Traditionally, those who are ‘smart’ (in the intellectual, IQ sense) are highly valued and more likely to be hired and progress quickly. Qualifications like a first-class degree from Cambridge or studying at the ‘Grandes écoles’ in Europe have been passports to the most prestigious jobs and companies. They continue to open doors and have a certain weight, a great deal in some circles.
Over the past few decades, other less measurable and less tangible abilities have grown in importance, challenging the dominance of IQ. Emotional Intelligence, or ‘EQ’, is now commonly recognised as an essential leadership skill. The ability to be aware of one’s own emotions and that of others and to manage them effectively is increasingly a pre-requisite to advancement.
But I would argue that for individuals and organisations to thrive in today’s rapidly changing world, we need something more. Even more so if we’re in a leadership position of any kind. This ‘something more’ involves the capacity to tap into the very essence of what makes us human. It’s the capacity to use all the resources available to us, not only our intellect. I like to call this TOTAL
INTELLIGENCE, TQ for short. Yes, it is about emotions but it’s also about much more. It gives us access to new information and data points so we can make better choices. TQ is the capacity to connect all aspects of our intelligence we have and to make sense of the world.
Most importantly, TQ involves the intelligence that comes from our body. The human body in its healthiest and most natural state puts out multiple antennae to the world around it. It’s constantly picking up signals, visible or invisible and assessing what it needs to do next. We go outside into the cold and our bodies adjusts accordingly. We smell food and our bodies produce saliva to get us ready to eat and digest. A mother hears her baby crying and her body produces more milk.
But there’s a problem. We’ve become so stimulated by the external environment that we’ve stopped listening to our bodies. Our bodies are us, our bodies are also our histories, yet we treat them as if they were disconnected from who we are. Mark Walsh, in his recent book Embodiment, calls this ‘the disembodied mess that we’re in”. He goes on to say “People buy crap that they don’t need, and do shit that hurts to fill a void…..we are cut off from ourselves, others and the planet; as a result we hurt all three”.
Why is TQ important?
The body enables us to make good choices, such as to eat when hungry and to stop when full. It enables us to notice what’s really bothering a colleague even if they say something different, or to pick up the subtle signal that the customer’s excited about our offering, or to spot the genius idea amongst the multiple options. It helps us to really know that working crazy hours with no breaks dulls our creativity and judgement. If we’re disconnected from our bodies, we lose the ability to make choices that serve us, instead submitting to unhealthy and unhelpful patterns of behaviour like overeating, overworking and blaming.
And the link to leadership?
Back to leadership. By re-connecting with our body, we give ourselves a shortcut for creating trusting relationships and engaged teams. We create environments where people are not afraid or stuck but adaptable to change and highly innovative. Patsy Rodenburg calls this ability to connect with our body ‘Presence’. If we can notice and then, if necessary, change, the way we breathe, how we hold and move our body, where our eyes are focusing and how we use our voice, we become more present and connected to what and who is around us. For me TOTAL INTELLIGENCE is this and more. It’s also learning to trust and interpret our gut feel and instincts. It’s learning to shift our energy so that we can connect better with our colleagues. It’s listening long enough and carefully enough to our bodies to surface the real issue, making what’s unconscious conscious, building a deep sense of knowing.
None of this is easy, but with ongoing practice and support, we can re-connect with and use our natural antennae. We can tap into the full potential of our brains and bodies and in the process, we become more effective leaders and human beings.
A big thank you to Sarah for allowing us to share her blog.