Measuring Leadership Social Intelligence

Leadership selection can no longer be based solely on one’s prior experience or successes. Yesterday’s challenges (productivity, profit, efficiency) remain critical, but today’s leaders must also grapple with new technologies, global diversity, and political and environmental instability. Leadership personality is critical; measuring social intelligence is key.

In my last post, I wrote about the four personality dimensions that affect organization success:

  1. Teamwork/Social intelligence
  2. Deference
  3. Dominance
  4. Task mastery/Grit

These four key dimensions were identified by Ron Warren, PhD, in Personality at Work: The Drivers and Derailers of Leadership (McGraw-Hill Education, 2017). Socially intelligent leaders are known for their interpersonal skills, relational aptitude and positivity. These personality traits are most beneficial to leading people effectively. Employees are drawn to leaders who show them they’re valued. Alternatively, leaders who lack these traits are detrimental to their organizations’ well-being.

Sociability comes easily to socially intelligent, people-oriented leaders. Relationships are important to them, and interactions allow them to express care, kindness and support. They regard people as more than resources; they’re coworkers, even family.

Socially intelligent leaders treasure genuine personal connections. Communication skills are more critical to organizational effectiveness than IQ or past accomplishments, emphasizes Alex “Sandy” Pentland, PhD, director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, in “The New Science of Building Teams” (Harvard Business Review, April 2012). Unfortunately, most leaders aren’t recruited or promoted for their communication skills.

Socially intelligent leaders are also helpful, and they consider caring for people to be a duty. They’re highly sensitive and focus on others, putting staff interests before their own. They aim to meet people’s needs in the spirit of unity and consensus.

Leaders who are socially intelligent are open to feedback. They’re humble and flexible enough to value others’ views. This inclusive, interactive approach to leadership draws people to them with engagement. Employees who work for open-minded leaders feel valued, which boosts morale and productivity.

The socially intelligent personality is clearly beneficial to organizations. Leaders who struggle with social intelligence have strained careers, but they can learn to shift their mindset toward the relational end of the scale. Outcomes are greatly enhanced when leaders take the time to engage people, show interest in them and develop mutual understanding. People respond favorably when they trust a leader’s motives and authenticity. Social intelligence cannot be faked; people easily see through such efforts. The consequences for faking it can be brutal.

What do you think? How do you measure leadership social intelligence? You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here, or on LinkedIn.

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