It’s no surprise intelligence ranks as the first element. While definitions of intelligence abound, a single definition isn’t needed. Rather, we can identify a set of leadership skills or abilities that need reasonable iQ.
First, leaders need the ability to understand the environment in which they operate. And that doesn’t mean they can explain quantum physics. If they’re business people, they need to know their business market. If they’re political leaders, they need to understand the political machine. If they’re military leaders, they need a grasp of warfare. Great leaders can see patterns in their environment and observe changes in those patterns.
Second, leaders must interpret what they perceive. They must be able to translate what changes in patterns mean for the group they lead.
Third, they must plan effective responses. They need to weigh up alternatives and choose one for the group to follow. They must often make fast decisions.
It takes a reasonable iQ to understand, interpret and respond to a complex environment. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist. In fact, there’s a study published by the British Psychological Society(1) that suggests a negative correlation between a high iQ (above 128) and leadership.