Can Exceptional People Skills Help Create Better Leaders?

Guest blogger Ruary Fangman suggests that exceptional interpersonal communication may play a crucial role in making the leaders of tomorrow more effective.

With Jonathan Bradshaw taking his annual break from delivering the weekly ‘Meetology® Minute’ vlogs, we are delighted to share the fourth post from our guest blogger Ruari Fangman. We met Ruari through our partnership with the University of the West of England from where, under the tutorship of our lead psychologist (and Senior Lecturer at UWE) Dr Paul Redford, Ruari has recently graduated with a Msc in Occupational Psychology. You can find more our about what Ruari’s has been up to post-graduation here: www.linkedin.com/in/ruari-fangman-419090110

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Leadership is an important skill that affects the performance of most businesses / organisations and, as you can imagine when you work in the psychology of people skills as the Meetology® Lab does, a key question to explore is what exactly is the effect of exceptional people skills on leadership ability? It’s a crucial question and made more interesting when we consider that until a decade ago only one in twenty of the top U.S business schools where reported to be offering any training on social competencies (U.S News and World Report’s 2007 top business school). Perhaps improving leaders’ interpersonal skills is potentially a largely untapped resource?

Researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel conducted a study (1) in which they examined the links between leaders’ social skills, positive work relationships and overall organisational health (as defined by the fiscal reports) of local government authorities. The research examined 263 of the country’s LGAs by measuring the leaders’ social skills through a questionnaire and data from financial statements as a measure of overall organisational health.

The results of the study indicated that both the leaders’ social skills and the fiscal state of the organisations were positively related to positive work relationships indicating that leaders who have good interpersonal skills were having a positive impact on the staff that work with them. As the researchers point out – “The quality of individuals’ experience regarding relationships in the workplace is vital, as the connective tissues between people at work it may be life-giving or life-depleting”. This, coupled with the researchers’ second findings, that positive work relationships are positively correlated with the fiscal health of the organisations, leads us to a fairly simple lesson that the interpersonal skills of leaders will impact on the experience of their staff and consequently the overall health of the organization.

A broader study (1) by researchers at Claremont Graduate University examined a number of studies that focused on the effect that people skills have on leadership development. The researchers looked at a wide range of literature, from Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to win friends and influence people” to much more recent scientific studies. In their paper they have used Emotional Intelligence as a synonym for interpersonal people skills and reviewed a variety of leadership development programs for their effectiveness. They found significant amounts of research suggesting that leaders who possess better people skills are more effective leaders, have a positive effect on their employees in terms of increased job satisfaction, and also in increasing extra-role behaviours. It should therefore, be of no surprise that improving interpersonal skills within managers could be an effective way of improving productivity within an organisation.

1: References and further reading can be found in the references tab.

References and further reading

Beenen, G. & Pichler, S. 2016, “A discussion forum on managerial interpersonal skills”, Journal of Management Development, vol. 35, no. 5, pp. 706-716.

Carmeli, A. & Vinarski-Peretz, H. 2010, “Linking Leader Social Skills and Organisational Health to Positive Work Relationships in Local Governments”, Local Government Studies, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 151-169.

Riggio, R. E., & Reichard, R. J. (2008). The emotional and social intelligences of effective leadership: An emotional and social skill approach. Journal Of Managerial Psychology, 23(2), 169-185. doi:10.1108/02683940810850808

Riggio, R.E. & Lee, J. 2007, “Emotional and interpersonal competencies and leader development”, Human Resource Management Review, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 418-426.

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2017-09-13T10:42:50+00:00

About the Author:

Jonathan Bradshaw presents and trains internationally on the fascinating psychology powering exceptional interpersonal communication. He is Founder of the Meetology® Lab and leads the company’s team of behavioral psychologists in collating and sharing cutting-edge research on exceptional people skills. As an experienced and engaging keynote speaker Jon has presented at conferences and business events in over 30 countries and is an award-winning columnist and blogger. Learn more about him speaking at your next event via www.meetology.com or connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.