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The Power of the Decency Quotient in Leadership

— January 4, 2021

When a leader can utilize IQ and EQ and demonstrate a commitment to acting with decency, it can be an absolute essential factor in a successful business strategy.

Let us explore this completely new process which has emerged as a phenomenon… This is the core essential when dealing with leaders… What leaders really need is a healthy dose of decency… That is the utmost in crucial! Let us explore this further.

One basic quality that every successful leader must have is intelligence, that is usually measured by Intelligence Quotient or IQ. We do not want dumb leaders. They must be at least as smart as we claim to be. They must be able to see the big picture, make good connections, and get on to achieving positive results.

You will observe that a less than smart leader does get elected or takes over a company. We do hope they will be surrounded by smarter people and in turn take their advice. A second quality leaders must have is people skills, or Emotional Intelligence, which was introduced by Daniel Goleman in his book with the same name. This is referred to as EQ and includes being able to recognize people’s emotional circumstances as a very necessary skill for leaders.

However, EQ or just recognizing emotional states does not go far enough. It can be used by politicians to make appealing promises they will not deliver on or, even worse, go on to manipulate others for their own selfish ends!

So now let us look at the third leadership quality: which is decency.

The Decency Quotient, or DQ, involves doing the right thing and by being smart enough (IQ) to know what that is. It also does involve knowing where most people are coming from and what it is they want, that is tapping on the (EQ), and doing what you can to help all of them get it, which is (DQ).

Please note that not only do high-DQ people do the right things for others, they also avoid doing the wrong things such as lying, cheating, stealing and more so taking advantage of others. As a result, they do attract and retain good people, keep on loyal customers and go on to create profitable companies. No wonder all the businesses looking for leaders put DQ on the list of highly required qualifications.

It is time for us to make decency an explicitly desired quality in most leaders. It is key to consider that being rich and/or famous must not be enough, particularly if that means methods used to get there will not bear scrutiny. Please do understand at one time, most people assumed that almost everyone can act decently almost all of the time. Trust and expectations were quite high and were often met. Now, the less-than-decent actions by some leaders have a generated cynicism and more so distrust. They do put our democracy at risk.

Humility becomes a big part of DQ. A decent person knows they are not perfect and can then benefit from the people around them if they can get them to do their best. They also do not take themselves too seriously. One characteristic of someone with a high DQ is usually that they are willing to poke fun at themselves.

That is why when assessing someone’s DQ must be a part of the hiring process, too. Please take note that recommendations that call out for humility as well as smartness, and go ahead to weed out people who spend the interview just trying to make themselves look really good, versus having an honest, clear and transparent conversation. This is what makes all the difference.

So, when it comes to talent, people think about what they can assess and measure, like IQ. However, more organizations must spend more time selecting on the basis of DQ. As an adult, it is hard to change your DQ dramatically, but small increases are certainly possible. Like a muscle, DQ can atrophy if you do not use it, so do start flexing asap!

How to build your decency quotient?

Surround yourself with a diverse team. 

People do have a natural instinct to surround themselves with people that are like themselves. That does not necessarily drive innovation and even create value. What does drive? It is the pulling together of people with different ideas but an absolute common purpose.

Team doing a hands-in huddle; image by Perry Grone, via
Team doing a hands-in huddle; image by Perry Grone, via

Confront all your prejudices. 

Once you have built a diverse team, your instinct will be to object to views that differ from your own views. Check out that urge. Ask yourself: “Why does this particular thought anger me or annoy me?”

Express immense gratitude.

Appreciate how the work you do helps other people get their own jobs done in a timely fashion. Gratitude and more so humility can be mutually reinforcing. Acknowledging all the good around us can make us less focused on ourselves, and more in tune with what others are like. This makes DQ a path to Competitive Advantage.

Why decency in leadership is a competitive advantage

The decency quotient has to start at the top. It is an essential that leaders and managers model this type of behaviour more than ever, because outside forces of polarization are working up all against us. The world does feel like an ugly place for many people. It is impossible for employees to check their feelings at the door, and naïve to think they possibly can.

Leaders with DQ will better navigate what is bleeding in from outside the office to instill a sense of common purpose and go on to see shared values at work. Employees will then know that the leader always has their best interests at heart. People want to work for decent people, and they in turn will give those leaders their best. Decency at its very core is a moral obligation, but it can also be crucial towards a winning business strategy.

After all, there is much research linking diverse teams into innovation. However, there is also one caveat. Everyone on a diverse and varied team must feel like they are on the team. In other words, each and every member must bring his or her true selves and point out the authentic best to work towards a common goal. People will not do that if they do not feel genuinely supported and valued, and when that is the case, a team can quickly turn towards being dysfunctional. The triple threat leader instills an appreciation for difference through high DQ.

Please understand that DQ goes a step further than EQ, than the self-awareness of emotions, both others’ and one’s own. Please consider that having a high EQ is useless more so if it is manipulated for self-interest. While EQ does not necessarily mean doing the right thing, DQ in turn demands it.

When a person brings their basic human decency to each one of these qualities, you get the difference between a good leader and a great one capable of actually changing things for the better. This further elaborates that the changing environment surrounding COVID-19 has the entire world adapting to new norms. 

DQ does indicate that a leader has the most genuine desire to do the right thing for several others. DQ is the most evident in a manager’s daily interactions with others, as well as in the setting goals for the company that meet fiscal objectives and improve lives.

DQ: The Bottom Line

It goes without saying that we do need leaders to think rationally and leverage their full cognitive capacity come what may. We also need all the leaders who are deeply connected to how their teams are feeling. When a leader can then utilize IQ and EQ and demonstrate a commitment to acting with decency, it can be an absolute essential factor in a successful business strategy. Employees trust and confide in leaders when they know they have their best interests at heart. Being intentional about decency will only foster loyalty, engagement, collaboration, and innovation. This is the need of any organisation which does not want to die.

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