The Critical Role of EQ in Social Leadership

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Mark Babbitt

Mark Babbitt

CEO and Founder at YouTern
Mark Babbitt

@MarkSBabbitt

#Career and #leadership mentor | Solution junkie | @YouTern | @SwitchandShift | @WorldGoneSocial | @Entrepreneur | @Forbes | @Inc Top 100 Leadership Speaker
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Mark Babbitt
Mark Babbitt
Mark Babbitt

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EQ in Social Leadership

For years, human resources professionals, hiring managers and those responsible for personnel development have placed a high value on emotional intelligence (EQ). All else being equal, the candidate who demonstrates the highest EQ gets the job offer; the employee who consistently displays a high EQ gets the promotion.

Now, as we enter the Social Age, we’re applying the techniques we use to assess EQ – social skills, self-awareness, motivation, problem solving, and so much more – to another level of talent:

Our leaders.

Why? Because social media has changed everything.

Social has changed how we engage with customers and employees, determines suitability of a candidate, and builds relationships and partnerships. Social has changed the way we innovate, collaborate and compete. And, social has reset the expectations of just about everyone around us.

Specifically, organizations and their leaders are now expected to consistently act in an ethical, transparent manner. Those that don’t are quickly surrounded by a digital lynch mob. Empowered by what we in A World Gone Social refer to as Social Robin Hood Syndrome, the public rallies to right a wrong, and typically doesn’t stop until justice – social media style – is realized.

This new leadership style is troubling to many old-school leaders – even those who demonstrated a high EQ under the old rules of management. And for most of them, there is a root cause:

Fear.

Fear of change. Fear of losing control. Fear of obsolescence.

And this is where human resources and personnel development play a huge role. We enable the transition from their Industrial Age mindset to a Social Age leader by emphasizing those EQ traits the leader currently possesses; those that will help them succeed in the Social Age.

Perhaps it’s a self-deprecating sense of humor, an empathic ear or a genuine passion for the mission of the organization. Perhaps it’s the ability to think creatively under pressure or their resilience when things seem the most difficult. Or maybe it is their level of self-awareness and willingness to learn.

Simply put: while introducing new social leadership skills, we work with the positives as they exist today.

And we do all that while realizing that this new style of leadership is far removed from the style that person in the C-Suite or upper management learned in business school, from their mentors and perhaps their parents. After all, Industrial Age leaders were taught to be authoritative and decisive. They weren’t just supposed to anticipate all the questions – they were supposed to have all the answers. And if someone on the team didn’t like the direction their leadership was taking the department, business unit or company… the leader was taught to stand their ground; to make it clear who was in charge.

Listen? Collaborate? Facilitate? Way back when (maybe 5 or 6 years ago) those weren’t leadership skills. In fact, to the hardened executive with the hard-earned corner office, they were signs of weakness.

How can we further help our veteran leaders successfully make this transition? From A World Gone Social, here are three tips:

Take Social Slow

Not all great leaders take to social naturally. Encourage the executive to stick a toe in the water, then a foot, and eventually go in up the knees. Because these are brave new waters – and they can certainly be dangerous.

And do not make them go it alone. Find an internal champion already active and highly effective on social. Or bring in an outsider to serve as a reverse mentor. Have that digitally-savvy mentor help you reinforce the importance of EQ while engaging on social media. Ask them to make it clear that there will be drama queens, detractors and trolls who will try to break the spirit. Help the leader realize: these situations will bring out their worst traits, or their best.

Take it slow… and enable the leader to gain confidence, earn respect, build a stronger EQ – all while developing a positive online reputation.

Teach Relentless Giving

In social media, it is the relentless givers – those who act in an unselfish, caring manner – who earn that positive reputation, grow as a leader and – to the benefit of both their personal and corporate brand – consistently demonstrate a high EQ.

Show the executive the benefits of adding value. Of listening first, then focusing on creative solutions; of not protecting corporate policy, but instead collaborating to find a mutually-beneficial solution. Help them realize that there is no statute of limitations on insensitivity, as the CEOs of Lululemon and Snapchat have discovered.

Soon, the leader – until now, perhaps far removed from hands-on communication with employees, customers and vendors – will see the power of being personally involved. They’ll see they can make a difference. They are no longer a defender of the bureaucracy; they are an influential brand ambassador.

Encourage OPEN

We dedicated a chapter of A World Gone Social to the concept of “OPEN” – an acronym for “Ordinary People | Extraordinary Network.”

OPEN means no single person, no matter what title appears on their business card, must have all the answers. Instead, we simply have to build relationships with people willing to work with us – employees from all areas of operations, customers, champions, detractors and sometimes even competitors – to find those answers. More often than not, that network-driven answer is far more powerful than one person could possibly come up with. In an OPEN circle, a good idea becomes great. And a great idea becomes magic.

After watching those leaders who are really getting social right for the past five years, there is no doubt: enabling an OPEN culture is a major key to success in the Social Age – and a true indicator of high social EQ.

The single most important factor that distinguishes the star performers from all others – whether it be a new candidate, an existing team member or our Social Age leaders – is emotional intelligence.

Assess well. Mentor better. Lead by example. Help increase the EQ of your old-school leaders – and enable them to transition successfully – even gracefully – into the Social Age.

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