MT Masterclass: PQ (political quotient)

- What is it? Yes, just what we needed: a new acronym for business. We've had IQ, EQ, even SQ - social intelligence - and now here comes PQ: political quotient, or intelligence. The idea behind this label is that complex, political organisations - and have you ever known one that wasn't political? - have to be navigated with care, subtlety and intelligence. Knowing where the power lies and how to grab some of it are key survival skills. This is about more than mere tact and courtesy; this is about plotting a path to the top and avoiding getting shafted.

- Where did it come from? The business writer Jo Owen coined the term in his new book Power at Work (reviewed in October's MT). He has a clear-sighted view of relationships in the workplace. But, cleverly, he does not see the search for power as a solo performance or an ego trip. 'The reality is that power does not lie with the individual: it lies in the power of the system,' Owen writes. That comment is the mark of a person with high PQ. Use the power networks that already exist; don't try to fight them or supersede them. That way madness lies.

- Where is it going? Whenever two people meet, Prof John Hunt of London Business School used to say, a hierarchy is formed. Politics is not going to go away any time soon. And it could be that as organisations become more global, we'll all need to hone our political skills and understanding even more. Those who succeed in this diverse, cross-border future will have what the psychologist Howard Gardner calls a 'synthesising mind' - people who are able to deal with various influences and ideas, grasp lots of different 'vibes' and cultures, and master them. You will have to mind your Ps, your Qs, and your PQ.

Fad quotient (out of 10) Six, but rising fast in the polls.

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