How to Land Your Next C-Suite Job Using Soft Skills Part 1: Self Awareness as the Key to Emotional Intelligence

by: Lara Roizen


C-Suite level positions require an impressive amount of technical knowledge and experience cultivated over many years of dedication, experience, and hard work. The hard skills a C-Suite level executive lists on his or her resume may appear more crucial to the job than emotional intelligence, which can be nebulous and hard to quantify. Yet soft skills, difficult as they may be to pin down, are paramount to moving up the ladder.  


In his book Emotional Intelligence at Work, author Daniel Goleman writes that EQ is the differentiating factor in 90% of cases when all other technical skills and requirements are accounted for. The more senior the position, the more important EQ actually becomes. In a study conducted by Harvard Business Review that analyzed 5,000 job descriptions for C-Suite level positions, they found that strong social skills and EQ were prioritized above all other skills. 


For those who pride themselves on their technical abilities, the question then becomes (1) how to cultivate the necessary soft skills and (2) how to project those skills in interviews to land C-Suite level positions. This week, we will cover the first of those questions: how soft skills can be developed.  


Emotional intelligence, just like any other skill, can be cultivated over time. In “How To Become a Better Leader,” MIT Sloan Management cites self-awareness as the single most important ability and determining factor in improving one’s emotional intelligence as a leader. Developing a high level of self-awareness allows one to continuously adjust one’s behavior and adapt to new situations in the most appropriate, effective manner– an emotional flexibility which, MIT Sloan Management observes, is key to becoming a strong leader. 


What is self-awareness? Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, argues that self-awareness consists of understanding your psychological patterns, triggers, and how you are perceived. What makes you tick? How can you manage yourself to avoid defensiveness? What do you need in order to do that? The recognition of such emotional patterns makes it possible to better manage our reactions, behaviors, and relationships – both inside and outside the workplace.  


While there are myriad aspects to self-awareness, executive coach Naz Beheshti outlines the following as examples of questions that lead to a better understanding of oneself in the as it relates to the workplace in particular:  

  • What behaviors and mindsets do you adopt or cultivate that allow you to remain level-headed and bring your best self to the workplace?  
  • How can you work on your mindset to be more present, engaged, and effective?  
  • What triggers defensiveness or judgmental reactions?  
  • When are you not an effective leader? What mindset or mindsets lead to ineffective behaviors?   
  • When you are most effective and capable of bringing out the best in others, and in which situations?   


Identifying and managing our strengths and weaknesses allows us to adapt to new situations in a changing environment effectively and play up or play down certain facets of ourselves accordingly, which is the name of the game in executive roles. Moving up the ladder involves grasping and adapting to new roles, environments, and situations.  


As such, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership: as MIT Sloan Management observes, an individual’s strengths can become their weakness, depending on the circumstances. An honest willingness to examine oneself and what would work in a given situation, and the ability to readjust ourselves accordingly, is thus the linchpin of emotional intelligence as a leader.    


If you’re interested in learning more about how to transition into an executive role, listen to ECA’s weekly podcast, Beyond Consulting, where CEO Ken Kanara interviews former consultants to discuss how they’ve successfully landed executive positions, in addition to other roles. You can also find available executive-level positions and below that we are currently filling on our jobs board – we’ve love to hear from you!  


Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series next week, where we’ll talk about how to convey emotional intelligence to your interviewer in the interview process.  



Lara Roizen is a Project Manager at ECA Partners. She can be reached at [email protected]



Lara Roizen
Project Manager

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