10 January 2009

Social Intelligence - Be a better leader

It is yet another wonderful reading of an article on Social Intelligence. The article titled "Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership" by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis was published in HBR. This article is treasure for me and it brought out the reasons on why one should be social intelligent. It gave me immense insight and courage to improve my social IQ. I would like to give a short writeup on my reflections on the article and then would like to correlate the article from our perspective (based on Indian values). Here goes the a short write about the article.

The authors candidly convey why a leader should be socially intelligent? What is the chemistry behind socially intelligent leaders and his followers? How one can improve upon fusing the social circuitry of neurons by changing one's behavior? As per scientists, there are three varieties of cells in brain - Mirror, Spindle and Oscillators. (I believe there should be more varieties. but we are going to stop our discussion with three :-) ) Certain mirror cells are fired for specific action done by self or action done by others. When the mirror cells fire, that is when we feel a shared experience. The Spindle cells helps us in making decisions which we also call as gut feeling or intuition. The oscillators is responsible for physical movement that happens unconsciously due to some action of others. When the social IQ is low for a leader, it affects the followers as the brains of followers and leader is fused into a single brain. The bad leaders end up firing wrong cells of their brain and their followers brain. If the leader has good social IQ, the chemistry between him and the followers will be good and hence the team will be highly performing. The authors also claim that one can improve social intelligence irrespective of the gene and brought up by reviewing and analyzing one's behavior. One can make the right cells to fire by changing the behavior. I would recommend the interested readers to read the article in HBR website. Let us continue our discussion on these ideas with Indian values.

If we understand Indian value system, this what exactly the ancient and modern spirtual gurus convey to us. Let us slightly shift our focus to mind from brain. So no bilology stuff. The mind (I am replacing the brain with mind as brain is a machine and I believe the brain in not discussed much. It is the mind from where the thoughts crop are discussed. Need to get my view validated. Any views?) throws lot of thoughts. Some thoughts manifest itself in the form of behaviors. If the thoughts are not worked upon or not given importance, it just vanishes away. In order to build a circuitry in your brain for effective leadership (according to the above article or anything in general), it is quite essential to keep a watch on the thoughts that are acted upon. It may not be possible to keep a watch on the thoughts as they are produced in mass numbers. However it is much easier to keep a watch on our behavior. When one builds behavior quite consistently, it becomes habit and the habit gives birth to character (when behaviors/habits are fed back to the system positively, a positive character is built). When a character is built in you, the character is you and you are the character. It is almost written on stone and fuses the neural circuitary. One needs to work hard to go in opposite way. So, this is one part of the story which is measuring yardstick. So, one needs to work until the character is built.

Another part of the story is how to identify what needs to be done to be socially intelligent. I strongly believe that it will be a failed attempt if we have a checklist and work on it. Rather , becoming socially intelligent should be an experiential learning as social intelligence is tightly coupled with the situation. Though one can generalize socially intelligence, I don't think one can improve upon social IQ in a general way. It has to be done hard way by analyzing ones behavior and constantly correcting the behavior leading to character. Buidling a character is constant and process. So fusing the circuitry in brain for effective leadership is requires hard work.

1. "Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership" by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis (HBR)
2. Wikipedia

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