No sooner had Daniel Goleman’s theory of emotional intelligence come on the scene in the 1990s than we found ourselves applying it to the workplace, with new importance given to being aware and understanding the role of our emotions when relating to colleagues.
With the principles of emotional intelligence (EQ) now firmly entrenched in leadership concepts, another emergent trend is working its way into people development practice: spiritual intelligence (SQ).
“We’ve taken EQ as far as we can go, and it’s not enough for what we need,” says Danah Zohar, management guru and leading proponent of spiritual intelligence. “If you really want to motivate people and get them to give their best, you need to tap into what’s meaningful and valuable to them.”
Notions of spirituality are sweeping across popular culture these days, with reality TV shows such as Channel 4’s Spirituality Shopper and the BBC’s The Monastery featuring stressed-out citizens of the 21st century sampling an array of faiths or taking up the monastic life in a quest for inner calm and tranquillity.
Zohar describes SQ as what we use to develop our longing and capacity for meaning, vision and value in life. It’s about the role our beliefs and values play in the actions and decisions we take – and that includes work.
“There’s a growing leadership crisis in business,” says Zohar. “A lot of young people want more out of life than just money. To attract the brightest and best, young people are demanding more of a sense of purpose and meaning from their working life.”
Michael Rennie, director of global consultancy McKinsey’s mindsets and capabilities practice, agrees.
“If you look at what brings energy into a team, increasingly it’s about the idea that we are people, not machines. You do that through a combination of values and high purpose – spiritual intelligence, for lack of a better term – coupled with the right sort of interactions and learning.
“People are two to five times more productive in that kind of environment. That is what’s required in companies today – to be collaborative to succeed. The big thing to come out of this is for leaders to realise that meaning is the big motivating driver.”
There’s a definite overlap between SQ and EQ. In fact, the first principle of SQ, according to Zohar and co-author of Spiritual Intelligence and Spiritual Capital Ian Marshall, is self-awareness – a basic element of EQ. For leadership coach and management consultant Ron Alexander, SQ – or in his own terminology, “awakened” intelligence – takes EQ “one level higher”, enabling leaders to transform negative mindsets or emotions in their people to neutral thoughts, and from neutral to positive ones.
Other SQ principles identified by Zohar and Marshall are a sense of vocation – to “feel called upon to serve, to give something back” – humility, compassion, the positive use of adversity and the urge to ask fundamental questions that “get to the bottom” of things.
Zohar is especially keen to emphasise the principle of celebrating diversity – not to be politically correct, but to ensure the ‘spiritual’ in SQ is not misconstrued.
“Spiritual intelligence has nothing to do with religion,” she says. “I wouldn’t want it to get mixed up with a lot of fundamentalist things going on.”
Yet despite diversity being higher on the corporate agenda than ever before, faith-specific references are making an appearance where they were once non-existent. Best-selling author on management practice Ken Blanchard, for example, draws on the Bible to illustrate his own principles of people management.
Zohar says: “I’m okay with that as long as they don’t try to claim it for Christianity. The minute you try to claim exclusive access to spiritual intelligence because you are a Christian, it ceases to be spiritual intelligence.”
Roger Gill, research director at the Leadership Trust, has just finished writing a book on leadership which is due to be published next year. In it, he cites both Jesus and Mohammed as examples of transformational leaders.
“Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have included these kinds of figures,” says Gill. “There is an increasing awareness of the need for spirituality and helping leaders respond to that need. More is being written about it, and more research and emphasis is being given to it in learning and development.”
However, Gill echoes Zohar’s assertion that spirituality must transcend religion – and, ironically perhaps, he quotes another religious leader to make the point.
“The Dalai Lama says religion is about faith, a tradition with teachings or dogma and ritual prayer,” explains Gill. “He talks about spirituality, on the other hand, as qualities of the human spirit, and gives examples such as love, compassion, tolerance and a sense of responsibility.
“I think that one could argue, whether one is a believer or atheist and all stations in between, that one could be spiritual.”
Alexander draws heavily on Buddhism in his approach, but he describes it as ‘awakened’ intelligence precisely because of the religious connotations the word ‘spiritual’ holds for many people. Other practitioners, such as McKinsey’s Rennie, do the same.
“The term ‘spiritual’ comes with a lot of baggage for some people,” says Rennie. “We often talk about it as ‘meaning intelligence’ with clients, because it doesn’t have as much history.”
Fred Kofman, president and self-proclaimed “chief spiritual officer” of global consultancy Axialent, uses the term “meta” or “transcendent management” to describe his work on value-based leadership.
“When you’re in business, of course you want to make a profit, serve customers and grow the business, but the deeper question is why are you in business at all?” he says. “At the higher end of development, the driver is not to make more money, but because that’s how you express the infinite meaningfulness of who you are.”
It is esoteric stuff, far removed from the average daily grind. But just how much resonance does it all have with business?
“We work with very large, worldwide corporations that are finding the standard, old-school recipes don’t work anymore,” says Kofman, citing Microsoft, Citibank, Shell and General Motors among others.
It may be early days for spiritual intelligence, and the language of SQ is still new. But as Gillian Ince, training and resourcing manager for Claire’s Accessories, says, the philosophy behind it all has influenced progressive ideas of leadership for a number of years.
“You’re going to the core of a person, the inner self, which is what Neuro Linguistic Programming is about,” says Ince.
“We did Ken Blanchard’s organisational change programme Gung Ho, which is all about the values of your business, looking at its purpose,” she adds. “It’s all spiritual – I just don’t see the need to use that word because people can start raising their eyebrows. At the end of the day, it’s about the inner person.”
Jesus: the greatest leader of all time?
Listen to people management guru Ken Blanchard talk to a business audience about leadership, and his own sense of spirituality is obvious. Blanchard often draws on biblical examples – particularly the life of Jesus – to illustrate anything from the need to stay focused when setting targets and visions to his concept of ‘servant leadership’.
Traditional ideas of leadership have been based on oppression and the assertion of authority. But for leaders to really maximise the potential of their people, Blanchard says they must abandon this ‘self-serving’ style in favour of the ‘servant’ approach – an extension of the idea of ‘situational leadership’ where the manager inspires individuals to become independent.
“You must get your people feeling like they own the place,” says Blanchard. “We’re trying to break the mould – wake up and say, ‘there’s a different leadership model.'”
For Blanchard, Jesus is the ultimate embodiment of the principles and ideals of leadership he has developed since publishing his first popular management book The One-Minute Manager in 1982.
“I found that everything I ever did, Jesus had already taught,” Blanchard says. “He was very clear on goals, and did a lot of one-minute praising.”
The connection he sees between Jesus and leadership is so strong that he co-founded a non-profit, non-denominational Christian ministry to inspire people to “lead like Jesus”.
The Center for Faithwalk Leadership aims to see Jesus adopted as the role model of all leaders, and to draw non-Christians to Jesus through the positive effect of leading like him.
Emotional and spiritual tiers
If emotional intelligence (EQ) enabled us to move beyond IQ as a basis for leadership, then spiritual intelligence (SQ), allows us to go even further, says Danah Zohar, who has written two books on spiritual intelligence.
She likens the relationship be-tween the three types of intelligence to a tiered wedding cake, where SQ is the bottom layer, supporting EQ in the middle, while IQ is the smallest tier at the top.
“Emotional intelligence is about what we feel – trust and empathy, understanding our emotions and responding appropriately to others,” says Zohar. “It’s about learning to behave appropriately in the situations you find yourself in.
“We human beings don’t just want to adapt to situations we’re in, but to transform them. The way to do that, is through our deeper meaning, values and aspirations – our spiritual intelligence. EQ is about what I feel. SQ is about what I am. It’s the fundamental basis that enables you to use your IQ and EQ more effectively.”
Even the likes of EQ expert Daniel Goleman are starting to recognise the role of SQ as the next step on from EQ, says Zohar.
“The EQ people have started to see that if you really want to motivate people and transform them, you need to have a noble cause, and when you start talking about noble causes, you are in the realm of spiritual intelligence.”