We have all known people who are exceptionally intelligent and successful. They seem to succeed at whatever they put their mind to and relish in the hard work it takes to achieve. They have learned about different management strategies such as Six Sigma, JIT (just in time), TRIZ, the list goes on and on. Each year people trained in the newest management or leadership approaches are hired by organizations who are convinced they have finally found the Holy Grail and now their organization will soar. They think they have found people who can make decisions at the speed of electrons. Often they are told by the trainers of these new approaches to hire the best and often what that means are those folks who have graduated from an highly elite institution, maintained high grades and received the best scores on tests such as the SAT OR ACT. Ahhh if it were only that easy. One famous longitudinal study entitled the Terman study followed a group of highly intelligent people – with IQ’s of 135 or above – expecting them to win illustrious awards such as a Pulitzer, MacArthur or similar award in their fields. Most often they did not. As you may have guessed by now …there is more to the story than the latest leadership fad and IQ.
What they discovered over time was that once a person crosses the IQ threshold of 120 there is little relationship between higher intelligence and better performance. (you may want to read that last sentence again since it is so contrary to what we have heard all of our lives!) More recently than the Terman study, Macolm Gladwell who wrote ‘Outliers’ among many other outstanding books found those who won Nobel prizes in Chemistry or Medicine did NOT often go to the top of the rock type of schools. Rather they went to good schools and worked very hard.
The take away for us is that intelligence is a piece of the puzzle but certain character traits and dispositions make even more of the difference for success. Honesty, rigorous thinking about a problem before making a decision, fair-mindedness, discipline, imagination, sensitivity and the ability to see nuances – avoid black or white thinking – and of course, above all, a strong work ethic really fill out the puzzle and create a beautiful landscape of future success for those willing to work for it.
Regardless of how we score on an IQ test these character traits make us successful or not at whatever we pursue in life. The great news is that we can work to develop them on a daily basis!
Have a great few days!