Leading through complexity with 7Qs

Many of the most talented managers, potential leaders and leaders are quite ill-equipped to meet the challenges at present and navigate through today’s complexity.

Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, commenting on CEO success “The average CEO tenure is now 4½ years; the average lifetime of a publicly traded company is now 17 years. The qualities leaders possessed in the past may not be applicable to the future. One of the most important character traits of a leader today is COURAGE. I work on a lot of sustainable development goals and we are working on poverty alleviation, sustainable farming or climate change and I often find myself on panels with highly specialized people – who are sometimes also highly critical people. Sometimes it’s difficult as the CEO to be that knowledgeable but you have to have the courage to participate.”

Based on extensive global research involving many thousands of organisations and three governments carried out by the authors of the book called Leadership Intelligences they conclude that 5 separate intelligences (5Qs) underpin the outstanding leader.

The 5Qs together provides every aspect of leadership:

  • Cognitive Intelligence (IQ) is a leader’s ability to acquire knowledge, reflecting their deductive/rationalistic abilities and bring together contrasting information in order to emerge with a compelling argument to convince others.
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a leader’s ability to understand and manage both their own emotions, and those of others.
  • Political Intelligence (PQ) is a leader’s ability to navigate a way forward through diverse stakeholders’ agendas while ensuring continued engagement with critical players. Politics is often viewed as a negative force. We talk about office politics as toxic to a culture. But in its true meaning, politics is the process by which different, often competing, interests are reconciled to achieve a positive change. So politics can be constructive.
  • Resilience Quotient (RQ) reflects the capacity of a leader to emotionally sustain high performance under continued pressure and adversity (It includes the courage and strength of character to participate referred to by Polman above); and
  • Moral Intelligence (MQ) is a leader’s ability to understand their own value system and draw on this to determine the moral boundaries of individuals, teams and of the organization.

The 5Qs vary in implementation across different sectors, different organizations and change according to seniority and in line with the proportion of strategic and operational focus of the leadership operation.

For example, IQ appears necessary at every level. PQ appears to increase as you rise through the organisation hierarchy. Leaders draw most on their EQ at lower management and general management but less at top and board level. Although PQ is EQ with agenda. High-performing strategic leaders possess the ability navigate between IQ and PQ to analyse and skilfully manage conflicting agendas. In government and lobbying especially high degree of PQ and EQ allows to best understand the interests and reactions of all the parties involved.

Also looking at this more closely, it could be said that IQ, EQ and PQ are ‘value free’ intelligences. A leader with high cognitive, emotional and political quotients can apply these for good or bad purposes. Moral intelligence, in contrast, is by definition ‘value led’ and provides a checking function or conscience in decision-making.

I personally like the framework given by the 5Qs, helps leaders to become more self-aware in their leadership operation. However, I would add two more quotients to this list. Change Intelligence (CI) to expand their leadership capacity to be, think and lead in a transformational way alias in constant change and Agility Quotient (AQ) is the ability to respond quickly to the need of the people and market.

  • One a scale 1-to-10 where do you think you are in all of the 7 intelligences (1 poorly demonstrated, 10 excellently well demonstrated)?
  • In order to succeed as a top leader where do you need to focus and pay more attention in order to sharpen the selected area(s)?

Source: Leadership Intelligence: The 5Qs for Thriving as a Leader by Andrew Kakabadse & Ali Qassim Jawad




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