It’s always tough to know from an interview how someone really shows up as a leader in the day to day shenanigans of business.
10 Years ago when I was working in London as part of the mobilisation team for a new 60,000 seat stadium, I was guilty of prioritising technical skills and stadia knowledge instead of the ability to influence and be a leader. Sure, we have all made these hiring mistakes from time to time, however, this particular role was to oversee the operational delivery of a large section of the stadium which included many supervisors, team leaders and frontline staff.
In summary, I valued technical skill and expertise over skills like empathy and people skills.
It would be no surprise to you when I explain that what quickly transpired during a phase of intense stress, moving timelines and enormous uncertainty (for anyone that has mobilized a new site or store knows what I’m talking about) was that; he had very little positive impact on the teams and in fact left me to resolve many people issues that simply could have been avoided.
Does this story sound familiar?
I have a few of these stories up my sleeve and I know I am not alone. In business, the tendency to be romanticized by people’s deep skill and expertise in an area, sometimes over shadows the most important skill when leading teams, especially those who are in contact with your most valuable asset – your customer.
This skill I am referring to is their ability to inspire others to be effective.
Some of the consequences that come from leaders who lack social intelligence are:

  • They tend to deliver monologues rather than create conversations. What transpires is a leader who is doing very little asking and a lot of telling, leaving the staff feeling dis-engaged and lacking trust in the relationship and decisions.
  • They tend to lack empathy and are unable to see things from other people’s perspective which results in very little rapport being created with staff and therefore no connection is made. This leads to staff feeling that they are not important to the leader and that the leader has more concern for their own self-interest than theirs.
  • They tend to be great ‘doers’ failing to inspire others to also be ‘doers’ and as a result are at risk of burning out quickly; not being full of vitality and energy at the times needed the most from the team.

Of course, the greatest impact felt all the way to the bottom line, will be from someone we don’t often hear from – the customer.
Teaching and socializing emotional connections is a critical skill for service sector leaders.