SOCIAL intelligence is an essential quality for a leader to have as it enables him to develop meaningful and positive relationships with staff and have more empathy for their feelings, perceptions and emotions.

To develop long-term success, you need to create meaning in what your people do. This means you have to know what your employees value. Treating them with empathy will help you to find this out and will set you on the path to becoming more socially intelligent.

Ideally, you should strive to be a leader who can get your employees to achieve their goals — and your vision — without using force or threats but by the sheer power of personal charisma.

Here are some tips on how to do this:



 Connect with your staff

Being in a position of leadership gives you power which, if not used carefully and in the right manner, can create dissonance in your organisation.

As a leader, you have to guard against deceiving yourself into believing that everything is fine in your organisation and that whatever task you ask your staff to do, they will do it wholeheartedly. 

When a task is done out of fear, there is no “buy-in” and you may have to manage the situation by constantly overseeing what your staff do — which is going to be unproductive, inefficient and ineffective. 

Be alert to what your staff want and need to do their jobs well and try to connect with them at an emotional level — see them as people who want to contribute rather than underlings who ought to do your bidding.

To do this, you need the next quality.



 Take criticism graciously and embrace change wholeheartedly

Leadership is not about being right always. As a leader, you may have made a bad decision once in a while because there was a lack of credible evidence or the data you used was flawed.

While this is sometimes inevitable, at other times you can avoid running into a problem if you ask your people for their inputs. Not only will you benefit from seeing an issue from a number of perspectives, but your staff will also feel that they are contributing to the organisation in a meaningful way.  

So do engage your people by sharing with them the organisational issues that you face, ask for their opinions and welcome their suggestions on how these might be resolved.

If one of your team members comes up with the best idea, implement it if possible and be gracious — acknowledge whose idea it is and show your appreciation by thanking him publicly.

By giving credit to the appropriate person, you create trust and confidence, and your staff and other colleagues will see you as a fair-minded person.



 Check your ethos, pathos and logos

Your ethos is your credibility. Social intelligence entails that your staff see you as someone who can bring out the best in them. 

To do this you need your pathos, which is your interpersonal and intrapersonal competency. This ensures that you know what you want and how you communicate this effectively to your staff.

You also need to show that you understand their strengths and weaknesses and that you will accentuate their strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses.

In evolving to this state, you need to check your logos, which is to look at the challenges you are facing logically and do what is necessary to overcome them. By acting rationally and calmly — especially in trying situations — your staff will know that you are their trusted captain who will not abandon ship at the first sign of trouble. 

Keep this quote by Norman Vincent Peale in mind as you cultivate your social intelligence level: “Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own power, you cannot be successful or happy.”


Article by Daniel Theyagu, a corporate trainer with 27 years of experience locally and globally. He is the managing partner of Lateral Solutions Consulting LLP and an adjunct trainer with the Nanyang Technological University Centre of Continuing Education. For details, e-mail or visit