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Leadership Intelligences in the 21st Century World

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We are living in the age of human competition with artificial intelligence which will not only test our capabilities as leaders but also as intelligent beings (Anderson, & Rainie, 2018).

A couple of important questions that arise are: what will it take to not only survive but to thrive and lead in this 21st-century world? And, what main intelligence will set us apart from intelligent machines and other humans in our organizations and institutions that we work for?

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Intelligence has been simply defined as the ability to integrate and interpret information (Kolzow, 2014). Kezar (2001) cites Gardner, (1993) that intelligence cannot evolve to its full potential without proper development. This is the key to advancing the traditional notions of intelligence (Noruzi & Rahimi, 2010) as theorized by Gardner’s proposed Multiple Intelligences (MI) which have been traditionally accepted as biopsychological intelligence that cannot be seen nor counted (Noruzi & Rahimi, 2010). Unsatisfied researchers developed alternative theories, and these theories propose that intelligence is the result of several independent abilities that uniquely contribute to human performance (Noruzi & Rahimi, 2010).

After researching the many types of intelligence (Gardner, 1993; Kezar, 2001), I concluded that the four most important types of intelligence that leaders must possess to be effective in the 21 century are: Emotional intelligence (Goleman, 2005; Mayer & Salovey, 1993), Cultural intelligence (Ang, Van Dyne, Koh, Ng, Templer, Tay & Chandrasekar, 2007), Creative intelligence (Rea, 2003) and Competitive Intelligence, (Garcia-Alsina, Montserrat & Ortoll Espinet, 2012; Oubrich, 2011).

Emotional intelligence (EI) has been defined as being self-aware, being able to self-regulate, having motivation, empathy, and social skill, (Goleman, 2005). Additionally, it is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions (Mayer & Salovey, 1993). Emotional intelligence relates to the individual behavior of being able to understand that there is more to the capacity and ability of others than what is first perceived (Serrat, 2017). Discerning that an employee is not ready doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not capable, it may mean that they haven’t arrived emotionally to undertaking action. The challenge is providing opportunities for developing members who find it difficult to expose their abilities in ways that aren’t only noticeable by other members of the organization but that make a difference in propelling accomplishments (Noruzi & Rahimi, 2013). Emotionally intelligent leaders can recognize the importance of investing in the development of human capital within their organizations (Singh, 2010). The value of emotionally intelligent leaders and employees is that they are capable of predicting patterns from environmental complexities brought upon by globalization. Their predispositions allow them to adapt themselves to changes resulting in the creative performance of problem-solving and coming up with strategies that work (Darvishmotevali, Altinay & De Vita, 2018).

Cultural Intelligence (CI) has been defined as having the capability to function, relate and work effectively across cultures (Ang, Rockstuhl & Tan, 2015). Leaders’ cultural intelligence highlights their potential to understand people who hold different cultural norms and values, it is independent of the capability of functioning effectively in a specific or known culture (Ang, Van Dyne, Koh, Ng, Templer, Tay & Chandrasekar, 2007. Additionally, Cultural intelligence has been found to predict judgment and better decision making from leaders who are working with intercultural issues and people, (Ang, et al., 2007). It empowers leaders to do more than avoiding conflict and misunderstandings that occur in their organizations, their CI allows them the ability to understand cultural differences, Maclachlan, (n.d). Several studies have demonstrated that CI is positively related to global leadership because it predicts task performance in different work contexts, such as global work assignments and endeavors that entail working with culturally diverse domestic settings, (Ang, et al., 2015). Also, qualitative studies have attributed the crucial role that CI plays in managing organizational members from different cultural backgrounds. Some scholars have argued that leaders in the 21st century must have cultural awareness skills to successfully manage employees from diverse and unique cultural backgrounds (Box, Converso & Osayamwen, 2015).

Creative intelligence is the coalescence of human intellect in the form of logic and reasoning with imagination as the ability to think of something new from completely different connections, Hoen, A. (2017). It arises from a motivated mind composed of two main components; the intelligent (critical) and the creative thinking processes (Rea, 2003). The cognitive processes of the brain are optimized when these two thinking processes work in a dynamically balanced fashion which is the key aspect of “creative intelligence’ (Rea, 2003). Scholars, through their studies, validate that creative intelligence is a factor that leads to effective leadership and that it enables organizations to solve difficult problems through improved problem-solving generated from new and innovative ideas, (Guo, Gonzales & Dilley, 2016). 21st-century globalization is the greatest contextual influence of our time and creative intelligence is the key to which solutions will be found to grapple with the challenges while turning them into opportunities, (Ambrose & Sternberg, 2016).

The last most important type of intelligence that humans will need to succeed and thrive in the 21st century is Competitive Intelligence (CI). Pellissier & Nenzhelele (2013) provide a comprehensive background of Competitive intelligence, stating that it evolved from economics, marketing, military theory, information science, and strategic management. CI has been defined as the process of ethically collecting, analyzing, and disseminating publicly available and relevant information to produce actionable knowledge regarding the implications of business environments, competitors, and the organization itself (Oubrich, 2011; Pellissier & Nenzhelele, 2013). An organization’s mission and objectives must act as a constant guide for the competitive intelligence process. Due to globalization, technological transformations, and advancements leaders must remain competitive and forge a culture that can balance competitive intelligence with the launch of new products and services. Organizations must keep members and leaders who are sufficiently intelligent to guard their intellectual property to hold a relative advantage over competing organizations (Oubrich, 2011).  

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