IQ gets you hired. EQ gets you promoted.
This HR adage has been around sometime and while certainly valid, it does not address the entire picture when applied to an executive on the rise. Certainly the individual must have smarts, a combination of old-fashioned “book-learnin’” and business acumen. Additionally, the executive must possess the ability to maintain an emotional equilibrium with self and with others.
Truly successful executives must possess more. According to my colleague, Kevin Butler, former chief human resource officer at Delphi, these executives combine two elements in their leadership. They are socially aware; they understand people’s needs, wants and differences. They socially manage; they know how to leverage differences as well as likenesses in order to bring people together for common cause.
Awareness plus management is crucial. It’s one thing to be able to understand people, but, as Kevin points out, you also need to be able to get aligned toward common goals. This requires true leadership.
Understanding people goes beyond knowing their work or even their personal history. It requires the ability to observe dispassionately so that you know how they work best and why. From a management perspective, you put such people into positions where they can excel. Such talents, coupled with skills, makes them a good fit for some jobs but not others. Too often, talented people are put into positions for which they are not suited, and they flounder.
For example, an engineer who loves solving problems individually may not be inclined to seek a management position. He may prefer to work independently — and can work well in teams — but he likes what he does and has no desire to go into management, where he must step back from problem-solving personally so that his direct reports can do the work. An executive with strong social management skills can read the situation, recognize those talents and keep the engineer occupied doing the work he loves doing.
A greater dimension of social management is combining the talents, as well as the differences, of others to get them to coalesce around a common goal. “Leadership,” as Dwight Eisenhower once wrote, “is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Such leadership requires inspiration. In others words, employees have personal priorities; it is the socially savvy manager who can get them to lay aside differences to work on the project at hand. Even better when a manager can get those individuals to make such work their own personal priority. Such a team is on the way to achieving results that are not simply achieved, but sustained.
The business case for diversity, as Kevin Butler argues, rests upon those leaders who are savvy in social management. Such leaders see opportunity in differences due to gender, ethnicity, age and culture. Not only do these leaders recruit for differences, they manage to them; inclusiveness becomes the practice when assembling teams, developing initiatives, and promoting people into executive positions. Managing in this way does more than create opportunity for others; it maximizes innovation and hence business opportunities. People from diverse backgrounds think and do things differently. Differing perspectives are vital when developing and delivering products and services for a global economy.
Another way of looking at social management is to look back at a principle of our Founding Fathers — E Pluribus Unum. One from many. While our Founders were thinking of independent former Colonies throwing their lot together as a single nation, the same applies to business. Consider this as many different points of view coalescing for a single purpose.