Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Social Intelligence and Leadership

It has been observed that while some people may have strong intellectual abilities, they seem to struggle to master social skills which enable them to interact successfully with other people. This ability to 'get along' with others has been recognised amongst scholars as a form of competency or even a specific type of intelligence: social intelligence.

Social intelligence can be described as a combination of abilities: the first is a basic understanding of people (ie. a kind of strategic social awareness) and the second is the skills needed for interacting successfully with them. In other words, the ability to get along with other and to encourage them to cooperate with you.

Social intelligence can be thought of as encompassing five dimensions:

Presence – your external image or sense of self that is perceived by others, eg, confidence, self-respect or self-worth

Clarity – your ability to express yourself clearly, explain concepts clearly and using language effectively, while persuading with ideas

Awareness – your ability to understand social contexts that influence behaviour (ie. “read situations”) and to choose the behavioural strategies most likely to be successful.

Authenticity – the way of behaviour which gives a perception of honesty.

Empathy – your ability to create a sense of connection with others and to encourage them to cooperate with you, rather than work against you, as well as an appreciation for the emotions and experiences of others

The likes of Daniel Goleman argue that social intelligence alongside emotional intelligence are leadership competencies which are often overlooked, when considering how skilful a leader might be. So by embracing these dimensions of intelligence, and understanding the effect that leaders have on others, may influence how you approach future leadership interactions and as a consequence create overtly positive experiences for both parties. This is something that can be learned, although it can be hard to do so without appropriate self awareness or the help of others.

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