Social Intelligence in Leadership
from Harvard Biz Review 9/08 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz 10/13
Early Acceptance. In 1998, the first article on Emotional Intelligence & Leadership was published. The response to “What Makes a Leader?” was enthusiastic. People throughout & beyond the business community started talking about the vital role that “empathy” & “intuition” play in effective leadership.
The concept of Emotional Intelligence continues to occupy a prominent space in the leadership literature and in everyday coaching practices. But in the past five years, research in the emerging field of social neuro-science—the study of what happens in the brain while people interact—is beginning to reveal subtle new truths about what makes a good leader. The most significant discovery is that certain things leaders do—specifically, exhibit “empathy” and become attuned to others “moods” —literally affect both their own brain chemistry & that of their followers. Indeed, researchers have found that the Leader-Follower dynamic is not a case of two (or more) independent brains reacting consciously or unconsciously to each other. Rather, the individual minds become, in a sense, fused into a single system. We believe that great leaders are those whose behavior powerfully leverages the system of brain inter-connected-ness. We place them on the opposite end of the neural continuum from people with serious social disorders, such as autism or asperger’s syndrome, that are characterized by under-development in the areas of the brain associated with social inter-actions. If we are correct, it follows that a potent way of becoming a better leader is to find authentic contexts in which to learn the kinds of social behavior that reinforce the brain’s social circuitry.
Leading effectively is – in other words – less about mastering situations—or even mastering social skill sets—than about developing a genuine interest in & talent for, fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need. The notion that effective leadership is about having powerful social circuits in the brain has prompted us to extend our concept of emotional intelligence, which we had grounded in theories of individual psychology. A more relationship-based construct for assessing leadership is social intelligence, which we define as a set of interpersonal competencies built on specific neural circuits (and related endocrine systems) that inspire others to be effective.
[ Social Skills Research, Do Women have stronger Social Circuits? Followers mirror their Leaders, literally in Premium Content ]