In January, we introduced social intelligence as one of the intelligences that support leadership in the modern world.  We defined social intelligence as the capacity to understand and navigate social networks, including understanding and interpreting social cues, norms, and dynamics.  This intelligence is a particularly personal one as it has been one of my greatest learning journeys over my career.  We have discovered that, the ability to navigate the intricate web of human interactions is as crucial as mastering any technical skill.  The executive coaching we have done with hundreds of leaders has revealed that social intelligence often emerges as the difference between good and exceptional leaders.

Social intelligence comprises an array of attributes that play a role in effective leadership. Firstly, social intelligence integrates the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one’s emotions in social situations, as well as those of others (emotional intelligence which was discussed last month). The art of understanding oneself allows us to have empathy for others.  Socially intelligent leaders can lean into empathy to connect with their team members, deepen relationships and build trust.  Social intelligence is the heart that grows impactful collaboration.  A socially intelligent leader will use the skills of active listening and accurate interpretation of nonverbal cues to persuade and build mutual understanding and navigate challenges constructively and positively.  In the increasingly global business environment, social intelligence is also applied to navigate cultural contexts as we work with a broader and more diverse networks of people.

In my early career, I was socially insecure and lacking in confidence.  I always admired those that seemed to possess innate social confidence.  Over time, I have come to realise that social intelligence is a skill that can be developed. The courage to self-reflect and ask for feedback (using vulnerable conversations and tools like the 360-degree feedback) has allowed me to recognise my social intelligence strengths and areas for improvement.  I have had to challenge some personal beliefs and build social fitness by actively practicing, reflecting, adjusting, and then practicing some more.  I have intentionally explored and grown my understanding of human emotions and behaviours. I have also recognised how my action and inaction have affected others and their ability to trust and work effectively with me.  Becoming more socially intelligent has required dedication, humility, a fair dose of failure and the willingness to step into the discomfort so that this skill could be grown. 

Being more socially intelligent has influenced every area of leadership and organizational dynamics.  Leoni and I continually focus on building a culture of psychological safety, where team members feel valued, respected, and empowered to voice their opinions without fear of judgment.  We work towards what Simon Sinek describes as empathetic leadership, explaining that understanding and prioritizing the needs of others fosters a sense of belonging and loyalty within teams. Solving problems with the whole team has made our business more responsive and successful as our solutions are rich from the diverse insights and perspectives. Innovation, collaboration, and the ability to authentically work towards the same goal has (and continues to) support the team.  Robust relationships with clients, stakeholders, and partners have been built on mutual respect, caring and consideration.  Social intelligence has enhanced engagement, reduced staff turnover, and amplified productivity which has supported exponential growth.  As Daniel Goleman, renowned for his work on emotional intelligence, stated, social intelligence is the heart of effective leadership.  He asserted that it is the linchpin of organizational success.

In the fast-evolving landscape of leadership, social intelligence is emerging as a critical leadership attribute and skill.  The cultivation of emotional intelligence, empathy, effective communication, and social awareness that leaders are harnessing gives them the power to inspire, motivate, and galvanize their teams and stakeholder relationships.  As we navigate the complexities of the modern world of work, leaders need to build social intelligence to be able to unlock collective greatness.  RainTree prides ourselves on providing executive and leadership coaching that support our leaders with practical coaching tools that enable them to confidently grow their social intelligence.

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