10 Things Socially Intelligent Leaders Do Differently

Socially intelligent leaders don’t confuse their opinion of someone as being a fact about them.

A leader may achieve excellence through ideas and principles, but the quality of one’s leadership really depends on how others respond to them.

You might not know what makes someone socially intelligent, but you could surely recognize someone who isn’t in a conversation or two. When someone doesn’t possess social grace, they often don’t recognize boundaries,  consider the perspective of anyone but themselves, or do not take care to communicate with accuracy and straightforwardness.

Socially intelligent people see themselves as a part of a whole, and socially intelligent leaders understand that the same applies to their businesses and careers. Here, the main characteristics that make them stand out.

  1. They don’t interpret their opinion of someone as a fact about them.

Social intelligence relies largely on the ability to see other people objectively, and to understand that personal experiences can largely influence biases toward or against someone and that a subjective opinion about someone is not necessarily an objective fact about them.

  1. They don’t immediately deny criticism.

If a customer leaves a negative business review or an employee is unhappy with how something in management is going, rather than responding with a rationale as to why their experience wasn’t the norm or why their feelings are incorrect, socially intelligent leaders accept the feedback and then do what they can to make the next experience better.

  1. They don’t back people into corners.

When arguing, people tend to only get angry when they feel as though they are in a state of powerlessness. When you enter a difficult conversation by holding space for the other person to express how they feel as well as offering them options for a solution, you find a productive answer rather than an aggression match.

  1. They value compassion over empathy.

Paul Bloom, a professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University, makes the case for rational compassion rather than empathy. He argues that empathy is counter-productive because it enmeshes the empathizer in feelings that aren’t their own. Instead of taking on the problem as your own, having compassion means to understand where the person is coming from without adopting the emotion itself.

  1. They don’t try to rationalize other people’s feelings for them.

They validate, rather than dismiss feelings. Instead of trying to explain to someone why their feelings are uninformed or illogical, they accept them and work on solutions to make the individual see things with more clarity without inferring that their emotions are making them seem “weak.”

  1. They identify trends but aren’t personally influenced by them.

Socially intelligent leaders possess a sort of intuitiveness that informs them of what people need and how they want to get it. This makes them very conscious of trends and innovations, but at the same time aware that most will pass with time. Though they pay attention and gather insight from trends, they focus on longevity.

  1. They use themselves as a litmus test.

The core thought-process that defines a socially intelligent leader is that they consistently ask themselves: “How would I feel if this were happening to me?” The answer to that question can inform them about everything from how well a product works to how effective a marketing campaign is to how their co-workers and employees relate to them.

  1. They communicate with precision.

Socially intelligent leaders understand that there is nothing that will complicate a business more than poor or ineffective communication. Rather than try to say what they feel and hope that others will interpret it correctly, they make it a point to speak with precision so that their message is as clear as possible.

  1. They simplify issues rather than conflate or exaggerate them.

It’s been said that it takes a genius to simplify something, which is a principle that socially intelligent people take to heart. They understand that their role is to make things run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

  1. They see problems as growing opportunities, not finalities.

Real leaders see challenges and roadblocks as opportunities to evolve, grow and become more self-aware – not as a finality or punishment from the outside world. It is in responding to these issues from the belief that we possess infinite potential to grow and adapt that they take life’s hardest moments and turn them into their greatest opportunities.

  1. They are intrinsically motivated.

Intrinsically motivated people strive to achieve something for their own personal satisfaction or belief. Though on the surface this would seem as though it would make them less attuned to other people’s needs and ideas, it actually makes them more inclined to act with principles, ethics and in regard to others.  People who are extrinsically motivated are more likely to disregard other people’s feelings for the sake of their own advancement. Their objective is to appear good, not to be good.

  1. They value principles over passion.

Socially intelligent leaders are not the type of people who have big ideas but no strategy to achieve them. They do not make promises they cannot keep; they do not propose solutions that they know aren’t realistic or feasible. They value principle more than they do passion and understand that the latter is actually more hindering than it is helpful.

  1. They consider people’s motivations more than their behaviors.

Rather than judge or be perplexed by the actions of others, they always consider why someone is doing what they are. Human behavior is only mysterious until you understand what individuals are inherently motivated by.



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