If we dial the clock back a few decades, it was not uncommon that the predominant criteria organizations used to identify potential leaders was a high IQ. It was common belief that a person with cognitive intelligence would make good decisions and lead the organization to success.
Due to this focus on cognitive intelligence, business schools have taught that good decisions making is about assembling all of the relevant data, analyzing the data and then using logical reasoning to come up with the best plan of action. It’s all about how to use your head. But while brain smarts are important, there are two other types of intelligence that makes a leader effective.
Recognizing the importance of emotional intelligence
Notwithstanding all of the emphasis on IQ, I think most people can recall encountering an individual in a leadership position who was a brilliant thinker but had great difficulty understanding how to connect with people. These leaders struggle when their team members are unable to commit to a decision, particularly when they see it as the obvious course of action.
In the late 20th century, many authors introduced the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) into the leadership forum. We learned that an individual with a high IQ could influence others by developing an understanding of how to connect with people on an emotional level vs. just using logical reasoning. A case was made that great leaders need to work with both their head and their heart.
In 2002, Daniel Kahneman, a Princeton University psychologist, won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. His research demonstrated that human beings make decisions first for emotional reasons and then secondly for rational reasons. His ground-breaking research solidified our notion that both head and heart are critical components in the skill set of an effective leader.
The third factor of leadership intelligence: Character quotient
What is now becoming apparent is that there is a third factor equally as important as the first two. The third factor is CQ – character quotient.
Character quotient represents the strength of your character. While your brain may be valuable to someone else (i.e. an employer), your beliefs only hold value to you. Character quotient raises the question of what sum you would command to compromise your beliefs. A person with a high CQ would be unlikely to compromise their beliefs based on temptations such as money or a promotion. This integrity makes them a great asset to your organization.
When identifying people that will drive long-term success and significance, the elements needed to achieve this are:
- A strong mind (high IQ);
- A strong ability to influence people on an emotional level (high EQ)
- A strong positive character (high CQ)
Why is character so important when it comes to effective leadership?
Let’s look at the implications of scenarios involving leaders who don’t have all three key elements:
1. Limited influence: When the leader is smart and has positive character but lacks the ability to fully understand emotional intelligence and its impact on relationships, they may be limited in their ability to influence others in key situations. Not ideal – results may be good vs. great.
2. Poor business-based decision making skills: When the leader has strong emotional intelligence abilities and a positive character but lacks a high level of intellect, they may find themselves unable to identify or create the best decision in a particular situation. Again, not ideal – results may be good vs. great.
3. Misaligned values: When the leader has a high IQ and a high EQ (they are clever and have the ability to exert tremendous influence) but has serious character flaws that produce nefarious intentions, the organization and/or people they’re leading could be in big trouble. Rather than getting good vs. great, you can wind up with a disaster!
Identifying a leader with positive character traits
It goes without saying that we all want the people we depend on to have a good character. However, organizations are often limited to relying on poor processes or no process at all for evaluating character. Often, the assessment of an individual’s character is based on intuition and what we know about the person’s track record.
In order to build and maintain high-performing cultures, organizations must embrace a more disciplined approach to assessing character and must embed it into the organization’s cultural norms. Tools and processes are now emerging that can help. For example, behavioral screening tools can be used as part of the candidate interview process. There is a psychometric assessment called MERIT Profile™ that measures 10 character related competencies. As well, processes are being introduced in to organizations to hold employees accountable for both what they accomplish and how they accomplished it. The how part is connected to organizational values that are closely linked with positive character traits (e.g. respect for authors, acting with integrity). , Multirater assessments are one simple way to gauge this kind of accountability.
When it comes to leadership intelligence, character matters
The first step is to recognize the importance of character and its impact on behavior and decision making. Once this happens, character can be emphasized as part of a philosophy of building a culture that emphasizes CQ as much as IQ and EQ. By embedding positive principles into organizational culture, an organization can trust their leadership at all levels which will increase their effectiveness and overall performance.
Your turn: How do you identify leadership intelligence within your organization?