A leader with high IQ may seem like the logical choice. However, this quality alone rarely inspires others to rally their efforts on the job. The true quality of an individual’s leadership instead, depends on how others respond to them.

Social Intelligence is not about being “nice.” It’s about the ability to validly, and vulnerably, reason with emotion. When a person truly wields this skill, all the world can be persuaded to their side. Socially intelligent leaders understand that these same social rules apply to all areas of life including their businesses and careers.

  1. They don’t interpret their opinion of someone as a fact.

Social intelligence relies largely on the ability to see other people objectively. Our own perspectives largely influence our biases toward or against someone. A socially intelligent leader realizes that their own viewpoint is also a subjective opinion and is not necessarily an objective fact about that individual.

  1. They don’t immediately deny criticism.

If a consultant suggests a change in their business process or an employee is unhappy with how something is being managed, rather than responding with a rationale as to why their idea will not work, their experience wasn’t the norm or their feelings are incorrect, socially intelligent leaders use active listening to hear the feedback objectively. They then do what they can to improve the process or experience for the next time.

  1. They don’t “De-escalate” or try to rationalize other people’s feelings for them.

They validate rather than dismiss feelings. The term de-escalation infers that one individual or group is “worked up” and another is attempting to “calm them down.” Socially intelligent people understand that all emotions are equally accurate when viewed from different perspectives. They use this ability to relate and empathize with someone else’s experience and validate their feelings through compassion. This strategy ultimately leads to a lasting and collaborative solution.

  1. They identify trends but aren’t personally influenced by them.

Socially intelligent leaders possess a sort of intuitiveness that informs them of what people need and how they want to get it. This makes them very conscious of trends and innovations, but at the same time, they are aware that most buzzwords will pass with time. Although they pay attention and gather insight from trends, they focus on longevity.

  1. They use themselves as a litmus test.

The core thought-process that defines a socially intelligent leader is that they consistently ask themselves: “How would I feel if this were happening to me?” The answer to that question can inform them about everything — from how to relay difficult news or feedback, to how well a product works to how effective a marketing campaign will be, to how their co-workers and employees relate to them.

  1. They are not afraid to be authentic.

Socially intelligent leaders understand that there is nothing that will complicate a business or a relationship more than poor or ineffective communication. They do not beat around the bush to try and create change. Rather than just say what others want to hear, they make it a point to speak with empathy but also precision and honesty, so that their message and principles are as clear as possible.

  1. They know that all rules are meant to be broken.

Socially intelligent leaders realize there is no One Size Fits All solution. They do not make promises that they cannot keep, nor do they propose solutions that they know are not realistic or feasible. They use their intuition to consider all elements of a situation; recognizing that each circumstance is unique and different rules apply in particular situations.

  1. They consider people’s motivations more than their behaviors.

Rather than judge or be perplexed by the actions of others, they always consider why someone is behaving in a certain manner. Human behavior is only mysterious until you understand what individuals are inherently motivated by. When a socially intelligent leader responds to someone’s underlying motivations, rather than their behavior, that person is far more likely to cooperate willingly because they feel seen and respected.