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ARTICLE: For Leaders, Decency Is Just as Important as Intelligence

Updated: May 1, 2020


In a recent article, Dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Bill Boulding, describes how successful leaders today and in decades to come must possess triple-threat leadership capability: IQ+EQ+DQ—the familiar intellect and emotional intelligence aspects, plus one that must be recognized and elevated: decency.

Competency in business is essential, and intellect, or IQ, is the broad idea of business competency and an understanding of what it takes to be successful today. EQ is the self-awareness of emotions—both others’ and your own—and happens when a manager understands how someone is feeling, how to read a room, and acts on that information.

However, EQ doesn’t always mean a person’s actions take into account what is best for others. Emotional awareness and empathy don’t equate to compassion and integrity, and people who have EQ can use it to manipulate others for self-interest—it doesn't necessarily mean doing the right thing.

DQ, or decency quotient, goes a step further, implying a person has not only empathy for employees and colleagues but also the genuine desire to care for them and do right by them. DQ means wanting something positive for everyone in the workplace and ensuring everyone feels respected and valued.

Unfortunately, we have far too many examples in business of what happens when decency fails. The Great Recession is a case where 10 years later, financial sector business is still trying to win back trust from a public who saw the industry as greedy, self-serving, and focused on the bottom line at the expense of the greater good. and we’re entering an era where technology, innovation, and automation heighten the possibility for distrust because of the way they change the nature of work. But instead of letting those things fracture us, we can use decency to find ways to move forward without leaving anyone behind. As leaders who are driven by decency innovate, they consider what’s being destroyed rather than just being created. Innovation becomes about not just new solutions but also about helping those being displaced.

For decency to win the day, DQ must be recognized as an essential quality in leadership. Leaders with DQ understand their decisions aren’t simply about staying profitable; their decisions affect hundreds, thousands, even millions of people’s lives. If businesses become more intentional about decency, it can rebuild the trust corporations have lost and can be the model for uniting different types of people to come together for a common purpose and in finding solutions. Intellect and emotional intelligence are vital, but it is decency that ensures IQ and EQ are used to benefit society, not tear it down. Read the full article here.

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