One basic quality that every successful leader must have is intelligence, which 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.

 But here is a completely new process which has, in essence, become quite a phenomenon… and it is essential when dealing with leaders… What leaders really need is a healthy dose of decency… 

It sometimes happens that a not so smart leader gets elected or takes over a company. In such instances, one hopes 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 (EQ), which was introduced by Daniel Goleman in his book with the same name. EQ includes being able to recognise people’s emotional circumstances as a very necessary skill for leaders.

However, EQ or just recognising 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!

Let us consider a third leadership quality: Decency

Decency, or DQ, involves doing the right thing and being smart enough (IQ) to know what that is. It also involves knowing where most people are coming from (EQ) and doing what you can to help them get it  (DQ).

Please note that not only do high-DQ people do the right things for others, they also avoid doing the wrong thing 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 to create profitable companies. No wonder enlightened businesses looking for leaders put DQ on their list of highly required qualifications.

The time has come 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 getting used to getting there. . 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 of the leaders have generated cynicism and more so distrust. They do put our democracy at risk.

Humility is a big part of DQ (Decency Quotient).  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 assessing someone’s DQ must be a part of the hiring process. Please take note of a  recommendation that calls for a display of humility as well as smartness. It excludes people who mainly spend the interview 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 organisations 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 do you build your decency quotient?

Here are some ideas on where to start.

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 diverse people, focused on an absolute common purpose.

Confront all your prejudices 

Once you have built in a diverse team, your instinct will be to object to views that differ from your own 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 complete pathbreaker to deal with competitive advantage.

Why decency in leadership is a competitive advantage

The decency quotient has to start at the top. It is essential that leaders and managers model this type of behaviour more than ever because outside forces of polarization are working up against us. The world does feel like an ugly place for many people. It is impossible for employees to leave 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 instil 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 interest at heart. People do 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 a crucial key towards a winning business strategy. After all, there is much research linking diverse teams to innovation, but 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 be at their authentic best to work towards a common goal. People do not feel genuinely supported and valued if they do not, and when that is the case, a team can quickly turn towards being dysfunctional. 

It is important to understand that DQ goes a step further than EQ and focuses on self-awareness of emotions, both in others’ and in one’s self. Please consider that having a high EQ is useless 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 does bring 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 setting goals for the company that meets fiscal objectives and improve lives.

DQ (Decency Quotient): 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 leaders who are deeply connected to how their teams are feeling. When a leader can utilize IQ and EQ and demonstrate a commitment to acting with decency it can be an absolutely essential factor in a successful business strategy. Employees do 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 that is serious about being successful in the future.