Are You a Socially Intelligent Leader?

November 15, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed

“Getting angry is okay so long as you get angry for the right reason with the right person to the right degree using the right words with the right tone of voice and appropriate language.” ~ Aristotle

People throw this word around a lot. Leadership. “Thank you for your leadership,” they say. You’re welcome. But what leadership are you talking about? I put paper in the copier today. That’s not leadership. When you designate the word leadership to the smallest of efforts, you demean the word. I never understand it.

Let’s face it. Leadership is hard work. As a leader, people across your organization are looking at you, your actions, your moods and your behaviors as a guide. Leaders can set the tone for success. They can also set the tone for failure. Their energy can impact their team and their organization — with positive as well as negative results. Studies show that how you act can directly impact how your team acts. All good leaders know that shared behaviors create unity and united teams are happier, more productive, and more successful.

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

In his book Resonate: The Art of Connecting, Daniel Goleman defines social intelligence leadership as the ability to:

1.      Discern how people feel and why,

2.      Express appropriate concern, and

3.      Interact skillfully to encourage positive states of thinking.

SI opens your eyes to how you come across to others and how your team’s behaviors can clue you in to what they want and need from you. Most importantly, SI helps you bridge the two for a successful, collaborative team that achieves excellence.

As leaders, we have to ask ourselves:

1.      What tone am I setting?

2.      How are my actions inspiring my team?

3.      How am I managing my emotions in tough situations?

4.      How do I influence others?

5.      How do I motivate others?

6.      How do I encourage collaboration across organizational boundaries?

As organizational leaders worry about the appalling low percentage of people who feel engaged in their work, academics are trying to understand what causes an increase in engagement.

They are finding that team members’ perception of shared personal vision, shared positive mood, and perceived organizational support (POS) have a direct, positive association on the members’ degree of organizational engagement.

Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis have come up with a way to measure an executive’s social intelligence and help him or her develop a plan for improving it. The seven key skills they focus on are more than just theory … more than just boosting your “people skills” — they’re about learning and understanding how people behave both individually and as a group. Listed here are each of the qualities followed by some of the questions they use to assess them:

1.      Empathy – Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?  Are you sensitive to others’ needs?

2.      Attunement – Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel? Are you attuned to others’ moods?

3.      Organizational Awareness – Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization? Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?

4.      Influence – Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests? Do you get support from key people?

5.      Developing Others Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring? Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?

6.      Inspiration – Do you articulate a compelling vision, build group pride, and foster a positive emotional tone? Do you lead by bringing out the best in people?

7.      Teamwork – Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?  Do you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

So, what do socially intelligent leaders do?

They Empathize. A key component of building trust with others is empathy and trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. When employees believe that their leaders are honest, open and transparent, they are much more likely to trust their decisions. Empathetic leaders are aware of another’s feelings and understand how those feelings affect their needs. Empathy means you can appreciate what another person is going through, whether they agree with them or can relate to them or not.

They Listen. When colleagues express frustration, a socially intelligent leader knows how to listen carefully, empathize, and take measures to help improve conditions.

They Support. Socially intelligent leaders know how to provide emotional support to a colleague in distress. Goleman’s research shows that paying attention to someone’s concerns, actually allows that person to process them faster, shortening the time spent marinating in negative feelings.

They Care. Employees want to feel like they are cared about on a personal level. A socially intelligent leader will take the time to ask about an employee’s personal life. Employees feel valued when leadership shows an interest. Period.

They Engage. The socially intelligent leader observes her employees to find out what they do best. She talks to them about what aspects of their job they enjoy the most. She taps into and leverages the instincts and skills her employees have. This creates a win-win as she is able to reap the rewards of employee satisfaction, and employees grow increasingly inspired and confident about their work, skills, and talents. Moreover, they feel appreciated, that someone has their best interests in mind.

They Communicate. They are direct, but sensitive. They realize that communication is essential. If they sees performance slipping, they won’t wait very long to talk about it. They never dodge the truth, nor do they hang onto or hoard company information that could help their employees. They are not threatened by their employees’ knowledge. Quite the opposite, they encourage it.

They Collaborate. People actually expect their leaders to work for the group’s collective best interests as opposed to their own. Duh! They expect their leaders to help them solve problems and to help make their team experience more enriching. It even means helping make their career more rewarding by providing resources and reassurances of support to help them attain their goals and objectives.

A Final Word…

Leaders who emphasize social intelligence drive increased productivity and engagement encouraging employees to stay with their companies. They affect people’s abilities to perform at their best. Socially intelligent leaders recognize that emotions have a ripple effect and therefore uphold their responsibility to maintain a positive environment. They are engaged and as engaged leaders, they are in synch with their team and they are the glue helping to keep the team together. Some may argue that ultimately the evaluation of effective leadership performance is a subjective task that is based on the individual’s unique personal preferences. However, the traits highlighted above show a consistent correlation between specific behavior and employees’ perception of their leaders. These traits are closely related to the basic psychological profile of humans, which can also be applied to many other relationships in life.

Good luck.

Wait, before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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