Spiritual Intelligence – Traits that contribute to thriving leadership – Part 3

Previously I shared some definitions of spiritual intelligence and how research has discovered the business benefits when people have a higher propensity for spiritual intelligence. So, you might be wondering what on earth does spiritual intelligence look like in action? What are the traits I can use that contribute to thriving leadership and engaged employees (or volunteers, or members)? Can spiritual Intelligence really contribute to my own wellbeing and my business and team thriving?

Spiritual Intelligence skills span from inner to outer awareness to big picture awareness and presence. I’ll only tackle a shortlist here, but it begins with some of the following.

Being brave enough to cultivate self-awareness

I cannot tell you how many workplaces and people I have come across who run from examining their internal condition and their personal worldviews. But leading is about inspiring and motivating people to a bigger purpose. Without enough self awareness a person will have limited effectiveness in understanding others. Self-awareness in healthy leaders plays out with some of the following characteristic:

  • Humility – knowing we don’t have all the answers; we are not nor do we need to be the smartest person in the room
  • Knowing the limits of our own perspective; being willing to let go of locked in mindsets and see the value of looking through new lenses
  • Understanding personal worldviews and being aware of others worldviews
  • Having intentionally chosen values and living them
  • Standing up for values and ethics
  • Feeling called to serve and to give back to the team and a bigger purpose
  • Having a sense of purpose in the world in addition to and beyond profit
  • Knowing the difference between ego and higher self – and increasingly to acting from the higher self

These are just a few examples of high-level leadership. It’s not just for the C-suite or those with fancy titles. And it’s not only for the workplace either. You can access this leadership style and can help people thrive from wherever you are. Yes, some of it seems counter to the management styles promoted over decades. Sadly, it is still common to see top-down, power and control management today. But that style does not engender trust, safety, creativity or innovation needed for progress.

It’s about the people

If you are a self-aware leader, you are grounded enough and have the courage and competence to be cheerleaders for team members. You exhibit genuine interest and compassion for people. You give full credit to team members for work well-done.

Your style will resonate with others so you can inspire a vision that participants can embrace. You can use wisdom and values to assemble the right people with the right skills to deliver the work – and then – guess what? You let go.

What? Leaders let go?

Wait, don’t get me wrong. Letting go does not mean abandoning ship, or abdicating responsibility or pretending to be helpless.

Letting go means empowering others to use their gifts to contribute to success so they can feel enlivened that they are making a significant contribution. When leaders try to control too much, they will suffocate the voices and talents of the people they need to deliver on the mission (Zander 2000, p. 67).

I like how Otto Scharmer describes setting a vision and letting go: “So part of the art of convening [team members] is to loosen your own grip on the idea— without necessarily giving it up. You lead by painting a picture that is intentionally incomplete; you make a few strokes; and you leave lots of blank space that others can add to and participate in (Scharmer 2009).

So self-awareness and empowering others is interconnected.  That is another SQ trait – understanding how everything we do is interconnected and has an impact. Do we want to create ripples that support and move people or create waves that drown them? Understanding that will help you contribute to thriving leadership. Click To Tweet

It has been observed that people with a spiritual bend of mind have a better work life balance. These leaders can visualize a new reality, take risks, and inspire and transform people and situations(Tapas and Aanand 2016)

Are you still wondering why bother?

Spiritual Intelligence is a foundation for personal empowerment and leadership of others, especially during times of disruption. Click To Tweet In unique crises, people become demotivated by current systems and look for meaning and purpose of life. In today’s ever-changing world the value of Spiritual Intelligence is increasing. Mere IQ and EQ is inadequate. SQ can be that skills set that creates ripples for adapting and thriving.

What next?

I only touched on a few themes of Spiritual Intelligence here. One author, Cindy Wigglesworth has defined 21 skills of spiritual intelligence that explore our inner and outer dimensions and our connection to spirit or a higher dimension (Wigglesworth 2012). If you are curious to explore these above ideas and wonder if it can contribute to thriving leadership, I offer an SQ assessment and debrief and you may connect with me to learn more. I’d love to support you in this learning journey.

Scharmer, Claus Otto. 2009. Theory U Leading from the Future as It Emerges: The Social Technology of Presencing. 1st ed. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Tapas, Poornima, and Dr. Shubhra Aanand. 2016. “Leadership Model Based on Spiritual Intelligence -A Conceptual Framework.” Indian Journal of Applied Research 6:679–81.

Wigglesworth, Cindy. 2012. SQ21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence. Cork: BookBaby.

Zander, Rosamund Stone. 2000. The Art of Possibility. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.


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