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Leadership Intelligences — Why They Matter

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

A critical element of reducing stress and building resiliency is through authentic human-to-human connections.

Leadership Intelligences

Sixty-two percent of American workers have high levels of stress with extreme fatigue. This level of stress creates barriers to critical thinking, collaborative problem-solving, creativity, and community-building. Chronic workplace stress can suppress our ability to experience joy in our personal and professional lives. A critical element of reducing stress and building resiliency is through authentic human-to-human connections. Building and sustaining these connections is more challenging than one might think, and it requires significant skill. Skills that are anything but soft. They are crucial.

To create a workplace where employees are able to experience positive connections, executive leadership must invest in developing their management teams’ proficiency in the four essential leadership intelligences -- emotional intelligence, social intelligence, cultural intelligence, and dignity intelligence. These four leadership intelligences are of paramount importance in navigating the dynamics of human behavior.

As leaders, we must learn how to be more human humans.

“As leaders, we must learn how to be more human humans,”shares Robyn Short, CEO of Workplace Peace Institute. “Today, there is so much adversity in the world. We carry the stress of the external world with us into our professional worlds. Just walk into a breakroom and listen to the conversations, and it will become abundantly clear that our leadership acumen matters. Perhaps more than many of us realize.”

In his book, Lines from a Mined Mind: The Words of John Trudell, Native American and prolific artist John Trudell poignantly articulates the importance of becoming more human humans:

As human beings it is time to take responsibility for the power of our intelligence and use the power of our intelligence to think coherently. This isn’t about whether we can or we can’t. This is about whether we will or we won’t.

Too often, individuals are propelled into leadership roles not because of their expertise in mobilizing others toward a shared goal or their ability to develop and grow others, but rather because of their technical expertise and/or stellar performance. Indeed, they are valued by the organization, but leading people in the 21st century requires intelligences most companies have not considered. As leaders and managers, each of us are first and foremost a human leading humans, not a manager of processes, materials, and technology.

Everyone working in an organization matters. Consider for a moment these questions:

  • How would people in your organization describe your ability to successfully navigate the dynamics of human behavior?

  • Can your team trust you to make the right decisions on their behalf as significant contributors to company success?

  • How well do you listen when they try to communicate a problem or concern to you?

  • When was the last time an employee shared a new and innovative idea with you? How did you respond? If the idea was accepted, did you include the person in the thought or implementation process?

If uncertain how employees would respond to these questions or if you struggle to answer them, this may be an indication you are focused on managing processes not leading people. If you are not leading with compassion, empathy, trust, respect, and dignity, you may be blocking the full human potential present in your workplace today. Creating a workplace where all people thrive requires a paradigm shift in leadership, and this means learning new skills and competencies. It necessitates that leaders and emerging leaders are continuously learning, unlearning, and relearning.

Essentially, new paradigm leaders operating in Quantum Organizations understand what it truly means to be more human humans. They cultivate the crucial skills necessary to lead teams that optimize critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. They understand the power of creating workplace cultures where people experience joy.

Four leadership intelligences are the foundational characteristics of new paradigm leaders. With proficiency in these areas, leaders will more successfully honor basic human needs and dignity needs, and therefore bring out the best in others, resulting in a highly engaged workforce.

Consider the way you communicate in the workplace as you read through the descriptions for each of the four core leadership intelligences. With proficiency in these areas, leaders will be equipped to meet the needs of the whole human and create a workplace environment where all people thrive more successfully. We know that when people thrive, organizations thrive.

  • Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of and identify one’s own emotions and to be able to differentiate them from feelings. It is foundational to the other three intelligences. Emotionally intelligent leaders:

    • Harness their own emotions and feelings and apply those emotions to cognition and problem-solving

    • Manage emotions, including the ability to regulate one’s own emotions and the ability to regulate emotions in others

  • Social Intelligence is the capacity to proficiently understand human behavior and inspire positive change in others. It is the ability to know oneself and to know others by leveraging learnings from previous successes and failures. Leaders with high social intelligence are:

    • Highly effective communicators who are skilled in active listening

    • Understand human emotions and welcome them as a core aspect of the human condition

    • Aware of social norms and understand the impact their behavior has on others

    • Able to inspire confidence and trust in others

  • Dignity Intelligence is the capacity to connect to the inherent worth and value of all human beings, to actively mitigate the violation of dignity in all instances, and sustain a connection to something greater than oneself in all interactions. Leaders with high dignity intelligence:

    • Are humble in their relationships and in their leadership approach

    • Sustain curiosity in their interactions with others and in collaborative problem-solving

    • Cultivate a homeostasis mind, which exists when our nervous system is balanced and well-regulated, leading to our ability to be fully present, steady in our thinking, and emotionally and cognitively available to our own needs and the needs of others

  • Cultural Intelligence refers to the ability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. Culturally intelligent leaders are able to:

    • Cross cultural boundaries respectfully and thrive in multiple culture

    • Recognize and value of culturally diverse teams

    • Intentionally foster a culturally diverse workforce

The vast majority of leaders, lead from the center. Most leaders are responsible for supporting the needs of their “followers” as well as supporting the needs of their leaders. Once managers begin to develop these four intelligences, they begin to create a community where every employee is a valued co-creator of the workplace. Why wouldn’t a manager want this for their team? For themselves? If you are ready to reimagine your scope of responsibility where everyone on your team is fully engaged (even within your larger organization), we invite you to explore the Workplace Leadership Academy. Come evolve with us by embarking on your leadership intelligences learning journey.


Workplace Peace Institute is an organization systems design and research firm that is singularly focused on creating workplace cultures where people thrive. Workplace Peace Institute supports small to mid-sized businesses in optimizing employee engagement, maximizing organizational productivity, and improving profitability by infusing human security and dignity as foundational attributes of their business model. Our Leadership Academy supports leaders in honoring basic human needs and dignity needs in the workplace, so they can actualize human potential in the workplace. The online Leadership Academy optimizes competencies in human behavior, communication skills, conflict resolution, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging to create highly engaged workplaces where basic human needs and dignity are consistently honored. All our courses are offered online and can be customized for in-person workshops and seminars.


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