Followership from Social Intelligence

This week I thought about followership from social intelligence because of my reaction to two sermons with different tones. Two weeks ago, the sermon had an accusatory tone suggesting church members were not good followers. A week ago, the sermon had an inclusive tone encouraging us all to tap into the divine energies of growth to become the people we are meant to be. The first sermon turned me off to church, however, the second sermon got me re-inspired to be the best that I could be.

This got me thinking, leaders who are accusatory are not leading in that moment. How many of us have had a boss that has put us on the defensive, or on the offensive depending on your personality? When this happened, you likely had to invest energy and time to get over the social stress you had experienced as a result so you could get past what the boss had said and get back to having meaningful impact again.

When a leader is accusatory, it is an expression of frustration. Leaders are human and will get frustrated from time to time. The challenge for leaders is to recognize when frustration is mounting and then be on the alert. Frustration is a sign of a problem or challenge and is an opportunity for new thinking and innovation. The next time you allow your frustration to turn into chastising others, remember, you may be alienating the very people who can help you think differently and innovate to create new value.

When followers are not following, then you are not leading.

                                                                                                                                                                Valerie Patrick

Interestingly, when I googled ‘what to do when followers are not following,’ the top ten search results all had to do with followership in social media. This post compares followership in social media to followership in real life.

In social media, there are tricks to increase your followership. For example, you can connect your Instagram and Facebook accounts to get more followers on Instagram ( In addition, you can use one of the top ten tags in your Instagram posts to increase the number of followers. In real life, there are no such tricks for followership. For example, I follow people for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They are trustworthy and have good ideas
  • They have a good character and competency in a topic of interest
  • They have a proven track record for results or the thinking and enthusiasm that has great potential for results.
  • They inspire me to be the best that I can be
  • They have mentored or coached me well
  • They work with me versus playing the “blame game”
  • They passionately pursue a mutual commitment

These are not easy to do. Each one involves both the brain and the heart. So followership in real life involves engaging both the brain and heart of those who are following.

Engaging the brain and the heart means that it us not just about what you say to gain followership in real life, but it is also about how your say it. For example, you can say the same thing in either an accusatory or inclusive manner. The accusatory tone will not produce followers while the inclusive tone is much more likely to produce followers. An accusatory tone has been described as an undertone that is based on ( the belief that someone has done something wrong. An example of saying the same thing with two different tones is as follows (from

a. ‘I can’t believe that these things can’t get done correctly. I mean, every time I send a file to field support they seem to screw it up. Look at what happened to the Miller file. I should probably just do these things myself.’
b. ‘Let’s discuss the Miller file, if we may. Perhaps my instructions were unclear or the deadline was too aggressive. The bottom line is: I would like to figure out a way that files like the Miller’s could flow more smoothly through our system.’

Statement ‘a’ has an accusatory tone blaming others for wrong-doing while statement ‘b’ has an inclusive tone in which the speaker is open to their own role in the problem and wants to work with others to resolve the problem. I would be much more likely to follow the person who utters statement ‘b’ than the person who utters statement ‘a’!

In social media, you are typically projecting your raw, authentic self because you are looking to connect with like-minded people who share your perspectives or passions. In social media, you can often modulate your raw emotions too if you don’t press that send key too quickly. In real-life, authenticity is also important but raw emotions can be problematic. In real life, you are shaping your personal brand every time you interact with another person, and especially in the face-to-face interactions. Non-verbals like your tone of voice, attitude, and body language give away your emotional state. The most powerful and impactful communication occurs when your verbal and non-verbal communication are in alignment. However, verbal and non-verbal communication can be misinterpreted. Emotional intelligence plays an important role in real-life followership because it enables you to recognize when your verbal and non-verbal communication is coming across in the wrong way and to address the problem before damage is done to your personal brand.

According to the ‘Emotional Intelligence for Dummies’ cheat sheet (, emotional intelligence means you can identify and manage your emotions and the emotions of others effectively and appropriately. The cheat sheet describes emotionally intelligent people as those who can do the following:

  • Successfully manage difficult situations
  • Express themselves clearly
  • Gain respect from other
  • Influence other people
  • Entice other people to help them out
  • Keep cool under pressure
  • Recognize their emotional reactions to people or situations
  • Know how to say the ‘right’ thing to get the right result
  • Manage themselves effectively when negotiating
  • Manage other people effectively when negotiating
  • Motivate themselves to get things done
  • Know how to be positive, even during difficult situations

Similarly, in his ground-breaking book Emotional Intelligence published in 1995, Daniel Goleman identified 5 competencies for emotionally intelligent leaders as follows (

  • Self-awareness: the ability to know one’s own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drive, values and goals as well as to recognize the impact of these things on others
  • Self-regulation: the ability to manage one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and to adapt to changing circumstances
  • Social skill: the ability to manage the emotions of others in order to move people in a direction that benefits all
  • Empathy: the ability to be aware of, understand, and consider the feelings of others, especially when making decisions
  • Motivation: the ability to drive oneself for the sake of achievement

Some different ways emotional intelligence can look when a leader experiences high frustration for how things are going amongst his followers might include:

  • engaging in an activity for self-renewal before addressing follower
  • self-examination of their role in the problem before addressing followers
  • apologizing for chastising followers and invite them to join him/her in finding solutions to the problem
  • recognizing that a problem that causes frustration is an opportunity to change and become better

Leaders who practice emotional intelligence when they get frustrated will keep their followers following!

Social media is more of a spectator sport when it comes to the ‘social’ piece. For example, in social media you watch how people respond to your posts and tweets but there is not the kind of interaction with others that can produce something new and useful. In real life, those with social intelligence can be successful in producing useful and impactful contributions over and over again in different situations. Emotional intelligence is a pre-requisite to social intelligence and is necessary but not sufficient for repeatable success in life. For example, Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence) worked with the Hay Group ( to integrate his emotional intelligence framework with Hay’s data on the behaviors of top-performing leaders at hundreds of corporation over the past two decades. Together they came up with the following 7 competencies for leaders with high social intelligence:

  • Empathy: understanding what motivates other people and being sensitive to the needs of others
  • Attunement: listening attentively to understand how others are feeling and the moods of others
  • Organizational awareness: appreciating the culture and values of the group or organization and understanding the unspoken norms of social networks
  • Influence: persuading others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interest as well as getting support from key people
  • Developing others: coaching and mentoring others with compassion and passion so that you are providing feedback that people find helpful for their professional development
  • Inspiration: articulating a compelling vision to foster a positive emotional tone and bring out the best in people
  • Teamwork: soliciting input from everyone on the team and encouraging cooperation

Just as IQ measures the degree of intellectual intelligence, I will use EQ to indicate the degree of emotional intelligence and SQ to indicate the degree of social intelligence. The bottom line message of this post is that if you find your emotions running away with you in your leadership position, then mind your EQ and SQ!

If your emotions are getting the best of you in your leadership position, then mind your EQ and SQ.

                                                   Valerie Patrick

If you would like to learn more about social intelligence can bring out the best in your knowledge workers, then contact Valerie Patrick at Fulcrum Connection LLC (412-742-9675 or Ask about the first-time client offer.