No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can't ignore it.
One day I was giving a presentation to a large group of leaders in education. I asked them all to think back to the time they graduated from high school. “Do you remember your high school valedictorian?” I asked. As usual when I ask this question the majority of hands in the room go up.
“How many of you know where that person is now?” Once again, as usual, about half the hands in the room go up.
And then the closer, “how many of these people have lived up to your expectations of what they would become in life?” At this point, I usually get a small scattering of hands that go up. Occasionally, someone talks about the student who went on to be a professor at Harvard or MIT.
More often than not, I get a scattering of stories about the nonachiever at school—Fred, the nerdy guy who went on to make millions in a start-up, or Jill the loner, who ended up singing in a rock band and getting rich and famous. Who would have known?
But this one time an older gentleman came up to me and said, “not only do I remember who was valedictorian at my high school, but I still see him quite regularly.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes,” he pointed out. “You see, George and I were classmates since third grade. He was a genius. He excelled in math and sciences. There wasn't a math problem ...