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Do the leaders in your business demonstrate social intelligence? – Do you?

Do the leaders in your business demonstrate social intelligence? – Do you?

Dr John Viljoen, PhD Iedex Associate
  • Engagement
  • Human Resources
  • Leadership

With Christmas looming, many of us will soon have our social skills tested. Only some of us will pass the test unscathed! For those of us who are in leadership roles, there is a good reason to monitor our social skills – they could be key determinants of our leadership success.

The role of Social Intelligence in leadership performance

We all know that EQ (Emotional Quotient) is as important as IQ (Intelligence Quotient) in the make-up of a good leader. Recent research indicates that EQ has three components, two “self” related and one “other” related:

  • Critical self-awareness (self)
  • Self-management (self)
  • Social intelligence (other)

It turns out that social intelligence, the “other” component, is a better predictor of leadership performance than the two “self” components.

According to Goleman and Boyatzis in the September 2008 edition of the Harvard Business Review, social intelligence has seven major elements:

  1. Empathy: understanding people and being sensitive to their needs
  2. Attunement: listening attentively and tuning into others moods
  3. Values awareness: appreciating business culture and understanding social networks
  4. Influence: appealing to people’s self interest and gaining the support of key stakeholders
  5. Developing others: coaching and mentoring, providing feedback to support development
  6. Inspiration: articulating a compelling vision and bringing out the best in people
  7. Teamwork: soliciting input from all team members and encouraging cooper

Put your leadership framework to the test

You might want to test that your leadership framework captures the seven elements of social intelligence. Even if it does, how are you going to make an objective assessment of these skills in your managers?

Here are two ideas:

Option 1: Whole-of-business assessment

This is by far the most comprehensive assessment. It requires a performance and development tool that has an upward feedback module which enables staff to rate their manager on the extent to which they possess social intelligence attributes. Most electronic tools make this easy.

Alternatively, by identifying the social intelligence attributes in your Values and Behaviours, you can even assess every employee through your performance and development tool (make sure you have detailed behavioural descriptors as points of reference).

Option 2: 360 degree feedback assessment for selected managers

Of course, the people who most need to display social intelligence in any business are the leaders, so they are the natural starting point for this assessment.

If your leadership framework contains indicators of social intelligence, when you run your next 360 feedback process extract a report on these indicators and make sure the coaches debriefing the results have expertise in the subject matter.

The role of coaching in developing social intelligence skills

The massive growth in the leadership coaching industry is a clear indicator of the value of this approach, despite its high cost. The key is customisation. Busy executives simply do not have the time for generic training.

Organisational systems are geared to enabling executives to make the best use of every minute in their day. Their development requires the same approach – and personalised coaching fits the bill.

As you enjoy your Christmas break, take some time to assess your own level of social intelligence

  1. How do you rate on each of the seven components of social intelligence?
  2. How will you confirm whether your self-assessment is accurate?
  3. Would you benefit from a mentor or coach to further improve your social intelligence skills?
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