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Who is the one leader you admire the most? And why? Would it be Branson, Jobs or your kid’s footy coach?

The traditional method of raising leaders has relied heavily on an individual’s analytical skills and ability to solve problems and to drive business growth. Nothing wrong with that you might say, but what if that leader also had strong social skills including empathy and great communication?

Nelson Mandela was one such leader. He had a very strong belief in what he wanted to achieve politically but was highly skilled at relating to people on a personal level.

In the workplace having a leader who can recognise when inefficiency or lack of collaboration is the result of interpersonal difficulties between staff members, rather than lack of technical know-how, means the likelihood of being able to resolve these  challenges just got a whole lot easier.

So why don’t more leaders have the magic combo?

Because of the way our brain is wired.

In his book Social: Why our brains are wired to connect, Matt Lieberman explains how the brain has two separate networks for handling these different ways of thinking.

When we engage in analytical thinking we use our frontal lobes and focus on the task at hand. When we are thinking about others, their thoughts, feelings and actions we use a different part of the brain.

The two networks as Lieberman says work like a neural seesaw. When one network is active, the other goes quiet.

Learning how to access your social IQ would seem like a great way to add to your leadership potential. Zenger in 2009 found that leaders who have great analytical and social skills were seen as great leaders 72% of the time.

But they are an extremely rare breed.

David Rock from the Neuroleadership Institute and Management Research Group surveyed over 60,000 employees and asked them to rate their leaders on goal (results) focus and social skills. Less than 1% of leaders were rated highly in both areas.

It seems there is room for improvement!

All business in built on relationships. So, how does your workplace stack up? Are your managers and leaders purely results focused or are they good on the social side as well?

And how does that affect you?

How can you look to create a workplace culture that recognises the value of and nurtures both?


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Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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