Spiritual Intelligence: That special ingredient of the people behind the brand

We all know about IQ and EQ, but Brian Richards says SQ, or spiritual intelligence, is just as important.

There is one hell of a difference between a person who is running a company and someone who believes in a company. If the leader is strong in his or her belief and deeply involved, it clearly rubs off on everyone else. I see many examples of managers being headhunted to manage with skills but not a deep belief in what they are doing. Invariably they fail within 3 to 4 years. I've always looked out for and been impressed by those giving leaders and managers. They are always the happiest to work and contribute with.

So often in meetings particularly, you notice the people who are physically present but not mentally. People around them notice this and it spreads rapidly. How is the company to have faith if its leaders have none? The brand is what brings together and articulates company values, both internally and externally, which is why one of the most important tasks of the manager is to ensure that everyone delivers the brand, it’s no longer just a marketing function.

We have finally arrived at a point where managers do not operate via directives and policies. Traditional command and control management makes little sense to highly-educated employees. They can only be directed via articulations of the brand values and the brand direction.

Today's great manager needs to be at the cutting edge of the marketplace if he or she has any hope of understanding what is going on. They need to be able to articulate their brand to guide the company forward. The only way of handling the accelerating flow of information is by sticking to a firm set of values.

The Porsche pit crew may be away from the spotlight, but they strive towards a common goal.

I have always thought that the brand provides the glue in flat structures. These days many employees can go weeks or months without talking to their immediate superior, who may well live on the other side of the globe. Companies need strong personalities to succeed in these new economies and the same thing goes for the managers within these companies. Charisma embodied in a brand and one’s personal belief in it is unbeatable.

People talk about IQ and EQ but there is a third dimension of SQ. Spiritual intelligence (SQ) is a rare yet valuable ingredient of the best team members. This is not some crazy raver, but rather a person with a deep understanding of who the company is, how it is related to the market, its competitors and how it fits into a large and chaotic globalised world. If you can explain this to others by way of product or service differentiation then you are incredibly valuable to a company.

Notice how many employees in your morning "work in progress" meeting seem preoccupied and lost, waiting for direction. These "half in half out" people could cost you a 50% loss in productivity that same day, not to mention the immeasurable negative effect they may have on others. So building spiritual intelligence is a personal thing and when you see this ingredient in your company team it will be from the person who pops up daily with a better way of doing something, a nicer way of talking with customers, or just someone who cares and does the dishes at close of play in the canteen.

It doesn't matter how humble the gesture is, it's a direct measure of your people's contribution to the brand, their passion and its value. I loathe the corporate religion often associated with American companies. Jingles in foyers and high five stuff with gee whizz type management styles where everything is great. It's hard in such environments for people to accept constructive critique since everything even the average performance is thought to be great.

Spiritual intelligence is that special ingredient of commitment and understanding. SQ is usually embodied in a brand's words and design but it also has to be lived the team on a daily basis. When you see it in spades around you and you're part of it, then you’ll sleep like a baby in the knowledge that your business is in good heart. 

Brian Richards is one of New Zealand’s foremost brand strategists, having spent the last 30 years advising leading companies in New Zealand, Australia, Asia and Europe. He is the founder of Richards Partners a design, strategy and innovation firm.