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Spiritual Intelligence: Finding Your True Leadership Style [Exercise]

February 2, 2018 By Chloe Greenwood
Spiritual intelligence

The world does not need more leaders who are disconnected from their sense of value and meaning. It needs people who act from their inner sense of stability, connection with meaning and empathy. In short, as I will explain, their spiritual intelligence. If you feel inspired by the idea of being part of the emerging future, part of the work is to look inward – to your interior life.


Who you are is how you lead.



The Story of Spiritual Intelligence

Spiritual intelligence has been developed as a model for personal development by many people over the past 20 years, including Danah Zohar, Jan Phillips, and Cindy Wigglesworth. The skills and qualities they describe also appear in  Otto Scharmer’s theory U, Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations, Ken Wilber’s Spiral Dynamics Integral , Jim Collins’s Level 5 leadership, Steven Covey’s The 8th Habit and Catherine R. Bell’s The Awakened Company.


It’s fascinating how Spiritual Intelligence emerged for Cindy Wigglesworth. After graduating from college, Cindy went to work with Exxon. At her first year appraisal, Cindy was told, “You are very clever and very hard working. You are also very irritating!” At that time Dr Spock from Star Trek was her hero.

Spiritual Intelligence

Developing emotional intelligence is crucial – and there is more


Accepting the feedback, she used therapy to recognise her own feelings and become more sensitive to the feelings of others. When Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis’s work on Emotional Intelligence came out in the 1990s she used the tools personally and like many HR staff she applied them in her organisation to help people collaborate better and improve teamwork.



Spiritual Intelligence at Work

She also embarked on a spiritual path and as she did so, she found that her performance at work got better. The company recognised her team for its higher level of functioning. Colleagues began asking “What is it that you are doing that is different? We want to do it too.” Cindy felt it would be inappropriate for Exxon’s culture in Houston, Texas to talk about spirituality at work. It left her with a dilemma that became her life’s work: How do I bring the wisdom and skills that I am learning in my spiritual life to the workplace?

How do I bring the wisdom and skills that I am learning in my spiritual life to the workplace?

After 20 years with Exxon she left and set up her own organisation, now called Deep Change. Following the rigorous scientific method of Goleman and Boyatzis, she discovered the next growing edge after Emotional Intelligence, something she called Spiritual Intelligence.


PhD students analysed research and helped her to develop a validated assessment tool, SQ21, which can be used by individuals and organisations to identify areas for development. SQ21 has 21 skills, and each skill has 5 levels. If you do the assessment, which I highly recommend, it delivers a 20 page report with suggestions for further development of each skill.


Who You Are is How You Lead

What Spiritual Intelligence points to is something most of us have probably felt or sensed if we’ve worked in any professional environment. Who we are matters. It doesn’t work to leave parts of ourselves at the door when we go into work each day. Your emotional and spiritual condition influences  your presence and resolve, which in turn affects those around you. As you become more fully yourself, you  bring out the best in others.

Spiritual Intelligence

One spiritually intelligent person can change many people’s lives



Self-reflection is a key tool to help you see unconscious motives and patterns that may no longer be in alignment or useful to you as you grow and evolve. What I love about Spiritual Intelligence is that it brings useful, specific, actionable perspectives to help with our self-examination.



Here are two brief exercise to get you started thinking – and being – along the lines that Spiritual Intelligence recommends. You can go as deeply or as briefly as suits you.


Start with the question, “Who am I really?”

  • What does it feel like when I am fully present?
  • What do I value?

This is probably not something you will completely answer in five minutes. If you can, you’re probably enlightened! Just use the questions to become more aware of your full presence and your values.

Doing this expands your conceptual space, broadening your perspectives and increasing your complexity of thinking. This begins an alchemical process. As your connection to your deepest self strengthens you are guided from within on your own path. These questions can be very useful to ask yourself in work or personal situations. Be open to letting yourself go with what comes up.


Consider what hurts in your work life and organisation.

Spiritual Intgelligence

How can I hold multiple perspectives while remaining centred?


What isn’t working? What would you like to change? Would you like yourself and other managers and leaders to have more wisdom and compassion? How can you bring both your head and your heart to your work?


  • What are my unique gifts? Am I expressing them here?


  • What about this situation is complex? Can I inwardly see both sides and take learnings from both?


  • How are the people and situations in my work and life interconnected? What is my felt sense when I choose to look at interconnections, rather than problems?


Asking these questions will help you become more aware of your life’s purpose and your unique gifts. It will increase your ability to engage with the complexity of the world, expanding your ability to hold conflicting concepts and uncertainty. It will also help connect with the most noble part of yourself and develop your capacity to operate from that place – your higher self, seeing the bigger picture, and the interconnectedness of all life. Lastly, asking these questions helps you cultivate compassion and wisdom to help to sustain you in tough times and develop a strong presence and equanimity in the face of turmoil.



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