Let’s Talk mQ: the Multiple Intelligences Required in Leadership

“The good leaders are the ones who are comfortable in their own skins. They understand what they are about — they understand their purpose in life and their strengths. They have a level of comfort with themselves that leads to a level of comfort with others.” – Dan Pink

Leadership is complex and it is clear that preferred styles and the need for different forms of leadership have changed over time. In our current VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environment we are being called to look deeply at the sort of leadership required for taking us forward into the unknown territory of exponential change that lies ahead.

Informed by the latest emerging neuroscience, and our burgeoning knowledge about the multiple brains (head, heart, gut, autonomic), along with new data on embodied cognition and interoceptive (inner) wisdom now available to us, we would like to propose the need formultiple forms of intelligence (mQ) in leadership. The science is clear, leaders have multiple intelligences they can draw on if they know how to access them:

IQ+EQ+HQ+SQx2 +GQ+BQ+PQx2 +AQ = Being a Whole Leader mQ


The foundation of IQ

Let’s start with the obvious – IQ – Intelligence Quotient

IQ is “an assessment of your ability to think and reason”, claimed by some to be “a measure of your intelligence” and is moderated for age, comparing you to others in your age group. We would debate that intelligence is so much more than this measure – and that IQ is not the same as intelligence in agreement with some other authors:

“Intelligence and IQ are not the same thing. Your IQ is a measurement (a number) of the ‘intelligence’ trait that each and everyone has to a greater or lesser degree in comparison with others.”

It is clear that there needs to be a degree of IQ to be a great leader – to know what you are doing in your field, to be able to weigh up evidence and stay ahead of the changes, which are coming thick and fast. It’s a basic foundation which we cannot do without – but it is not the sole measure or sole requirement for taking us into the future of work. For us, intelligence can be more wisely defined as “the ability to adapt and thrive in your environment” and this requires far more integrative intelligence-ing skills than mere IQ.

What about EQ?

“Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ in 1990” and it has been popularised by Daniel Goleman and others, so that it is now pretty well accepted that EQ is a core skill in leadership.

Andrea Ovans in Harvard Business Review described EQ as:

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions”

She goes so far as to say: “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence… My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership.”

In mBraining, we would go even further and say that whole heart intelligence (HQ) is more than just the emotional component and also includes relational affect (which may align to Social Intelligence – SQ1) and values (the three prime functions of the heart as outlined in Soosalu and Oka, 2012).

SQ – Social Intelligence or Spiritual Intelligence.

There are two SQs discussed in Intelligence literature.

SQ1: Social intelligence is the ability to understand, manage, and navigate complex social networks. It is also called ‘interpersonal intelligence.’ Goleman (2008) stated that “I’ve long argued that outstanding leadership requires a combination of self-mastery and social intelligence” and the paradigm shift in leadership from ‘knowledge is power’ to ‘relationship is power’ further confirms the need for social intelligence in today’s leaders.

SQ2: Spiritual intelligence is defined as “the adaptive use of spiritual information to facilitate everyday problem solving and goal attainment” (Emmons, 2000). Wigglesworth (2012) claims that “Spiritual intelligence is an essential component of both personal and professional development. With SQ we access the voice of our noblest self — our higher self — and let it drive our lives … We do the spiritual weightlifting to develop a deep inner self-awareness and compassion for the world around us”.

SQ2 is all about transformation, about bringing the human spirit alive and asking deep ‘why?’ questions: “The spiritualist has the power to question on a deeper level – who am I, what are my needs, what goals should I be pursuing, and what will really make me happy”.

Great leaders ask great questions and avoid actively pursuing things without consideration of appropriateness and consequences. Instead asking ‘is this of worth’? in prioritising where to invest sparse resources.

GQ – Gut Intelligence

This is another key Intelligence Quotient we believe is essential and that arises from the work of mBraining. Around the 3 Prime Functions of the Gut Brain this would include having:

  • A core sense of Identity and knowing who you are as a leader
  • Safety and self-preservation and the ability to keep yourself andothers safe
  • Mobilisation and the ability to motivate self and others to getthings done.
  • Ensuring gut intelligence is involved will enable optimal and integrated performance in leadership.

BQ – Body Intelligence – embodied cognition

A new field based on the work of authors and researchers such as Antonio Damasio (The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness 2010) and Bud Craig (How Do You Feel?: An Interoceptive Moment with Your Neurobiological Self) explores the wisdom held within the body and in particular within the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).

Current findings are showing that the ANS learns, has memory, does complex processing and evidences higher-order conditioning. We’ll come back to this as an intelligence in its own right below.

Experience over time, especially when linked with strong emotion, can lead to “feelings of knowing” in the body itself which contributes to deep gut and body feeling or intuition, which is then processed in the insular cortex in the head-brain.

Leaders can make valuable use of this knowing to inform wise decision making, especially in VUCA times, when not everything is known or knowable in the environment in which they are working.


PQ Positive Quotient or Physical Quotient

PQ1 – Positive Intelligence is based on Shirzad Chamine’s work and is “the percentage of time your mind is serving you as opposed to sabotaging you. Your PQ indicates how much mastery you have over your own mind”.

It is easy to make links as to how this would be valuable to leaders and correlates well with the work on learned optimism (from Positive Psychology) and meta cognition (thinking about thinking) that can assist leaders to wisely think through what they really know and ensure they are not self sabotaging through negative and unresourceful thinking patterns.

PQ2 – Physical Intelligence

PQ2 is a less familiar term, yet linked to health and wellbeing as a core skill in leadership. With stress and burnout at record levels, the need to look after ourselves physically is vital to sustainability as a leader. Wigglesworth (2012) defines PQ as the awareness of body and the skilful use of our bodies in practice.

She states that “a simple example of poor PQ is allowing yourself to be continually sleep-deprived. Mental, emotional, and spiritual functioning diminishes along with stamina and health”. PQ2 is essential , then for all leaders yet we suggest is an area often neglected in the busy-ness of everyday. And obviously PQ2 has strong links to BQ.


AQ – Autonomic Intelligence

Finally, though by no means of any less importance is Autonomic Intelligence. We are only just beginning to understand the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and its impact on control, internal communication, stabilisation and direction of attention. From the literature to date it is likely that a lack of autonomic intelligence will result in leaders being unable to stabilise themselves over time and across contexts.

Dr. Stephen Porges, in his work on Polyvagal Theory says that our ANS provides what he calls ‘Neuroception’ or a 6th sense – an ability to monitor the environment for subtle safety and energy cues.


What does this all mean for Leadership?

Not only is the world getting more complex, but so is what we know about us as humans. Expectations are rising. For example in business Pink says:

“Companies have to offer significance above and beyond product value” and that there is a “premium on aesthetic, emotional, and even spiritual aspects of goods and services”

We believe this opens up a valuable role for coaches (especially those trained in using their multiple brains) in leadership as leaders embrace the need to be even more self aware of their multiple intelligences.


As individuals and within companies, leaders are searching for deeper meaning, with many looking for different ways to lead and serve.

We believe that this requires deep guided self reflection and interoception across all of the brains – preferably with the support of someone who understands the wide range of Intelligence Quotients (mQ), to give a holistic, authentic perspective of themselves as an exquisite leader.

Without a deep integration of all of the intelligences, it is unlikely leaders will achieve their best and highest selves, and will be unable to offer the best possible service.

To lead with wisdom and to truly bring the human spirit alive in themselves, their organisations and in those they serve, leaders need to embrace all their multiple intelligences in a generative and scientifically guided way.



Emmons, RA, (2000). Spirituality and intelligence: Problems and prospects. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10(1), 57-64

Soosalu, G and Oka, M (2012) mBraining: Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff, Create Space

Wigglesworth, C (2012) Spiritual Intelligence: Living as Your Higher Selfh”ps://www.huffingtonpost.com/cindy-wigglesworth/spiritual-intelligence_b_1752145.html

This arBcle was first published in the Worldwide Coaching Magazine November/December ediBon 2017

By Suzanne Henwood and Grant Soosalu

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