Who are your spiritual heroes — those people you would think of as exemplary human beings? And what characteristics do you admire in them? When I ask people these questions, they cite similar characteristics time and again. We tend to admire people who have high integrity and are courageous, loving, calm, visionary, selfless, inspiring, and making a difference. Think about this for yourself. Make your own list of those you consider to be especially noble, and why. This is a great starting point for becoming an exemplar yourself. I have found that the great majority of people want to live as their noblest self. And achieving this requires understanding and developing multiple “intelligences,” including spiritual intelligence.
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.
Personal and spiritual growth can no longer be viewed as a private journey we undertake in a different sphere of life than our professional endeavors. There is, in my experience, an undeniable connection between the personal and the professional, between the inner life of the self and the outer world of effectiveness and impact. In other words, your personal development changes you. And who you are ultimately determines how you lead.
We are all leaders and role models regardless of our jobs. We are leaders to our children, to our coworkers, and to everyone we interact with. Deep, authentic leadership requires that we lead ourselves first. We do the spiritual weightlifting to develop a deep inner self-awareness and compassion for the world around us. And we put in the effort required to make a difference in the world. We build the multiple intelligences we need: cognitive or mental intelligence (IQ) and the related technical skills of our craft; emotional intelligence (EQ), or good interpersonal skills; physical intelligence (PQ), or good body management; and spiritual intelligence (SQ).
Most people are familiar with the term IQ, which is our classical mental intelligence (mathematical and verbal). And more and more have heard of EQ or emotional intelligence, thanks to the pioneering work of Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis. PQ may not be a familiar term, but it is a foundational skill we all practice every day. Put very simply, when we don’t take care of our bodies, everything else suffers. I define PQ as “body awareness and skillful use.” 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.
The least familiar of these four intelligences is SQ, but I believe we may come to find that it is the most critical as we navigate the choppy waters of our current times. It builds on EQ and takes us to the next level.
I define spiritual intelligence (SQ) as: The ability to behave with wisdom and compassion, while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of the situation. I have researched 21 measurable “skills” or “competencies” that are components of this ability. These include things like “awareness of one’s own worldview,” “complexity of inner thought,” “awareness of interconnectedness of life,” “keeping your Higher Self in charge,” and “being a wise and effective change agent.” Unlike many spiritual teachings, which can tend to seem vague or mysterious, these tangible skills can be learned through practice and developed through clearly-defined levels.
Some people argue that spirituality is innate to each one of us — something we already are, not something we develop. And I agree. We are all born as spiritual beings. But just as a child with musical ability will never be highly “musically intelligent” if she does not learn music theory and practice playing an instrument, so it is with spiritual intelligence. We must understand the basics of “spiritual theory” and practice the skills to become spiritually intelligent.
The 21 skills of SQ are not new. In fact, they are as old as the spiritual impulse in human consciousness. I arrived at this skills-based model by stepping back from the particular religious or philosophical belief systems and considering the traits that are common to spiritual exemplars yet “a step beyond” EQ or IQ.
I feel that many of us, especially leaders in organizations, have been held back by the lack of a safe, diversity-friendly way to address the skills we need to develop. We need a skills-based language to help us tap the innate drive to nobility in ourselves and then share the benefits of this growth in our workplaces and in society.
SQ development boils down to this: We move from immature ego-driven behaviors to more mature higher self-driven behaviors. How do we do that? We develop the ability to hear the voice of our higher self, to understand and transcend the voice of our ego, and to be guided by deep wisdom and compassion. IQ and EQ support us as we develop the skillful means to deploy our noblest intention. The ego matures and nuanced forms of more effective leadership develop. With more SQ comes less drama and more impact.
Here’s one quick tip you can practice right away: Learn to be quiet. In the stillness you can observe deeply. Notice when your body and mind are agitated. Hear the voice of your ego and its fears. Love your ego — it is valuable. But know that it is also a drama queen. It needs guidance and balance. Hold your noble heroes in mind and ask your higher self for guidance. What is the wise and compassionate action to take today in this situation? What is in the highest and best interest of all players — including me, my co-workers, friends, family, company, society, and the planet? From this quiet place, you can act with SQ.
Spiritual intelligence is critical for personal growth and authentic leadership. The community, family, global and business leaders of the future will be those who are quickest to recognize this fact and begin to measure and cultivate the skills of spiritual intelligence in themselves and their organizations.
Author, Leadership Coach and Corporate Consultan