How Social Leadership is Changing the Way We Lead

There was a time, and are still times, when being emotional or empathic were viewed as weak skills that had no place in effective management. In today’s business climate, to navigate the increasingly complex factors in successful leadership, leaders not only need to be intelligent and strong decision makers, but they also need to have excellent social skills. They need to display social leadership.

What is Social Leadership?

Being a social leader is, first of all, acknowledging that there is a team of people responsible for the creation and implementation of all decisions and ideas. Speaking as a leader in terms of “I” needs to be replaced with “We”. But being a social leader is more than just knowing there is a team, it is knowing how to cultivate trust, care, and respect within the team. These values within the team will allow all the members to share ideas and collaborate, creating a more open atmosphere from which everyone has more of stake in leading the company through an ever-changing economic climate.

Acquiring social leadership skills, through relationship building and community connectivity, is more important than ever before for becoming and being an effective leader.

Being a Social Leader

Some people just seem to be born with impressive social skills, while for others it can be a struggle. Whether or not a leader is born as a social leader, social skills can be learned and practiced. For some this may be difficult, but they are important skills to have in order to manage a successful team. There are many characteristics that natural social leaders have.

Intuition – They are able to feel a situation and make decisions on instinct rather than reasoning.

Caring – They care about others and their wellbeing.

Collaboration – They see that decisions are made as a team and support communication and respect.

Vulnerability – They are able to be open and authentic with others around them.

Empathy – They are able to see how decisions impact other people and use another person’s viewpoint to understand events.

Self-awareness – They are able to look at themselves and evaluate their own strengths, weaknesses, feelings, and values.

Resilience – They remain balanced in the face of stress.

People and relationship-oriented – They know that people and relationships are vital to an organization’s health, and work hard to strengthen the social aspect of the company.

Courage – They are able to do what is right, even though it may not be easy.

Many of these characteristics point to a high level of emotional intelligence, which can lead to better management a better retention of staff. A recent study found that employees who had managers with high EQ were four times less likely to leave their company and that more than 70% of their perception of the company culture resulted from these manager’s emotional intelligence levels.

The Role of Social Identity in Social Leadership

In the realm of social leadership, understanding and leveraging social identities is paramount. Social identities, as the labels that individuals use to define themselves and others within specific groups, play a crucial role in shaping leadership dynamics and outcomes. These identities, encompassing aspects such as ethnicity, gender, age, and profession, significantly influence how leaders and followers interact, communicate, and collaborate towards common goals.

The significance of social identity in leadership cannot be overstated. It affects not only the perception of leaders but also how effectively they can mobilize and inspire their teams. Leaders who are adept at navigating the complexities of social identity can foster a more inclusive, empathetic, and cohesive work environment. This, in turn, enhances team performance, innovation, and satisfaction.

Integrating an understanding of social identity into social leadership practices involves several key strategies. Firstly, leaders must become self-aware, recognizing their own identities and how these impact their leadership style and relationships with others. Secondly, they should strive to understand the diverse identities of their team members, acknowledging the unique perspectives and experiences each person brings to the table. Finally, effective social leaders use this awareness to bridge gaps, build trust, and create a culture of inclusivity and respect.

By prioritizing social identity, leaders can navigate the challenges of the modern workplace more effectively, driving positive change and fostering an environment where every team member feels valued and understood.

So Are You a Social Leader?

With these 10 questions you will get a general sense of whether or not you have the characteristics of a social leader and if you’re using them in your leadership style:

  • Do I usually trust my employees to do complete work and do the right thing?
  • Do I try to think of ways to avoid problems, instead of waiting for problems to happen before I act?
  • Do I like to hear ideas from others when I make decisions?
  • Do I like change and thinking about how things could be different?
  • Do I like to work with my employees to develop values and inspire excellence?
  • Am I usually willing to look at the bright side?
  • Am I able to accept responsibility for my mistakes?
  • Do I let other people see the real me when I interact with them?
  • Do I value a team approach over an individual approach?
  • Am I able to give the group credit for ideas and positive outcomes?

If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, then you already have many of the qualities of a social leader. For the questions where your answer was no, try to explore how that quality impacts your employees.

If this is something you’re interested in developing further, share these questions with your team and see what their answers are. Encourage them to replicate this exercise for themselves as well, to assess their own social leadership potential.

Becoming a Social Leader

We are all social, so everyone has elements of being a social leader. But if many of the answers to the above questions stated otherwise, there are some things that can be practiced to make anyone a better social leader.

One of the number one factors in becoming a social leader is focus.

Focus is needed to be able to be in tune with the role and the work. With focus comes engagement. Engagement with the work and all aspects of the work allows people to use their social skills to see how others are feeling, express empathy, and collaborate on a solution.

Focus on the work and the people can be a proactive way to address dissatisfaction, low morale, and burnout. When a leader senses these things, they are able to act quickly and take control of a situation, by reaching out to people and addressing the situation through relationships and communication.

Sometimes people just need to be listened to and to feel like they are understood. This creates an atmosphere of value and worth. A social leader is able to listen and understand so that others are able to move through the problem faster and easier.

Leaders do not need to agree with employees and they do not have to have all the answers, but they can listen and offer advice.

Research has found has found that most people say that it is more important to work for a supportive boss than it is to make a lot of money. Leaders that care about their employees boost productivity.

Focusing on the work and the people while also learning to listen and respond empathically are two ways to not only become a better leader, but to boost the productivity of the team.

Try it out

If you are not sure where to start and what to say, try out some of these phrases that will help you focus, listen, connect, empathize and be vulnerable.

How is everyone feeling today?

I’m concerned with how everyone is doing with this.

How are we with finding a solution?

Let’s try to figure this out.

I’m not sure I am being effective. Are we doing the best we can for you?

I am hurt that his happened.

Thank you for all your great ideas.

What else can we do to help support your great work?

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