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Social Intelligence: An Essential Skill of New Paradigm Leadership

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

By Workplace Peace Institute

Reimagining organizations by devising an innovative model that encourages productive, fulfilled, and engaged employees

Dignity in the workplace is our ability to experience our worth and value as contributors to the organization. Research conducted by Workplace Peace Institute found that a core requirement of experiencing dignity in the workplace is having one’s voice genuinely heard and the experience of having one’s authentic self fully embraced and honored. Cultivating dignity in the workplace requires that leaders are proficient in four core leadership intelligences: social intelligence, emotional intelligence, dignity intelligence, and cultural intelligence. This article focuses specifically on social intelligence.

Social intelligence is the capacity to proficiently understand human behavior and inspire positive change in others. It is the ability to know oneself and to know others by leveraging learnings from previous successes and failures. Leaders with high social intelligence are highly effective communicators who have proficient active listening skills. They understand human emotions and welcome them as a core aspect of the human condition. They are aware of social norms and understand the impact their own behavior has on others. Highly socially intelligent leaders inspire confidence and trust.

At its core, social intelligence is about knowing people — to have a foundational understanding of human behavior and to be able to act on that knowledge in such a way that produces the intended positive result. The modern understanding of social intelligence is derived from the work of American psychologist Edward Thorndike who defined social intelligence as:

“the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls – to act wisely in human relations.”

British-Canadian psychologist Phillip Vernon provided a more extensive definition, describing social intelligence as,

“the ability to get along with people in general, social technique or ease in society, knowledge of social matters, susceptibility to stimuli from other members of a group, as well as insight into the temporary moods or underlying personality traits of strangers.”

At Workplace Peace Institute, we are deeply committed to supporting organizations in their transformation from Newtonian business models that are shaped by top-down, command and control approaches to leadership and decision-making to Quantum business models that are grounded in relational practices that intentionally source and leverage the wisdom, expertise, and knowledge from across the organization. Quantum organizations replace hierarchical decision-making with collaborative decision-making processes. To make this transformation, leaders must have high social intelligence.

Fostering Social Intelligence in the Workplace

In a Quantum organization, the ability to build relationships grounded in dignity is not a nice-to-have skill, it is an essential skill. New paradigm leaders inspire others by continuously creating positive connections in the workplace. This means leaders have a foundational understanding of neuroscience and can apply this understanding in how they manage relationships among their teams.

New paradigm leaders understand the various conflict styles of their team members and utilize this knowledge to build effective problem-solving workshops and/or committees. They have strong conflict engagement skills and can use conflict as a mechanism for improving relationships and business outcomes. Social intelligence skills are not inherent to the human condition, but they can be learned. Too often these skills are not taught in traditional leadership programs, which is why Workplace Peace Institute created the WPI Leadership Academy.

Workplace Peace Institute Leadership Academy provides leaders with the knowledge of human behavior, communication skills, and conflict resolution competencies to create highly engaged workplaces where dignity is consistently honored. If you are ready to reimagine your workplace, contact Workplace Peace Institute today for a complimentary consultation.


Workplace Peace Institute is an organizational systems design and research firm that brings a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to organizational development. We support small to mid-sized businesses in optimizing employee engagement, maximizing organizational productivity, and improving profitability by infusing human security and dignity as foundational attributes of their business model.


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