Are You A Socially Intelligent IT Leader?

by drjim on December 12, 2008

Social Intelligence Is What Makes An IT Leader Very Effective

Social Intelligence Is What Makes An IT Leader Very Effective

Them thar brain researchers are at it again. This time around they’ve been doing research in the field of social neuroscience. This is where they study what happens in your brain when you interact with other people. Oh oh! They are starting to get a handle on what it takes to make a good IT leader…

Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis have written an article in the Harvard Business Review in which they lay out these findings. Keep in mind that Goleman is the one who wrote the hugely popular book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships.

One of the key discoveries to come out of this research is that it’s the things that IT leaders do that can affect both their own brain chemistry as well as the brain chemistry of those who work for them. These things include tuning in to other people’s moods as well as showing empathy.

What researchers are finding is that it’s not correct to say that a great IT leader’s mind is operating by itself. Rather what seems to be happening is that IT leaders’ minds’ are “fusing” with the minds of the people that they are leading. The really great IT leaders are the ones who can make the best use of this single fused mind.

What this is all leading to is that it turns out that the way to become a better IT leader is for you to find authentic work contexts in which you will be able to reinforce this type of brain fusing. To take this one step further, being a good leader is much less about being good at handling specific situations.

Instead, what is important is that you learn how to develop an interest in the people who work for you / with you and find ways to create positive feelings in these same people.

So what is this “social intelligence” thing? Goleman and Boyatzis define it as being “a set of interpersonal competencies built on specific neural circuits … that inspire others to be effective”. Oh, it’s brain stuff.

We’ve all known smart people who were really bad leaders. The two sets of skills do not always go hand-in-hand. What researchers are starting to understand is that the social skills that are needed to be a good IT leader may actually have a biological basis.

If you know and understand this linkage, then you can change your behavior and state to reinforce the neural links between you and your team. We’ll talk about how to do this next time…

Have you ever worked for someone who you really bonded with? Did you ever feel that you could read their mind and know what they wanted? Did you think that they could read your mind? Did they work well with other people also? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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