Emotional intelligence is quickly becoming a hallmark of great leadership. It is the process of understanding the feelings of other people and developing apathy for them.

There are, in fact, four elements of emotional intelligence that are self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management.

Social awareness is the most vital of these elements. It is indeed the fundamental skill you need to master in order to enhance your emotional intelligence (EQ).


Have you ever wondered what it means to be a good leader?

You will get a variety of answers if you ask the question to other entrepreneurs and business leaders? Some will say it is about motivating your employees?

According to others, a good leader is the one who has an expansive vision.

Almost all of them will associate good leadership with communication, motivation, sustainability, and vision.

All of the above statements hold true as far as outstanding leadership is concerned.

However, these are traditional beliefs which have been transferred from generations to generations.

There is a new player in the world of leadership. You have guessed it right. It is essential for modern leaders to have a high level of emotional intelligence to not only have a chance of success but to achieve greatness as well.

Watch the following video by UCDavis Consulting and Professional Education to learn how emotional intelligence helps good leaders become great leaders.

The key to success for any kind of leader is to address the elements of emotional intelligence.

You should definitely focus on the development of soft skills and sustainability but you are not going to succeed if you ignore emotional intelligence and its four main elements, most important of which is social awareness of course.

The following chart explains the four elements of emotional intelligence in detail.


Now let us talk about some of the benefits of emotional intelligence before we discuss some social awareness tactics to increase your EQ for becoming a better leader.

First of all, emotional intelligence helps you develop everlasting relationships, also helping you effectively communicate with your employees and stakeholders.

Secondly, EQ enables you to overlook redundant or needless feedback which can cloud your focus or judgment.

Thirdly, emotional intelligence helps you professionally connect with people with a diverse mindset, considerably improving your chances to grow massively in business.

Fourthly, both stakeholders and employees thoroughly observe every habit and action of their leaders and this is where emotional intelligence comes to your rescue. It allows you to identify who is observing you.

Similarly, you can also use EQ to optimally communicate with your employees and be apathetic to them.

However, do persistently remind yourself and your employees that you are their leader, not a part of the workforce.

Fifthly, you can discover who you really are with the help of emotional intelligence. It enables you to identify your real strengths and weakness.

Similarly, other people are in a better position to explain who you are if you try to communicate with them on an emotional level.

When you develop emotional intelligence, you also develop apathy for others. It encourages you to understand their mood and make them feel like a part of the family.

However, you require a lot of integrity, patience, and courage to put yourself in your employees’ shoes and understand their needs and requirements.


In layman’s terms, social awareness is the ability to identify and understand the needs of others and responding to them in a kind and compassionate manner.

Social awareness is the third and most important element in Daniel Goleman’s famous Theory of Emotional Intelligence.

Daniel Goleman discusses the connection of social awareness and leadership in his interview with the Harvard Business Review in this video.

Some people also confuse social awareness with self-awareness despite the fact that both are totally different from each other. Self-awareness is about understanding yourself while looking into yourself.

Social awareness, on the other hand, is about learning about and embracing others while looking outward.

People with a high level of social awareness put emphasize on other peoples’ feelings and try not to hurt their sentiments.

Social awareness is all about living in the moment. You have to practically and actively observe others and give value to their point of view. Social awareness is not the domain of leaders or executives only.

In fact, people from all classes and fields of life can exhibit the highest level of social awareness.

For example, a waiter excels in social awareness if he suggests something better than you have chosen from the menu.

The salesman who goes out of the way to facilitate customers, the supportive team leader, and high-level executive who remembers the name of each of his subordinates, all are examples of people showing empathy and increased social awareness.

Daniel Goleman also says that socially aware people have certain competencies which make them a better leader as compared to others who lack these competencies.

  • Service: It is your ability to understand and meet the requirements of customers and clients.
  • Organizational Awareness: It is your ability to understand organizational politics and their impact on the behavior and performance of your employees.
  • Empathy: It is your ability to understand other people’s concerns, needs, emotions, and feelings.

There are some other competencies you need to develop to have better social awareness.

For example, you must have an awareness of social situations which further enables you to carefully consider others’ needs and requirements. It also assists you in improving your communication skills, helping you communicate with them more attentively and sympathetically.

Contrary to common belief, social awareness is not analogous to manipulation.

Manipulation is much more calculated and planned but social awareness is mostly random.

It is actually the natural response to the people’s situation where leaders try their level best to take their condition and needs into account.

Here is an infographic by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation which shows how social and emotional learning in elementary school prepares children for success.

Some of these children go on to become successful leaders as well.

Social awareness is, in fact, one of the fundamental and essential skills every great leader possesses or should possess. It helps you build support in addition to becoming a better leader.

How do you become a more socially aware person and eventually a better leader?

Here are eight extremely useful and result-oriented techniques to consider.

1. Understand the Importance of Listening

Everybody believes he is a good listener which is far from the truth.

The truth is we do not normally pay any heed to what the other person is saying.

On the other hand, we mostly spend our time thinking about what our next action or response should be.

William Ury asserts on the importance of listening for everyone in his TED Talk.

All the good listeners have one thing in common. They hear the other person out instead of assuming they understand or know the situation themselves.

This is one brilliant quality which makes them outshine the rest of us.

Good listeners always listen to others patiently and attentively.

Subsequently, they try to find out the truth by uncovering all the facts of the situation.

Ultimately, they manage to understand the emotions surrounding the situation before responding to it.

You may be surprised to know how much more you can learn about your own employees, workplace and organization when you pay attention to others and really start listening.

The new information you gain by improving the habit of listening can also help you take the right measures to run your company more efficiently yet effortlessly.

2. Repeat What You Listened

You have slowed down and listening to others more assiduously.

But, how can you prove you are really listening to what is being said in front of you?

There is an excellent technique to fully absorb and comprehend what others are saying.

That is to repeat, in your own words, what is being said. It will help you better understand the conversation and how to respond to it.

You can also ask for as much more information as possible if appropriate.

This kind of behavior serves dual purposes for you.

First of all, it enables you to fully understand each tidbit of the conversation. Secondly, you make the person realize you are paying full attention to him and value his opinion.

For example, one of your employees comes to you and apologize for the late delivery of work because of the tight deadline which gave him only three days to complete a week’s worth of work.

You might say, “I understand” or “it’s okay because you failed to meet the deadline because it was too unrealistic and aggressive for the amount of work you have to complete.

I’ll make sure we don’t repeat the mistake in the future.”

This is one of the best examples of active and considerate listening. Exhibiting this kind of behavior quite regularly will go a long way to build greater trust and understanding with your employees and stakeholders alike.

3. Pay Special Attention to Tone of Voice

The tone of voice plays a pivotal role in making or breaking a conversation between an employer and his employees.

In fact, the way all of you talk and behave during a conversation is just like the difference between the day and the night.

For instance, “no problem” is a common phrase which you hear thousands of times every single day. However, the way someone utters this phrase is what actually matters.

There may be people who would just ambivalently mutter these words as compared to others who would get carried away with the excitement and enthusiastically shrill “no problem!” on top of their voice.

You can have a sense of how your employees are feeling by noticing the amount of energy they put behind their work and chats.

This is especially important when you do not have visuals of the other party as in the case of virtual meetings and calls.

A person’s tone of voice helps you come up with the most appropriate course of action or response as it gives you an indication of how he is feeling at the moment.

Remember that the best leaders always understand the emotions of other people.

4. Notice Body Language and Facial Expressions

Sometimes, nonverbal cues reveal so much about the personality of your addressee and what his current state of mind is.

It is as important to stay aware of nonverbal cues as it is important to notice the physical signs.

In this regard, you must be actively involved in the situation and be mentally present to pick things like body language and facial expressions.

This definitely requires you to put in a lot more effort but it will greatly help you improve your social awareness skills.

Watch the video released by Stanford Graduate School of Business to learn how you can make body language your own superweapon.

For example, if you ask Terrence to sit two hours after the pack up time to complete an urgent piece of work, and he involuntarily says, “Sure, I will sit after pack up. No problem!” It is time to notice his body language and movements.

He is apparently willing to give you two extra hours but his body language indicates he is not happy at all. Perhaps, he has a date with his girlfriend tonight. Who knows?

After you realize he is unhappy, you can say, “I think you are not pleased with the proposition of working after pack up. I will ask someone else to replace you if you really have something important to do in the night. But, you will have to return the favor some other day”.

That way, he will have the option to work after pack up today or at a time that would be less disruptive to his schedule.

5. Read the Mood of Your Workforce

You must be able to read the mood of your workplace. Is there something which is bothering your employees such as increasing workplace bullying or incivility?

Can you comprehend whether or not your employees are happy with you as well as working conditions even if they don’t come to you directly or complain about what is wrong?

You have to develop acute observational skills to enhance your social awareness.

It is important to understand what is happening in your office and pay full attention to the minutest of details.

Only then you will be able to approach different situations appropriately and resolve employees’ problems.

For example, you can observe your office for a week and learn the overall feel of your employees.

Are they too happy or too intense or the situation is somewhere in between these two extremes?

Similarly, is your office too fun-filled that employees are not doing any work at all?

Or, is it too intense that employees are overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do?

Maintaining a good balance between work and fun is absolutely necessary.

Try to come up with the strategies which allow your employees to focus on work while having all the fun they can.

This is only possible if you have a sense of the pace and mood of your company.

For example, can you redistribute or outsource the work if the employees seem too overwhelmed?

Or, should you take them for an outing as a token of appreciation and respect for their diligence and hard work?

Conversely, take necessary measures to encourage your team to focus on the work while setting their priorities if they are not doing the required amount of work without losing the positive friendship and fun.

By observing each employee and his performance, you will also be able to determine which one of them deserves a promotion, or the command of a big project you are going to land.

These kinds of hard decision become easier if you keep a finger on the pulse of your office.

6. Notice the Details

Keeping a close eye on your surroundings and understanding what really is going on around you is the best method to keep yourself connected to your employees.

You can accomplish this task by regularly making the rounds of your office.

The purpose of these rounds should be to personally know your employees as people rather than profit-making machines. Similarly, you shouldn’t want to be seen by your employees but try to interpret the overall mood of your workforce instead

You can ask questions like where Tressa went during her latest vacations and whose picture she has put on her table.

This way, she’ll understand you have noticed the picture and know a lot about Tressa then she realizes.

7. Avoid Drive-by Meetings

Sometimes, you come across an employee who urgently wants to talk to you while you are moving through the room to your office.

While it may be tempting to stop and discuss matters of importance and relevance on the move, but this is not the ideal practice.

You have to avoid such talks or meeting whenever possible.

For example, the employee you want to talk to may not be in the best mood due to his personal matters.

In this regard, check for all the physical and nonverbal cues as to whether or not it is a good time to have a discussion with a particular employee.

For example, you can clearly notice that Tuppence is fully drowned in her work and disturbing her would break her concentration.

It is not a good time to interrupt her but you can say, “I noticed you were fully involved and focused on your work earlier in the day. I really appreciate that.”

Then you can ask her if it is a good time for a quick talk or what the best time for a quick chat is.

Never interrupt your employee’s workflow, but do let them know you noticed their dedication later on.

8. Note-Taking is Just a Waste of Time

Notes may be very valuable for college or university students. I did not take any notes during any of my classes by the way.

Note-taking can be a counterproductive and negative practice with serious repercussions for a professional like you.

On most occasions, you totally miss the most important part of the discussion when you are busy taking notes.

Sometimes, it is important to look up from your paper, put down your pen and actually listen to what the speaker is saying.

The sole purpose of a meeting is to actively engage with all the participants. You cannot do so you when you are too concerned about scribbling your notes away in your notebook.

You should also lookout for the employees who leave the meeting even before it is finished.

Sometimes, they leave before time because the topic being discussed is too boring or they are not pleased with the subject matter.

They may also roll their eyes or feel more tensed when a certain topic is brought up.

You can actually steer the meeting in a more positive and constructive direction if you are paying attention to these signs instead of your notebook.

You can also uncover the underlying problems and issues which are causing restlessness among your employees.


Your employees will definitely feel aloof and uncared for when you are not socially aware of their feelings and problems. They may also think you do not value their opinion as you have your own ax to grind.

Remember that they want to become a part of the decisions which can have serious effects on their job and position in the company.

They become more engaged when they realize you really care for them and they can trust you in turn.

You also build trust and understanding with your employees by improving your observational and listening skills.

On the other hand, the employees tend to work even harder and try to learn how they can help the organization achieve its goals.

8 social awareness tactics that will make you a better leader

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