Strategic Intelligence Theory

First, we believe that there are two levels of intelligence: strategic intelligence at the higher-level and operational intelligence at the lower level. Second, we believe that strategic intelligence is the major underlying force of leadership. 

We define strategic intelligence as a meta-level ability that allows people to define long-term goals or missions and to think broadly, deeply and dynamically. Strategic intelligence enables a person to understand self as a whole. People with a holistic or united self-understanding know why they live and for what they live. So strategic people have clear life missions or meaningful long-term goals. When viewing and thinking from a metacognitive perspective, people are visionary and can see big-picture. Some scholars (e.g., Lories, Dardenne and Yzerbyt; 1998; Martin, 2007) suggest that metacognition enables people to think deeply and dynamically because it involves the active functions of the mind associated with awareness, penetrability, and the paradoxes of factors that opposite to each other. Therefore, we believe that strategic intelligence is the underlying force of leadership. People with high strategic intelligence possess a strong leadership potential.

In contrast, operational intelligence refers to primary-level abilities that allow people to effectively deal with routine life and work tasks and solve problems in specific domains. Examples of operational intelligence are conventional cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, and social intelligence. Relative to strategic intelligence, operational intelligence is an object that exists at a lower level. Operational intelligences in various domains require strategic intelligence to harness them to work as an integrative force toward a meaningful long-term goal.  

In regard to relationships between strategic intelligence and operational intelligence, we assume the followings. First, operational intelligence is more fundamental or primary-order ability while strategic intelligence is meta-level or higher-order ability. People with sufficient operational intelligence do not necessarily possess strategic intelligence but people with sufficient strategic intelligence must have sufficient operational intelligence. Second, there is overlap between the two levels of intelligence, just like the relationship between strategic activities and operational activities in organizational settings. Operational intelligence does consist of strategic components, and vice versa. Third, there is a positive correlation between these two levels of intelligence. The strength of this relationship, though, is at most moderate. That is, overall, people possessing higher operation-level cognitive abilities are more likely to demonstrate strategic intelligence. This assumption is consistent with findings of a recent meta-analysis study by Judge, Colbert, and Ilies (2004) that there is a “moderately low but positive correlation” between cognitive intelligence and leadership.

A bold assertion we would like to make here is that the majority of people possess only sufficient operational intelligence. We further believe that this is the main reason why most of us are followers rather than leaders. A small percentage of people seem to be equipped with both sufficient operational intelligence and strategic intelligence. People with high strategic intelligence have a thinking power at a metacognitive level; therefore, they have a longer, broader, and deeper view. Strategic people usually demonstrate powerful self-leadership and they have a great potential to become effective leaders with necessary development.


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