It's a business truism that emotional skills are as important as hard skills for exceptional leadership. Designing a better mousetrap is useless if you can't convince others of the value of your innovation and rally a team to make it a reality.

But while we can all agree on the value of so-called EQ, can we also all agree on a definition of the term? Sure, everyone knows what its opposite looks like. Jerks, the awkward, and the overbearing clearly lack emotional skills. But can you describe the exact qualities of a master of emotional intelligence?

Daniel Goleman and Richard E. Boyatzis can. A pair of business school professors, they've been working for decades to pin down what we're talking about when we talk about EQ (or, as they prefer, E.I., for emotional intelligence). Recently, the pair took to the HBR blogs to enumerate the essential components of exceptional people skills.

Nice isn't enough

We tend to think of those with high EQ as pleasant, empathetic, and easy to work for. But while those are certainly attractive baseline qualities for a leader, one can possess them and still not be effective if the person is too meek to share his or her vision or unskilled in correcting those who drift away from it.

By focusing exclusively on "sociability, sensitivity, and likability," we too often miss "critical elements of emotional intelligence that could make ... a stronger, more effective leader," Goleman and Boyatzis note. So what does the full complement of skills look like? According to their post, there are a dozen components to true and complete EQ:

  1. Emotional self-awareness
  2. Emotional self-control
  3. Adaptability
  4. Achievement orientation
  5. Positive outlook
  6. Empathy
  7. Organizational awareness
  8. Influence
  9. Coach and mentor
  10. Conflict management
  11. Teamwork
  12. Inspirational leadership

Obviously, some of these are more self-explanatory than others, so check out the complete post for real-life stories that illustrate what each of these qualities looks like in action, as well as links to some more formal assessments. But even just glancing over the list and taking a minute for self-assessment can be helpful, according to the authors.

"Simply reviewing the 12 competencies in your mind can give you a sense of where you might need some development," they write.

In which of these 12 sub-skills are you strongest? In which are you weakest?