In the dynamic world of technology, leaders are often admired for their sharp intellect and commercial acumen, navigating the complexities of products, markets, and emerging technologies with great skill. Yet, amidst this cerebral landscape, there’s a critical dimension that’s often overlooked: the importance of emotional and social intelligence.

Although we have worked globally with tech companies of various sizes with outstanding leaders and work cultures such as Salesforce, Samsara and Xpedition, and SoftwareOne, too many tech companies and leaders still often fall short in cultivating a human-centric work environment conducive to unleashing the full potential of their teams. The repercussions of such neglect can be significant, from heightened turnover rates and diminished morale to tarnished reputations. Recent years have witnessed a slew of tech companies grappling with allegations of toxic work cultures and practices, highlighting the pressing need for their leaders to embrace emotional and social intelligence.

At its core, emotional intelligence encompasses the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one’s own emotions, a skill set championed by experts like Daniel Goleman. It encompasses self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skills, and empathy — pillars essential for fostering trust, navigating complex social dynamics, and fostering an inclusive environment.

While cognitive abilities have long been prioritized in talent acquisition and development, research underscores the vital importance of emotional and social intelligence in predicting long-term success. Thus, the imperative for tech leaders to recalibrate their approach and integrate these dimensions into their leadership ethos is undeniable.

So, how can tech leaders cultivate and amplify their emotional and social intelligence to propel their companies towards success?

Foster Self-Awareness: Cultivating self-awareness among leaders and managers forms the bedrock of emotional intelligence. Instituting mechanisms for regular feedback loops, such as 360-degree leadership surveys, learning reviews/retrospectives and workforce surveys, cultivates a culture of self-improvement and continuous growth.

Prioritize Emotional and Social Intelligence in Hiring: Beyond technical acumen and experience, recruitment processes should scrutinize candidates’ emotional and social intelligence. Incorporating personality and strengths assessments together with behavioural interviews offers deeper insights into candidates’ talent and agility for navigating complex emotional and social situations.

Empower Through Vision: Empowerment transcends mere rhetoric when leaders articulate a compelling vision while granting autonomy in execution. Clear direction coupled with freedom in approach fosters a sense of ownership, fuelling better engagement, collaboration, and self-mastery.

Embrace Constructive Challenge: Effective decision-making thrives on dissenting voices and robust debate. Leaders must cultivate an inclusive culture where every perspective is valued, fostering an environment conducive to innovation and problem-solving.

Amplify the Positives: By focusing on people’s strengths, fostering a culture of empowerment and solutions, and consistently recognizing successes and progress, leaders can enhance morale, performance, and employees’ well-being. This approach enables everyone to contribute their best selves to the workplace.

Invest in Workforce Wellbeing: Recognizing that resilience is nurtured, not innate, leaders must prioritize the holistic wellbeing of their workforce. Demonstrating empathy and offering support during challenging times fosters a culture of trust and resilience, integral to sustained performance.

In a landscape defined by rapid change and relentless competition, the true mark of leadership lies not only in technological prowess but in the cultivation of emotional and social acumen. By embracing these dimensions, tech leaders can foster environments where innovation thrives, teams flourish, and businesses achieve excellence.

About the Author

James is a leadership and talent consultant, business psychologist, and executive coach. He has over 25 years’ experience working with leaders, teams, and organizations to optimize their talent, performance, and future success.

Before moving into consulting, James held corporate leadership roles in People and Talent Management in the UK and abroad with companies such as Yahoo! and Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals. Since moving into talent consulting and assessment design, he has supported leaders and teams globally across many sectors and geographies. Clients he has worked with include Allen & Overy, Commvault, Equinor, Graze, LVMH, Facebook, GSK, Hilton, John Lewis, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, NHS, Oracle, Sainsbury's, Swiss Re, Tesco, WSP and Yahoo! James has founded and run several ventures, including Strengthscope®, an international strengths assessment and development business, that he sold in 2018.

James has a Master’s in Organizational Psychology, an MBA, and an Advanced Diploma in Executive Coaching. He is a regular writer and speaker on talent assessment and development, leadership, and the future of work.