Cracking the PQ code

Dr Mark Pegg reviews Leadership PQ: how political intelligence sets leaders apart.

PQ-book-cover-180 Reffo-Wark1


Reading this book, I realised the golden triangle is also the interface between government, business and society, and there is a surprising gap in our understanding of the way leaders working in this golden triangle relate to each other. Authors, Gerry Reffo and Valerie Wark, associates of Ashridge Business School, set out to fill this gap. They use their own extensive experience of leadership development to offer us fresh thinking and tap into the wisdom of successful leaders to show how we can discover and get in touch with our inner political intelligence.

We know senior leaders should be intelligent, able to call on IQ and, thanks to Daniel Goleman, we understand how our emotional intelligence (EQ) should be part of our leadership style. In this socially networked world, where everybody feels the need to know all about their leaders’ views on everything, there is a further dimension to a leader’s skill set. Leadership PQ helps us to find and fit this missing piece, to complete the jigsaw, and integrate IQ and EQ strategically with political intelligence thus PQ.

These skills have always existed, career civil servants in any society have always ‘known’ how to do PQ, and most successful business leaders have adopted them – but they have done it instinctively because it is built into the culture.

This book sets out to understand these inner mechanisms of PQ – to crack the code – and show how effective PQ skills can be a decider in the competition between leaders of rival organisations in a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive world.

Reffo and Wark analyse what is going in PQ in a highly accessible format. They analyse the key skills and show how leaders can tap into the PQ skill set. The significance of the book is to see how relevant these PQ skills are for senior staff in any context, not only public services, but also in business or not for profit, local, national and multi-national and how to apply these skills successfully for the benefit of their organisations. In the connected and social media savvy world, PQ is increasingly vital for senior leaders ready to respond to the demanding power of public scrutiny and to grasp the political flux that flows inside their own organisations. University leaders will know this territory well.

Leaders with PQ can build a better rapport with their main stakeholders. Consumers know their rights and like to get organised these days. When they see something they don’t like they let you know and leaders need PQ to handle it. Nation states, regulatory bodies and multi-national organisations now take a keener interest in the impact business has on the public and society, not only to regulate and tax, but also as good neighbours through corporate community relations and as custodians of scarce global resources.

This is a practical book – you can browse, put it down, pick it up again – and is full of useful tips, case studies and self-assessment tools. It contains a useful model and I quickly acquired a mental map of it. The authors know this territory well. They have many years’ experience working on the leadership development front line, helping public servants produce better outcomes for their demanding, short-termist political masters and achieve better quality and value for taxpayers and users of public services.

Few will have forgotten Tony Hayward’s highly visible meltdown as chief executive of BP during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis. If only this book had been available then. Here was a talented leader, who seemed unable to read the PQ. If he had, might he have ridden the storm better? Could he even have emerged with his reputation intact? Leadership PQ offers better ways to create a stronger public persona for leaders and, dare I say it, better outcomes for shareholders, customers and taxpayers alike.

Leadership PQ – how political intelligence sets successful leaders apart was published last month and you can review the first chapter here.

Disclosure: Mark Pegg is the chief executive of the Leadership Foundation and was one of the leaders interviewed in Leadership PQ.