What makes a great leader? Some say it is the ability to make tough decisions. Others say great leadership is the ability to command and control or to inspire loyalty. However, great leadership depends primarily on vision–not just any type of vision, but one that we can appreciate intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
A vision is something we reach for, something we aspire to, something that is the glue of our enterprise, the driving force, the vitality within it. When we are touched by a vision, our deepest values come into play and we have a sense of abiding purpose to our enterprise. In our world today, the thing we are most lacking is leaders who can convey true vision.
One reason that visionary leadership is in short supply today is the value our society places on one particular kind of capital–material capital. Too often the worth or value of an enterprise is judged by how much money it earns. This obsession with material gain has led to short-term thinking and the narrow pursuit of self-interest. It is true that any kind of enterprise we want to engage in requires some kind of financial wealth if it is to succeed in the short term. But for leadership to inspire long-term, sustainable enterprises, it needs to pursue two other forms of capital as well: social and spiritual. These three types of capital resemble the layers in a wedding cake. Material capital is the top layer, social capital lies in the middle, and spiritual capital rests on the bottom, supporting all three.
According to political economist Francis Fukuyama, who wrote Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Wealth, social capital can be measured by the amount of trust in a society, empathy people feel for each other, and commitment to the health of the community. The health of the community, he says, can be measured by criteria such as the rate of crime, divorce, illiteracy, and litigation.
A New Paradigm of Intelligence
Even more fundamentally, spiritual capital reflects what an individual or an organization exists for, believes in, aspires to, and takes responsibility for. Our spiritual capital includes our moral capital. Spiritual capital is a new paradigm that requires that we radically change our mind-set about the philosophical foundations and practices of leadership. This is not about religion or spiritual practices. Rather, this is about the power a leader to achieve record results by inspiring people’s deepest meanings, values, and purposes.
Leaders build all three forms of capital–material, social, and spiritual–by using their own intelligence. But this is not just about IQ. This includes the intelligence of the mind, the heart, and the spirit, which correlate to the three types of capital:
- IQ, or intelligence quotient, was discovered in the early 20th century and is tested using the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales. It refers to our rational, logical, rule-bound, problem-solving intelligence. It is supposed to make us bright or dim. It is also a style of rational, goal-oriented thinking. All of us use some IQ, or we wouldn’t be functional.
- EQ refers to our emotional intelligence quotient. In the mid-1990s, in Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman articulated the kind of intelligence that our heart, or emotions, have. EQ is manifested in trust, empathy, self-awareness, and self-control, and in the ability to respond appropriately to the emotions of others. It’s a sense of where people are coming from; for example, if a boss or colleague seems to have had a fight at home before coming into the office that morning, it’s not the best time to ask for a pay raise or put a new idea across.
- SQ, our spiritual intelligence quotient, underpins IQ and EQ. Spiritual intelligence is an ability to access higher meanings, values, abiding purposes, and unconscious aspects of the self and to embed these meanings, values, and purposes in living a richer and more creative life. Signs of high SQ include an ability to think out of the box, humility, and an access to energies that come from something beyond the ego, beyond just me and my day-to-day concerns. SQ is the ultimate intelligence of the visionary leader. It was the intelligence that guided men and women like Churchill, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa. The secret of their leadership was their ability to inspire people, to give them a sense of something worth struggling for.
Table 1 summarizes the three types of intelligence.