6 Q Leadership

Excerpt from “The ROI on People- The 7 Vectors of Research
Robert W. Eichenger and Michael Lombardo

According to Day and Lord (1986), differences in the quality of executive leadership explain as much as 45 percent of an organization’s performance. Hunter and Schmidt (1990) suggest that it might be 48% for those executives who rank one standard deviation above average. Zenger and Folkman (2002) report that the top 10% of leaders produce five times as much net profit as the bottom 10 %, and twice as much as average leaders.

What does this enlightened leader look like? That debate has been going on since the invention of the printing press, and prior to that, since the spoken word. Does a top leader fit a single pattern? No. Do top leaders have some elements in common? Yes.

All of the research to date can be summarized in six Qs.

1. IQ – Intelligence Quotient
Top leaders are smarter than the rest. They have to sift through mountains of data, perhaps missing important pieces, and make decisions quickly. They have to track many simultaneous activities and streams of thought. The good news is that most of the people who get to top management positions are smart enough. There is no shortage of bright people.

2. TQ – Technical/Operational Quotient
Top leaders know the business. They have the functional and technical skills and knowledge necessary to make intelligent decisions and take prudent action. They have the operational skills to make things happen. Again, the news is good. Most who get there have this set of skills.

3. MQ – Motivational Quotient
Top leaders are super-motivated. They are ambitious. They make life sacrifices to climb the organizational career ladder. They work long hours. They travel a lot. They relocate frequently. They have to want it. Again, most who get there have the necessary motivation to lead and persevere.

4. Experience Quotient
Top leaders have had skill-building experiences along the way. We know from extensive research at CCL (Lombardo) that specific experiences can teach specific skills. Start-ups teach different skills than fix-its. Here the record is mixed. Many people get to the top without much diverse experience. They are especially deficient on global experience. It is almost impossible to add that experience if they are already at the top.

5. People Quotient
Top leaders are effective with people. They are able to relate to diverse audiences. They can get things done through others. They can influence and inspire. They adapt their actions to the needs of the people with whom they are interacting. They read people accurately. They know how to motivate people one at a time, in groups, or in entire enterprises. Here the news is dismal. People like Goleman, Boyatzis, and Spencer (2001) all report that this skill set is often missing. All of the derailment studies cited above list some version of PQ deficiency as the driving cause of failure among managers and executives.

6. Learning Quotient
Top leaders who rank in the upper portion of success (they are more effective than other top leaders) are the more learning-agile, which Bennis (2002) calls “adaptive capacity”, the hallmark of effective leadership. Lombardo and Eichinger (2004) have shown that it is associated with being a high potential learner; these learners perform much better after promotion than do the average and low learning-agile. Sternberg reports that LQ has a higher correlation (relationship) to success than IQ.

What this means is that effective leaders are lifelong learners. Learners of the soft stuff. Learning agility relates to learning to think, feel, act, and believe differently based upon experience and changing circumstances. Here the news is also mixed. Probably one-third of people who get to the top are learning-agile. Studies of why people fail (Finkelstein, 2003; Dottlich, 2003; Lombardo; Bennis, 2002; Zenger, 2002) all include some version of the lack of willingness and ability to adapt and learn from experience.

To really benefit from XQ, a leader also would need LQ. If someone had LQ but did not go through career-building experiences, that person wouldn’t develop the necessary skills to be considered one of the most effective leaders.