Spiritual intelligence: Your new leadership tool

(MoneyWatch) If you're a follower of leadership trends, you've probably heard of the term "emotional intelligence," but it's less likely your familiar with "spiritual intelligence" or "spiritual IQ" (SQ)? This is the focus of a new book, "SQ 21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence," authored by Cindy Wigglesworth, a corporate consultant who worked for almost two decades at ExxonMobil before forming her own company in 2000. During her early years at Exxon, she was given feedback on improving her interpersonal skills. After that, through training, reading and even therapy, she realized the value in what she now sees as SQ, and in putting it to use, she became more adept at handling tough projects as she climbed the company's human resources ladder. "I was aware of being more of a midwife of a process that had its own intelligence than a composer or conductor at the front of the room 'making people play their parts,' " recalls Wigglesworth. Recently, I spoke to her about how we can all improve our own SQ, and become better leaders as a result.

CBS MoneyWatch: What exactly is spiritual intelligence?

Cindy Wigglesworth: Leaders need four intelligences to optimize their personal and organizational performance: IQ, emotional intelligence (good interpersonal skills), physical intelligence (taking care of the body so it can support all the other intelligences) and spiritual intelligence. Spiritual intelligence is the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of the situation. In simple terms it is the ability to shift from the perspective of our ego-activated self and see and act from our higher self, our higher or nobler nature.

MW: How does improving SQ make us better leaders?

CW: We can take the perspective of the various peoples and groups we are interacting with. By seeing their perspective from the inside out, we make wiser and more compassionate decisions. The benefit is that we are more likely to find solutions that work in the longer term. Ego, on the other hand, tends to be defensive and self-focused. It creates more tension and suboptimizes solutions.

MW: Why is SQ so important right now?

CW: With each decade of the last 100-plus years, the world has become more complex and more interdependent. Making decisions that consider just my own financial compensation (e.g., getting the biggest bonus we can) or just the shareholders' (maximizing profit) gets you suboptimal results in the long term. Some CEOs and executives may get short-term gains and then hit the road, taking their large bonuses with them. But as companies get more sophisticated boards and shareholders, the focus will have to shift to holding a longer-term view that preserves the equity value of the company, the long-term earning potential of the company and -- crucially -- does not destroy relationships with other stakeholders.

MW: How can we all work on SQ in our everyday work lives?

CW: I ask people to identify the spiritual leaders they admire (to define what they mean by "spiritual leader"). Then I ask that they list the characteristics they admire. I explain that the reason they admire these people and their traits is that it is an aspect of themselves, their higher self or nobler self, calling them forward to live into those traits. You may not want to be Nelson Mandela or Gandhi -- but perhaps you can be more like them? Insert a mental pause into your reactions and take a slow belly breath (or several). Then consider what would my higher self do now?

MW: If you're interviewing someone for a job, how can you tell if they have strong SQ?

CW: I would ask them to share a difficult situation they dealt with or a story about a difficult person. You would have to ask both for what they did and why they did it. SQ includes complexity of thought (multiple perspectives held simultaneously), a mature calmness and an ability to see from another person's point of view. I would ask them to tell me why the other person was so hard to deal with -- what do you think was going on from their point of view? If they show they cannot role-reverse with another's point of view, it might show a lack of maturity in EQ and SQ.