How to Lead with Political Intelligence - IEDP
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How to Lead with Political Intelligence

IQ and EQ are not enough. For today's leaders political intelligence, PQ, is required


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To drive future growth business leaders need ‘political intelligence’ (PQ) – a skill that equips them to build collaborative enterprises with governments and non-profit organizations.

Politics (from Greek: politikos, meaning "of, for, or relating to citizens")

Modern free market economies are largely built on an ‘impersonal’ model, in which transactions between parties are governed not by social obligations but by rational and objective calculation of individual financial gain. The model flourished through the 80s and 90s as privatization came to rescue economies stymied by years of nationalization and interventionist government. Unfortunately this free market model hit the buffers in 2008 and, as we pick up the pieces, the thought arises: surely there must be another way.

At a time when our interdependent world faces enormous challenges the shadows cast by these two antithetical ‘models’ should be ignored. We need governments and business to come together, share power, and build a better future. Businesses need to be more understanding of government objectives and governments need to work far better with business to harness its undoubted prowess at ‘getting things done’, and NGOs led by mega organizations such as the Gates Foundation should join this collaborative party.

In their new book, Leadership PQ: How Political Intelligence Sets Successful Leaders Apart, the authors contend that to operate effectively, in this hoped for shared-power environment, leaders in private and public sector organizations need new skills. IQ and EQ are not enough. A new type of leadership capability, political intelligence, PQ, is required. The authors define PQ as being “the leadership capacity to interact strategically in a world where government business and wider society share power to shape the future in a global economy.”

But why should either political or business leaders care? What incentives do they have to adopt PQ? For business leaders the answer is two-fold: on the positive side working in partnership with governments and NGOs can increase opportunities for growth, and on the defensive side in a transparent social-media-savvy world, where reputation is all, being socially responsible and co-operating with multiple stakeholders safeguards brands and ultimately builds profit.

For deficit-burdened governments the sheer volume of issues faced, from climate change and energy shortfall to decaying infrastructure and youth unemployment, and the consequent pressure from electors, means that co-operating with business to ‘get things done’ is simply essential, with only the most deep red dyed-in-the wool socialist politicians objecting.

For NGOS, to meet their objectives and not be overwhelmed, collaboration with governments to by-pass political obstacles and with business to innovate and drive performance is vital.

The authors Gerry Reffo, formerly Head of L&D at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Valerie Wark an associate of Ashridge Business School, use numerous case studies and interviews with leaders from all sectors to demonstrate the impact of PQ in practice.

Fundamentally this is a practical guide to navigating the Golden Triangle of business, government and society, at its core presenting a convincing model for developing leaders and organizations based on five facets: futurity; power; empathy with purpose trust; and versatility.

Leadership PQ: How Political Intelligence Sets Successful Leaders Apart, by Gerry Reffo and Valerie Wark, published by Kogan Page, 2014, ISBN 978-0-7494-6960-3

About Gerry Reffo

About Valerie Wark


Hult Ashridge Executive Education helps organizations around the world improve their leadership talent, strategic thinking and organizational culture.

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