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Do You Have a High CQ?

4 minute read


By Thom Dennis, CEO of culture and leadership specialists, Serenity in Leadership

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) denotes the capability to comprehend, communicate, and engage proficiently with individuals from diverse cultures. In our constantly evolving and globally connected world, there is a growing demand for this skill to enhance mutual understanding and it is increasingly crucial for fostering connections and better communication at work. So, who has it?

Possessing higher CQ has many associated advantages, including proficiency in communication, adept conflict resolution, and the ability to navigate interactions with individuals from diverse backgrounds which is a valuable asset for fostering collaboration, establishing robust relations, overcoming challenges, elevating customer satisfaction, and enhancing team efficiency.

Individuals with well-developed cultural intelligence exhibit qualities such as empathy, acceptance, and respect for others. They demonstrate heightened self-awareness, excel in collaboration, and achieve success without the inclination to undermine others. CQ is not fixed but is a skill that can undergo development and enhancement with time. Cultivating a sincere motivation and curiosity to actively engage and learn enables individuals to elevate their CQ through educational pursuits, hands-on experiences, and consistent practice.


They excel as leaders. Leading with cultural intelligence increases the likelihood of inclusive and effective leadership and strategy, as well as conscious consideration of individuals, contexts, and necessary adaptations, especially when navigating the complexities of today's digital and diverse work landscape.

They are less biased. Those with high CQ will approach situations without preconceived ideas or bias, which creates a safe and respectful working environment and better collaboration and communication. With 60 percent of respondents in one study reporting a presence of bias in their workplace, this is hugely important.

They prevent conflict. In a 2020 survey by CIPD, slightly more than 35% of employees reported encountering interpersonal conflicts, ranging from isolated disputes to ongoing challenging relationships. Those with elevated CQ possess the ability to foresee potential conflicts, challenges, controversies, or cultural misunderstandings. They take proactive measures to address and resolve these issues with cultural sensitivity.

They listen and consult. They deeply listen and ask questions with authenticity because they really want to know for reasons other than personal gain. They are also more likely to consult with a variety of sources with diverse backgrounds to obtain valuable insights.

They adapt. Individuals with a high level of CQ modify and tailor their work approaches to accommodate others, leading to more effective and successful outcomes. For instance, they recognise that some employees prefer direct communication and a well-defined strategy, while others excel when empowered with autonomy. The ability to adapt one's leadership style and demonstrate flexibility are crucial skills in today's work landscape.

They have a true understanding of the importance of diversity. With CQ comes a deeper understanding of different cultures, a desire to embrace diversity and a valuing of innovative ideas with those from different backgrounds which in turn leads to more successful projects and partnerships.

They are observant and proactive. They have their finger on the pulse of what is happening in and around organisations now, and are forward planners for the future helping companies to find the next great opportunity whilst always staying in congruence with their and the organisation's values.

They are collaborators. Those with high CQ want to make sure they are not missing out on valuable talent or input. They look for what or who is missing when searching for solutions. They enjoy working with others, especially those who may be different to themselves.

They embrace occasional failure. Leaders with high CQ know that colleagues may worry about sharing information if it puts them in a bad light and so won't assume they have the full picture.  Instead, they will cultivate a psychologically safe environment where there is transparency and lack of success is known to be acceptable when it comes to learning and development.

They take time to reflect. High CQ individuals are self-aware and tend to take the time to reflect, look at and talk through all the alternatives before they act in order to obtain the best solutions. They respond rather than react on impulse.

Thom Dennis is a Certified Facilitator accredited by the CQ® Center.

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