A Top 10 Roadmap for Socially Intelligent Leadership

August 29, 2017 •  8 minute read • by Saeed

The world is increasingly global.

The world of work is increasingly collaborative.

Learning to navigate work’s new byways and highways is increasingly critical to your success.

In order to lead effectively, today’s leaders need to cultivate social and emotional intelligence. This is no longer a “nice to do” – it’s a leadership requirement needed to get results and advance in any organization.

Social Intelligence (SI) is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal for strengthening your leadership and your team.

Consider this your GPS. Here are the top ten ways to learn to cultivate your social intelligence as a leader and get better results:

  1. Learn to let go of being the expert and having all the answers:The reality is, no single leader (or organization) can possibly have all of the answers. Complex business decisions require the collective input of many stakeholders. Allow yourself to be influenced by the opinions of others. Clinging to the belief that you need to have all of the answers leads to a perception of arrogance from others. Let go!


  1. Learn to listen actively:  Active listening is a skill that involves focus, energy, and commitment. How well you listen has a major impact on your relationship with others and the perception of you as a leader. I am always amazed at the imbalance between talking and listening that leaders exhibit. True leadership is about taking into account the opinions of others. The only way to do so is to listen. Lean in.


  1. Learn to lead sideways not just up and down:Leading sideways means being a leader – and sometimes being a follower.  This is the least talked about form of leadership. It means paying attention to what’s important to your colleagues and looking for ways to help facilitate their goals. It is difficult because you don’t have the same leverage as when you lead up and down. It takes social intelligence to lead sideways. It takes the power of persuasion and the leveraging of relationships – not just your title.


  1. Learn to build personal relationships:When you take the time to get to know someone personally, it becomes easier to build trust, resolve conflicts, lead sideways and generally be more productive. Go out for regular coffee, lunch, or after-hour informal get-togethers.  Stop looking down and dreading teambuilding events and activities or those after-work social events. Learn to embrace the informal opportunities  that can help build relationships.


  1. Learn to Establish trust:See my article “Trust is the Cornerstone of All Relationships.” You can’t be a great leader without trust. Trust is not a benefit that comes simply by virtue of your title. It is earned through relationship building.  Building trust is central to morale, productivity, and employee engagement. The good news is that you can build and maintain trust over time.


  1. Learn to keep your commitments:Part of the trust equation is maintaining your commitments. When you walk out of a meeting or end a phone call, and you say you’re going to do something, do it! Missing deadlines and ignoring the concerns of others is a surefire way to erode trust and respect.


  1. Learn to embrace diversity:This is a fundamental truth: when you get people with different perspectives together to solve a problem, you’re more likely to come up with bolder, more creative solutions. Decades of research has shown that when people work directly with someone with at least one diverse trait, it challenges them and actually makes them smarter and more diligent.


  1. Learn the art and skill of asking questions:If you want catalyzing insights, learn the art of asking powerful questions. If you find yourself bored in meetings, I am willing to bet that the meeting leaders are not asking the right questions or facilitating the right conversation in the right way. When meetings are one-directional, people stagnate. To innovate, use these four magic words that also demonstrate you are a socially intelligent leader: “What do you think?” Yes, it’s that simple!


  1. Learn to resolve conflict:Working with others can be messy and conflict is inevitable. Conflict management is about teamwork, respect, collaboration and negotiation. The best conflict negotiators lead conversations away from the petty issues people can get bogged down in and towards team goals, team interests, and opportunities for achieving win-win solutions.


  1. Learn how to make consensus decisions:Consensus does not mean that everyone must agree. It just means that everyone can live with the decision that was made. Involving others in the decision-making process can harness the collective wisdom of your team, and gain critical buy-in through ownership of the decision. This will speed up, implementation and ultimately result in a better outcome for your project and your organization. Institutionalize it.

Follow these ten tips and you’ll become known as a socially intelligent leader – a leader that helps to produce extraordinary results by leveraging the collective talent of the entire enterprise.

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