Soft Skills for Finance: Books That Inspire
As my colleague Jason Voss, CFA, aptly put it, “the more well-rounded you are, the better you are as a financial professional.” In a similar vein, I share with you a few books that have both informed and inspired my leadership philosophy. Whether you currently manage or lead others, aspire to do so, or simply want to improve yourself and your skills, I hope you’ll find these valuable reads.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Considered a groundbreaking work in the field of psychology when it was published, it chronicles the author’s accounts of his experience in and survival of Nazi death camps and his resulting concept of logotherapy. I’m not going to lie — this is not exactly a “light” read, but it’s worth the plunge and, if you’re not interested in the ins and outs of how to apply logotheraphy in a clinical setting (part two), it’s a quick and engrossing read.
Frankl’s thesis is that we as humans have the unique ability and freedom to transcend our suffering and find meaning in our lives regardless of our own unique circumstances. Here are my takeaways:
- We are much stronger than we think we are, both emotionally and physically.
- We alone have the choice to decide how we will react to another person and our environment, and this ability to choose can actually lead to an incredibly empowering level of personal freedom.
- If this man could live through the horrors he chronicles and turn his own experience into a clinical methodology that has helped countless others, what can we not withstand or accomplish with a similar perspective?
Taking a bit of time from your hectic work and life routine to gain perspective and focus on some of the deeper meanings of life is a worthwhile pursuit and will likely pay greater dividends than you might imagine, like deepening your understanding of yourself, clarifying your values and goals, and perhaps helping to improve your level of empathy towards others.
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
In what is arguably the seminal work popularizing the concept of emotional intelligence, or EQ, Goleman links psychological and neuroscience research on emotional functions regulated in the brain to help explain the other side of human intelligence, not captured by one’s IQ. We’ve all seen it — a highly intelligent person who excels academically but cannot get along well with others on a personal level.
What gives? Are we just genetically wired to “get it” or not from birth?
Goleman’s definition of emotional intelligence consists of 5 aspects:
- Emotional self-awareness;
- Managing your emotions;
- Harnessing emotions productively, or motivating yourself;
- Empathy, or the ability to read others emotions; and
- Handling relationships.
While some of us may be born with a higher degree of emotional intelligence than others, Goleman’s thesis is that: emotional intelligence can be learned and improved through the right experiences and/or teaching models. His writing deftly blends scientific research on the brain and our emotions with examples and stories that really draw the reader in and keep the interest throughout.
I heartily encourage you to read Emotional Intelligence particularly if you aren’t yet of the opinion that intelligence, both traditional and emotional, can be learned and/or improved. Even if his argument doesn’t completely change your mind, you’ll at least have the satisfaction of fully understanding his rationale and gain a helpful perspective on how EQ has earned its place in the realm of leadership and managerial theory.
Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
While Emotional Intelligence focuses on the student and educational environment, Goleman shifts gears in Working with Emotional Intelligence to the adult audience and the workplace. He argues that competencies in emotional intelligence tend to be the biggest predictors of success in work, in life, and as a leader.
Goleman also thinks that emotional intelligence can be learned, even as an adult; that it tends to increase with age/over time; and that, if in fact you didn’t “get it” at an earlier age, take heed because you can improve and increase these skills at any age. We hear a lot these days about employers emphasizing “cultural fit” through the hiring, onboarding, and retention phases, and I think part of this concept can be boiled down to emotional intelligence. Working with Emotional Intelligence can help you better understand some of the critical “soft skills” employers are seeking and can be a great starting point for increasing your awareness and understanding of self and others.
Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.
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