In 2008 Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyat, two renowned psychologists, published an article called “social intelligence and the biology of leadership” that completely changed my perspective of business, interaction among coworkers and leaders within organizations. Social intelligence is a field within neuroscience that studies how people connect to each other in order to achieve any goals and obtain high impact results. 1
Bosses who do not interact and do not connect with their people do not create synergies. What is interesting about this article is the argument that people within organizations interact as neurons in a neuron network. We are not separate individuals with separate heads, our minds connect like Wifi modems if we are able to feel empathy for others.
In my experience as a consultant I see many departments within organizations that function as fiefs, people and bosses do not share information and do not interact with subordinates which creates a very hostile work environment. The lack of empathy permeates in all the organization which generates a very toxic environment that will impact directly in the organization performance.
Regarding financial leadership, CFOs in many organizations, not only in Mexico but around the world are generally concerned about the aspirations and expectations for their CFO teams in helping to boost performance. Sometimes they forget about other areas or departments. The lack of transparency regarding information from bosses or leaders might lead to a disaster due to their incapacity to share and connect with other areas.
Social intelligence is the ability to know oneself and to know others, in others words, to have self awareness and awareness for others. According to the Psychology Today publication, social intelligence develops from experience with people and learning from success and failures in social settings. 2 Besides social neuroscience studies the interaction among neurons and how social intelligence derives from this interactions; it studies what happens in the brain when people interact.
Social intelligence is a concept based on the relations to assess leadership in organizations.It is a mix of soft skills builded over specific neural circuits and endocrine systems that inspire other to be more efficient.
There are three kind of neurons that have a specific impact on social intelligence. First, there are mirror neurons which have an specific role in organizations because some followers reflect the same feelings and actions that the leaders try to encourage, this is a neuronal reflection. Related to this I would like to talk about laugh.
Laughing reduces stress, thus leaders who encourage sense of humor within their teams are able to create more empathic, efficient and communicative environments.
The second type of neurons are fusiform cells which are responsible for intuition in our brains. Some studies found that leadership is related to the capacity of pattern recognition and huge amount experience.
Finally, the third type are the oscillating cells that coordinates people physically by regulating how and when bodies are supposed to move with other bodies.
There is a lot of science behind this analysis and what is clear is that leadership and social intelligence are two important soft skills that decisions makers within organizations should have and encourage among their people in order to achieve goals and improve performance.
1“Social Intelligence and the biology of leadership”. Harvard Business Review. September 2018.
2 "What Is Social Intelligence? Why Does It Matter?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2019-10-26.