Are You a Socially Intelligent Leader?

I had an opportunity to reread Daniel Goleman’s and Richard Boyatzis’ article, "Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership," from the September, 2008 edition of the Harvard Business Review. Goleman’s work has fascinated me for years and this article was equally fascinating.

So, are you a socially intelligent leader? On pages 78-79 of the article, Goleman and Boyatzis outline seven competencies they believe are critical to social intelligence. The competences are empathy, attunement, organizational awareness, influence, developing others, inspiration, and teamwork. They provide a couple of questions for each competency so that you may begin the self-assessment process.

Often when people read these types of articles, they think of themselves and their competence in binary terms. Either I am competent or I am incompetent … I invite you to think about these things in terms of a journey, rather than a destination.

Many of you have seen the model shown above. It looks at competence and consciousness. We strive to be unconsciously competent in many things and realize that we can’t be great in everything we do.

Rather than think about "yes or no" or "on or off" on these competencies, plot the competencies on the model shown here. This will help you determine those competencies that are natural for you and those on which you need to work.

Someone asked me which of the seven competencies I thought was most important. It is difficult to say which is more important. Without attunement and empathy, inspiration can quickly become self-aggrandizement. Without organizational awareness and influence, teamwork can become an exercise in futility. Without attunement, organizational awareness becomes political maneuvering. Each of these qualities, as explained by Goleman and Boyatzis, is critical to a socially intelligent leader and organization.

Note: I encourage you to go to to read the article. You will need to subscribe to HBR or pay a nominal fee to read the entire article.