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Why Does a Leadership Organization Care About Social and Emotional Learning?


Growing Leaders regularly posts articles on emotional intelligence and specifically social and emotional learning (S.E.L.). You may be wondering—why are we so consumed with these skills?

First of all, we realize there is much more to leadership than Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Effective leaders possess skill sets that include strategic planning, healthy priorities, and good organization. We also know, however, that many of the skills that make up an authentic leader are within reach of everyone. These skills are basic competencies that make up what is called “Social and Emotional Learning” (SEL) The core competencies of Social and Emotional Learning are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management
  • Responsible decision making

It used to be that people believed the best leaders are merely the smartest people in the room. Today, most of us realize smarts alone are incomplete. While IQ is important, there is nothing more common than people with high IQs who sabotage their careers due to a lack of self-awareness, low empathy or an inability to read social cues. Social and Emotional Learning is all about the ability to self-regulate and to connect well with others. When people, even young people, are able to lead themselves well, they earn the respect of others and earn the right to be followed. People tend to follow those they admire. Even without a title or position. When people are able to connect well with others, they often earn the right to influence a team. In short, SEL is about emotional intelligence, and we’ve recognized the research underscoring that those with higher emotional intelligence make for more influential people:

  • People with under-developed EQ will have a smaller platform for influence and are less likely to use what influence they have for the benefit of others.
  • People with growing EQ will have a larger platform for influence and are more likely to use what influence they have for the benefit of others.
  • At Growing Leaders, we believe high EQ young influencers will be more effective and more likely to solve problems that serve people.

In short, soft skills may just be as important as hard skills in leadership.

We believe students should aspire to perform well academically. In the end, however, few employers are asking young job candidates about their GPA. Those same employers do, however, often ask about whether they can work well with a team, communicate effectively, inspire others, listen well and even lead others. This is why we’ve focused on developing emotional intelligence in the next generation. It’s the perfect complement to academics that can help to make a graduate career-ready. Call these competencies “employability skills.” Call them life skills. Call them soft skills. When students develop them, they grow their capacity to become better team members, spouses, parents, employees, and, of course, leaders.


Dr. Tim Elmore
Founder, Growing Leaders