IQ EQ SQ Human with GearsIn 2002, I attended the Drucker Institute’s annual conference. Based on an impromptu speech I gave during one of the workshops, I was selected to meet with Peter Drucker himself. He was a legend, and I never expected to have a real audience with him. To my surprise, though, Drucker approached me and asked my thoughts about the workshop. I catalogued all that I had learned, but also the questions I still had. He had a glint in his eye and said, “Aww. You must be a social entrepreneur.” It was the first time I heard the term that would redefine my career path. And the rest is history.

When I get stuck, I often pull out my autographed copy of Management Challenges for the 21st Century and go back to Peter Drucker’s mind-stretching words. Today I’m feeling stuck, as many of you may also be, in frustration with the state of our national discourse and our dearth of true servant leaders. It’s times like these that I wonder what Peter Drucker, if he were still alive, would say. I’m fairly confident that he would point us toward his chapter on “Managing Oneself.” He would point out that the great achievers, like Mozart and da Vinci, were great because they learned to integrate their IQ and EQ and were constantly improving themselves with every interaction. He would also remind us of one of his most important lessons: “Developing yourself begins with serving, by striving toward an idea outside of yourself – not leading.” Our greatest leaders are arguably the ones who don’t have all the answers, but who ask the right questions, connect with the people around them, adjust their style to the audience and inspire others toward a future vision.

Peter Drucker would relish the new thinking about leadership through personal mastery and the integrated approach to 3Q – IQ, EQ and SQ. Here is a synopsis of each (with more to come in future blogs):

IQ (Intelligence Quotient) 

IQ is what we have known about since grade school. It focuses on intellectual mastery and the acquisition of knowledge. Over time, it is increased through lifelong learning. However, IQ has its limits. Interestingly, the internet has disrupted IQ as the dominant trait for influence because everyone has access to knowledge and can leverage it in seconds. As Peter Drucker might say, in the 21st century it is less about the knowledge you have acquired and more about how you apply it and what results you create.

EQ (Emotional Quotient) 

EQ gained popularity in 1995 with Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, and has continued today through research showing the value of social and emotional learning in schools. It focuses on five key competencies (see CASEL’s amazing work in this arena): self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. As Peter Drucker said, two individuals coming together will always have friction based on their uniqueness. Drucker believed that “social lubricant,” or EQ, allows a group of people to work together productively. The limiting factor with EQ is that, unlike IQ that can be gained over time, EQ can become fixed in early adulthood based on environment or tradition and become a habit that is difficult to change. The good news is that researchers have shown that, with the right training and motivation, our brains can change – at any age. Many corporate leaders are suggesting that this is the skill set that is most needed as we navigate key trends in the workplace, including generational differences, remote work environments and changing cultural norms. In the 21st century, I hope we discover more insights into behavioral change and how to translate these lessons for the social sector.

SQ (System Quotient) 

SQ is the missing link that connects IQ and EQ and completes our ability to take our ideas to scale. It leverages the skill set that Bloom’s Taxonomy considers the highest order of thinking – synthesis. It focuses on the brain’s ability to create “meaning” from all cognitive, creative and emotional inputs. As Peter Drucker might say, SQ is where new discovery happens, and it is shaped by thinking outside boundaries, questioning everything and redefining purpose. It also helps people put that knowledge to use to build productive ecosystems that work with our natural inclinations as human beings. The limiting factor with SQ is that it is learned only through practice and the formula is unique to each person. In the 21st century, this skill set will differentiate the great leaders from the merely good.

As leaders in the social sector, how can we ensure our organizational mindset is using 3Q as an integrated approach to develop leaders? As we have stated in past blogs, high-impacthigh-performance social sector organizations have a sophisticated understanding of best practices (IQ), work constantly to understand the needs of those they serve and change as needed (EQ), and create (or reimagine) systems that best serve the interests of all those involved (SQ). Here are some questions that illustrate how you can incorporate 3Q into your organization:


  • Are you investing in professional development both within an employee’s function area and outside it? For example, could your social workers or teachers attend a business planning course? Could your CFO attend a motivational interviewing course? Are you training future managers and leaders before they move into these roles, so they are prepared?
  • Are you cross-pollinating between and among departments to learn from each other’s purpose, perspective and processes? Do you reward employees who practice organizational citizenship versus staying in their silo?
  • When you have staff attend a conference or workshop, how widely are the lessons learned shared?


  • Do you invest in supervisor training for relationship management – situational leadership, change management, conflict management and team building?
  • Do you connect your strategy and culture as two sides of the same coin and train staff on core elements of your culture?
  • Do you judge performance not only on activities completed, but also on competencies (e.g., teamwork) – encouraging growth in both areas?
  • Do you create meetings and retreats (in-person or virtual) so participants can be fully present, listen and learn from one another, and spur real outcomes for the organization?


  • Do you attend seminars on topics completely unrelated to your cause? If so, do you walk away with new ideas or approaches and share them with others?
  • Do you encourage “out-of-the-box” thinking? Do you ask yourself how you would address your cause if you had no limitations?
  • Do you intentionally surround yourself with “yes people” or people who are smarter than you and are unafraid to share their perspective?
  • Do you use concepts like design thinking, behavioral economics and collaboration to improve your systems?
  • Do you operate more tactically or more strategically? Do you flex your strategic muscle regularly (e.g., deliberate trade-offs)?


As a fun side note, some researchers are claiming a fourth Q – Physical Quotient (PQ) – which focuses on overall well-being of personal health and fitness as well as mindfulness. We welcome your input on 3Q and all things Peter Drucker – we find this work fascinating and hope you do as well.

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Email