and accountable, and you can trust them. They are a steady force for good and a model for living life well.’ Does that sound like some of the best leaders you have ever met?

To find out about all the other attributes, register your FREE place on our next seminar, Wednesday 17th July 9.30am at Durham County Cricket Club, Chester le Street. Click below for more details and to register.