We hear a lot these days about the importance of social intelligence—loosely defined as "the ability to act wisely in human relations." In business this includes working smartly with team members and customers.
It's a world apart from academic acumen or conventional IQ which, studies show, are poor predictors of success—professional or personal.
I'm sure you know some very bright folks—maybe off-the-charts brilliant—who are dumb as rocks when it comes to dealing with people. Perhaps they have trouble tolerating contrary viewpoints. Or they're ineffective in the persuasive arts. Or they can't communicate without insulting someone. Needless to say, they can be problematic team members. Like young kids who have trouble playing with others.
In my rock & roll days I observed—and sometimes performed with—uber-talented musicians who were clueless about "playing with others." Some individuals managed to survive because of their technical (musical) genius. But bands had a tough time staying together when one or more members were socially obtuse.
I can’t help but imagine how differently the history of rock might have unfolded if John Lennon’s SQ (social intelligence) matched his IQ. He could have brushed off the many perceived slights he interpreted from Paul McCartney (and others) and listened to dissenting views about hiring the unscrupulous Allen Klein to manage the Beatles. The band could have had a longer run, exposing us to many more of their wildly innovative songs and albums.
What if Neil Young and Steven Stills could have put aside their mutual jealousy and refrained from actual fist fights (we’re setting a low bar here) when Buffalo Springfield was shaping up as the top songwriting band in the US, only to splinter apart at their creative peak?
What if Glenn Frey could have worked more collaboratively with his Eagles partners and limited the turmoil and tyranny that drove the best musicians out of the band?
What if Sting could have managed his ego, ended his feud with drummer Stewart Copeland, and continued to front the artistic/commercial juggernaut that was The Police?
A couple of other thoughts…
One way that socially challenged individuals draw attention to their condition is their constant and contemptuous use of the term “politics” to describe the simple art of working with others. Having to gain buy-in for their ideas is something they feel is an unwarranted burden on their freedom.
In previous posts (like here) I've pointed out that creative conflict (or task conflict) between team members in business or band mates in rock & roll is a wonderful thing. But personal conflict (or relationship conflict) is a different animal. I witnessed this first-hand in the sunset days of Cream as I saw Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker barely speak to each other on their last tour, leaving Eric Clapton to play mediator (not his primary or preferred talent).
Much of the thinking on social intelligence has evolved from the work of psychologist Howard Gardner at the Harvard School of Education on “multiple intelligences,” including interpersonal intelligence. As he describes it: “Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand other people: what motivates them; how they work; how to work cooperatively with them.”
Psychologist Daniel Goleman took it a step further with his best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, which put the subject on the map for educators, psychologists, and business leaders to endlessly debate.