Intelligence and Leadership

By | January 6, 2014

[January 06, 2014]  Many people say that great leadership is possible because those leaders possess extraordinary intelligence.  While there are those who are not in full agreement with this view, being intelligent certainly makes leadership easier.

Normally people think of intelligence as cognitive intelligence; intelligence measured in the form of technical skills, a first-rate memory, and high IQ.  There is now agreement there may be other forms of intelligence such as emotional, linguistic, and musical intelligence.

leonardo-da-vinci-paintingsAt one time, we all knew a highly intelligent person promoted to a leadership position, only to fail after a short time.  We also have known many successful leaders – each was very intelligent.  What is going on here?

The question we should be asking is, “Is it really intelligence that makes it possible for great leaders to be great?”

The answer is yes.  It does take a high degree of cognitive intelligence … but it also takes something more.

Logically, it is simply not enough to be “book smart” – the most successful leaders are also “people smart.”  It is not just cognitive intelligence, but other forms of intelligence, which sets apart the greatest leaders from all others.

A number of books and articles have recently come out on the topic of “emotional intelligence.”  In other words, in addition to cognitive intelligence a successful leader must also possess self-awareness, motivation, empathy, and a complex array of social skills1emotional intelligence.

The most successful leaders are very intelligent, cognitively and emotionally.  They possess a high degree of mental acuity and technical skills, but also a great deal of personal and social skills.

This combination is what makes a truly successful leader great.


[1]  From the works of Daniel Goleman, who is the author of Emotional Intelligence, 1995, and coauthor of Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, 2002.



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

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