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. I was content with just being in his presence. 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 the mind-stretching words of Peter Drucker. Today I’m 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 didn’t have all the answers, but asked the right questions, connected with the people around them, adjusted their style to the audience and inspired 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 the newest one I am using with clients and students now – SQ. Here is a synopsis of each:

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. 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) – This one 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 is built on trial and error and therefore can become fixed in early adulthood based on environment or tradition. It can become a habit that is difficult to change. The good news is that researchers have shown that our brains can change with the right training and motivation at any age. In the 21st century, I hope we discover more insights into behavior change and how to translate these lessons into the social sector.

SQ (System Quotient) – SQ is the missing link that connects IQ and EQ. It leverages the skillset 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 skillset will differentiate the great leaders from the merely good.

As leaders in the social sector, how can we ensure our organizational mindset is using this 3Q approach? 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 their clients and change as needed (EQ), and create 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 cross-pollinating between and among departments to learn from each other’s purpose, perspective and processes?
  • 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 – how to lead, change, manage conflict and build teams?
  • Do you judge performance not only on activities completed, but also on competencies (e.g., teamwork) – encouraging growth in both areas?



  • Do you attend seminars on topics completely unrelated to your cause? If so, do you walk away with new ideas?
  • 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 use concepts like design thinking and collaboration to improve your systems?
  • Do you operate more tactically or more strategically? Do you flex your strategic muscle regularly?


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

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