Are You a Socially Savvy Leader?

I’ve been writing about positive leadership and how it’s not just a matter of being “nicer,” or more appreciative to people at work. It’s putting into practice communication skills that bring out the best in others.

Adopting positive leadership is recommended for both the technical, analytical style leader, as well as for a more socially savvy leader.

It’s based on real-world practices in leading corporations and empirical evidence. For example, Barbara L. Frederickson, PhD, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, found that positive feelings expand our awareness of a wider range of possibilities for problem solving and creativity.

Instead of looking at what needs to be fixed, we learn to focus on what’s right and needs to be reinforced. When we emphasize positive deeds, using positive language, achievement builds upon itself.

From a neurological standpoint, positivity activates reward centers in the brain, triggering the release of mood-elevating neurotransmitters like dopamine. As we experience positive feelings, we begin to crave even more of them. This cascade propels us to chip away at the small steps needed to achieve our larger goals and ultimately sets the stage for success.

Indeed, Dr. Frederickson’s psychology research shows that a positive focus bestows greater attentiveness, more flexible problem-solving, enhanced creativity and improved teamwork.

Opposing Brain Functions

When we’re involved in technical conversations or analytical tasks, the brain’s frontal lobe is engaged. When conversations shift to people, feelings and social considerations, the inner brain — which controls emotions and memories — is activated.

Neurological imaging confirms that results-focused leaders give their frontal lobes a greater workout, while socially minded leaders exercise their inner brains more diligently.

In general, organizations tend to promote leaders for their technical prowess — not their social skills. Surveys show that goal-oriented bosses have a 14% chance of being perceived as great leaders by their employees. The number drops to 12% for socially skilled bosses.

But when bosses are both socially and technically adept, they have a 72% chance of being viewed as great leaders. The discouraging news? Only 1% of bosses excel at both skills in the real world.

What is your experience with this? What’s been your experience working for either type of boss? I’d love to hear from you; leave a comment.

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