If you’ve read a lot of articles about what makes a good leader or a successful business owner, you’ll have noticed that ‘softer’ skills are becoming increasingly important.
It’s no longer enough to have the intellectual prowess and experience, today’s leaders and business owners need social skills that will help them both get along with and understand others.
These skills come under the umbrella of social intelligence.
What is social intelligence?
Social intelligence is about being aware of the motives and feelings of yourself and of others, knowing how to fit into different social situations, and knowing what makes other people tick. In a nutshell, it’s about being ‘tuned in’, being able to get along with people, and encouraging them to cooperate with you.
It’s not difficult to see why having high social intelligence would make you a good leader or business owner, and not only that, research has found that the ability to recognise feelings and motivations both in yourself and in others is connected with better mental and physical health, work performance, and social relationships.
In terms of character strengths, social intelligence is linked to strengths like perspective, leadership, bravery, humour, and zest, and it’s one of the strengths that’s associated with having a pleasurable life.
The different types of intelligence
When it comes to intelligence, there are basic distinctions that must be made between different kinds of intelligence.
- Intelligence: The intellectual kind. This is about having the ability to reason.
- Hot intelligence: This is about being able to process signals on motives, feelings, and other things that directly relate to our survival and wellbeing.
- Social intelligence: O’Sullivan (1965) defined social intelligence as being able to build and maintain positive relationship with others, gain people’s trust, persuade them to follow you, and gain power by way of understanding people and showing empathy.
- Personal intelligence: Garner (1993) defined personal intelligence as the ability to reason about motivational, emotional, and dynamic processes.
- Emotional intelligence: Mayer and Savoley (1997) defined this as being able to use emotional information in reasoning.
Socially-intelligent leaders are better leaders
The successful, effective, and value-driven leader or business owner is high in social intelligence, emotional intelligence, and personal intelligence. Here I’m going to break these down into traits so you can get an understanding of exactly why.
- You have a strong sense of self or a ‘magnetism’ which means you exude confidence and win people’s respect.
- You can express yourself clearly and persuade others to follow you or go along with your ideas.
- You have the ability to ‘read the room’ and adapt your behaviour accordingly.
- You are honest and authentic.
- You are able to appreciate the emotions and experiences of others so you can connect with them and encourage them to cooperate with you.
Personal intelligence is about being able to reason about and understand both our own personalities and those of other people. This then helps us understand emotions and motives, and it also informs how we act, as well as improving our awareness and self-control.
Understanding ourselves generally helps us perform better whatever we are doing. ( Bandura 1997)
According to Petersen and Seligman (2004), people who are high in emotional intelligence:
- Have special capacities in regard to experiencing and strategising about emotions.
- Are adept at perceiving emotions in relationships, whether it’s at work or in their personal lives.
- Have a keen understanding of emotional relationships.
- Understand the meanings of emotions in relationships
This means that people will high emotional intelligence generally have better relationships with others, make better decisions, and because they understand emotions, they tend to live a more harmonious life. Emotional intelligence is perhaps undervalued in society, which is unfortunate, because maybe today’s world could do with more people who understand others better.
The evidence shows that people with high emotional intelligence provide better customer service in business, and that when it comes to understanding emotions, women do better than men (Mayer et al, 2002).
Social intelligence can be coached
Have you ever had a boss who was very charismatic and who made people feel valued, respected, and appreciated?
The chances are that what you were seeing was someone with high social intelligence. Such people can win the respect of others, influence them, and reach their goals working from a place of empathy and compassion. It’s not just about being a nice person, it’s about being able to reduce conflict, make better decisions, and encourage people to unite behind a common goal-the cornerstone of effective management.
Social intelligence is not necessarily built-in, it can be developed. With coaching, it’s possible that anyone can learn to understand and accept their own emotions and those of others, live a more harmonious and balanced life, improve their relationships with others, influence people, and be able to communicate with them better, no matter the situation they’re in.
Maureen O’ Callaghan has a University Diploma in Mentoring and holds a Level 7 qualification in Management Studies. She also has over 30 years’ experience in leadership and management, including running her own business.
If you’re a business owner who wants to follow a more mindful and stress-free entrepreneurial path, you can find Maureen’s book ‘Success Without The Stress’ here.