Which qualities do we desire most in our leaders? Intelligence is a good one. But ‘intelligence’ is also a very broad term that’s prone to misappropriation.

The most common way to measure intelligence is through IQ. A high IQ is advantageous for most leaders, but is it any good in isolation?

Other forms of cleverness, such as emotional intelligence, have also been lauded as qualities for our leaders to aspire to. The latest of these is cultural intelligence – the ability to negotiate across different cultural values.

Julia Middleton is one of the main proponents of this idea, and works to promote it with her charitable trust Common Purpose.

The crux of this concept is core and flex – the idea that we all have core values that don’t change, and flex values that do. When two people meet, the differences in their core and flex can influence the course of their interaction.

If this interaction is buying a coffee, then core and flex doesn’t have much impact. But if it’s high-stakes political negotiation, an understanding of your associate’s values could be vital to success.

Image from Common Purpose.

So cultural intelligence is useful for leadership, but what’s it got to do with advertising?

When we’re communicating with people from different cultures, we need to know the core values that we must respect, and also the flex values that we can have fun with.

And ‘different culture’ doesn’t just refer to global advertising – it’s important whenever we advertise to people of a different race, age, gender, region or even people with a particular interest or hobby.

Sometimes this creates a lot of time-consuming research – hard work, but also a potential free holiday.

Sometimes the task is a little easier. Whoever translated the KFC slogan for China didn’t need to get on a plane – they just needed a dictionary.

Image from Language Reach.

If you’re ever baffled by agency speak, our terminology guide might help you cut through the jargon.

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