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…

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

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.