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Are You A Social Intelligent Leader?

Generational Poverty

Human nature is the most important thing to understand if you want to be a leader.” Theodore Roosevelt

The key to social intelligence is understanding EVERYONE has a different map of reality. We were all handed down beliefs and values at an age when we had no critical fact to question them. Our beliefs and values shape the way we look at the world. If someone else says or does something we think is stupid, they are probably running a subconscious program they picked up as a small child. If you don’t agree with someone, instead of saying “THAT’S DUMB!”, ask them, “What has led you to believe that?” That way you get a better understanding of their map of reality. This is what understanding human nature is all about.

Week in and week out in my engagements with corporate leaders through my vehicle – “Veli Ndaba NeuroEngineering Leadership Effect” #VNNLE – talks, training and coaching sessions, one thing that consistently come out is that leadership is getting results through people. If leadership is about getting results through people, it means it hinges on understanding human nature which begs the question, “How much time does a leader have to dedicate in understanding what makes people think and behave the way they do? What really forms their map of reality?”

In 1936, Dale Carnegie who was a travelling salesman and who had then become a public speaker, wrote a book – How to Win Friends and influence People which has to date sold more than 15Million copies worldwide. His advice of how to do that is as follows:

To Win Friends…

Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.

Encourage others to talk about themselves.

To Influence People

Show respect for other’s opinions.

When you are wrong, admit it quickly & emphatically.

For now, let me focus on the latter – To Influence People.

Essentially, what he’s saying is that Social Intelligence (Quotient) = Social knowledge, meaning that if you know the rules of social behavior, you can be socially intelligent and then you can be socially effective. In reality though, this doesn’t seem to be the case. I call this the Standard Model of Social Intelligence. The problem with this Standard Model of Social Intelligence is that it doesn’t take into account how difficult it is to execute these social rules. Yes, we always want to do the right things, but it not always so easy to do so.

Why do we find it so hard to show respect for other’s opinions? Why is it so difficult to admit when we are wrong, let alone quickly and emphatically? We seem to be failing to do this all the time. Why is this? Surely, it’s not just knowing the rules, it’s an actual ability to execute those rules, to do that which we know is the right thing to do. So, the way to look at it instead is the following:

Social Intelligence > Social knowledge, meaning that Social Intelligence is more than just knowing social rules, it’s actually having the ability to execute them. Probably, you’ve had the experience where you knew exactly what you should do but instead did something different even when you knew in the process of doing it that you were going to regret your behavior later, but you still did it! Why?

Neuroscientific studies have revealed part of the brain associated with self-control. Frontal lobes are the seat of self-control. Self-control is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviour in the face of temptations and impulses. As an executive function of the brain, self-control is a cognitive process that is necessary for regulating one’s behaviour in order to achieve specific goals. The quality and level of our self-control/willpower is a reflection of well-functioning frontal lobes. This is the area wherein I help corporate leaders work on to improve self-control and productivity in the workplace.

Self-control and discipline, play a crucial role in a person’s overall success. They are crucial in determining one’s level of social Intelligence. As I’ve indicated above, Social Intelligence relies more on self-control and discipline in doing the right things at appropriate times. This further explains why many people have a lot of information/knowledge which is never put to use. Many of us know what we should be doing, but we rarely do it.

Understanding human nature is a key skill a leader needs to develop in order to tap into their team’s collective genius. One of the popular exercises I give to teams at the beginning of my NeuroEngineering Talks and Training Sessions is on perspectives and mind maps where I share a slide with a number that is a six on one end and a nine on the other end. On asking leaders what they see, this becomes clear and then I build on that using the Veli Ndaba NeuroEngineering Effect of things.

With the above background, I’m certain you will start to look at yourself and engage with this content with a different leadership perspective. This should further help you embrace the fact that each and every person you lead, has different beliefs and values to yours. The leadership’s role is to understand human nature which can be achieved by seeking to understand different maps of realities of those they lead as this will help in improving relationships and lead to peak performance. My commitment is to help leaders and their teams move from mental darkness into mental light in small simple steps. I know you need assistance in dealing with this difficult period we are faced with, let me help you!

Veli Ndaba is a NeuroEngineering Leadership Effect Speaker and Trainer, Brain Coach and Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!) and Newspaper Columnist. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on, or +27 83 304 9773