As the Covid-19 pandemic slowly recedes and the world starts to rebuild, emotional and empathetic social leadership will be more important than ever before. Formal leadership is vital, but it can only take organisations so far. In order to truly thrive in the aftermath of the pandemic, businesses need leaders who can connect with employees on a deeper level and inspire them to do their best work.
What exactly is social leadership?
Social leadership is a relatively new concept that refers to the emotional and empathetic leadership style of leaders who focus on connection, collaboration, and communication. This type of leader understands the importance of building strong relationships within their team and creating a positive work environment.
Unlike formal leaders, social leaders don't rely on their position or title to get things done. Instead, they use their emotional intelligence and people skills to influence others. This makes them more effective in today's workplace, where employees look for meaning and purpose in their work. "People join companies and leave managers," read a recent article on Be-Leadership's website.
"In this social era, leaders not only hold a real dialogue with their employees and customers, they also need to rethink their role in society. Employees expect organisations of all forms to act responsibly and with purpose, and engage with broader society in a positive way," the article continued.
What are the characteristics of a social leader?
Like all leaders, social leaders vary in their style and approach. However, there are some common characteristics that all social leaders share, according to Andy Nelson, a writer who specialises in psychology and mental health. These include:
Intuition: Social leaders trust their gut instinct and are not afraid to make decisions based on emotion. With so much uncertainty in the world right now, this is an essential quality for leaders to have.
Caring: Social leaders care about their employees and want to see them succeed. The best social leaders are those who create a supportive and positive work environment where employees feel like they can do their best work.
Communication: Social leaders are excellent communicators and know how to build rapport with their team. They understand the importance of open and honest communication and ensure everyone on their team is on the same page.
Collaboration: Social leaders know the importance of teamwork and are always looking for ways to improve team dynamics. They understand that no one is an island and know how to get the best out of their team by working together.
Vulnerability: Social leaders are not afraid to show their vulnerability and admit when they need help. This allows them to build trust with their team and create a more open and honest work environment.
Empathy: Social leaders are empathetic and can put themselves in other people's shoes. This allows them to better understand their team's needs and find ways to support them.
Self-awareness: Social leaders are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and use this knowledge to help them grow as leaders. They are always looking for ways to improve their skills and learn from their mistakes.
Resilience: Social leaders are resilient and can bounce back from setbacks. They understand that there will be times when things don't go as planned, but they never give up.
People and relationship-oriented: Social leaders focus on people and relationships, not just tasks or goals. They understand that strong relationships are the key to a successful team and work hard to build trust and rapport with their employees.
Courage: Social leaders have the courage to stand up for what they believe in, even when it's not popular. They are not afraid to speak their mind and stand up for what's right, even when it's difficult.
What makes social leadership so important in 2022?
As the world starts to recover from the pandemic, businesses will need leaders who can help them navigate these uncharted waters. Now more than ever, businesses need social leaders to navigate the challenges of today's workplace. With so much uncertainty in the world, social leaders can provide stability and direction for their team. They can also build trust and rapport, which is essential in today's climate. In a world that is constantly changing, social leaders are the ones who can help their team adapt and thrive.
In addition to the characteristics listed above, emotional intelligence has become increasingly crucial in leadership. According to a Harvard Business School (HBS) article, emotional intelligence accounts "for nearly 90 per cent of what sets high performers apart from peers with similar technical skills and knowledge."
"The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence," read a 2015 HBS article quoting prominent psychologist Daniel Goleman. "It's not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but...they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions."
But it's not just emotional intelligence that social leaders bring to the table. They also have the ability to build strong relationships and inspire others. In a world still reeling from the pandemic, these are two vital qualities that all businesses will need in their leaders. The pandemic has shown us just how important emotional and empathetic leadership can be. Prominent HR thought leader, author, and commentator, Ira Wolfe, describes the post-pandemic world as a "never normal era." He argues that in the new era, change happens at a much faster pace, and businesses need leaders who can adapt quickly.
"The idea of going back to normal doesn't exist," said Wolfe in a recent interview on the Recruiting Future with Matt Alder podcast, adding that the new age necessities a new kind of leader that learns "how to respond and react to change and have more grit, more resilience, have a more open mindset or willingness to unlearn."
"Those are life skills. And that not only helps you have better employees and be able to attract and retain people, but they're going to have more loyalty, and they're going to feel better about themselves," he added.