Leadership Skills

Cultural intelligence leadership theory

What is Cultural intelligence leadership theory?

Cultural intelligence (CQ) leadership theory is a leadership approach that focuses on the ability of leaders to understand, appreciate, and work effectively across different cultures. Cultural intelligence is defined as the ability to understand and effectively navigate cultural differences, including differences in values, norms, and communication styles.

The theory of cultural intelligence in leadership was first introduced by Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne in the early 2000s, and it has been further developed and expanded by other researchers. Cultural intelligence is considered to be a key element of effective leadership, particularly in today’s globalized world, where organizations and leaders often work across multiple cultures.

According to the theory,

Cultural intelligence is made up of four components:

  1. Cognitive CQ: The ability to understand and analyze cultural differences and similarities.
  2. Physical CQ: The ability to navigate unfamiliar cultural environments and to adapt to different cultural norms and practices.
  3. Emotional CQ: The ability to manage one’s own emotions and to understand and respond appropriately to the emotions of others in different cultural contexts.
  4. Behavioral CQ: The ability to effectively communicate and behave in ways that are appropriate and effective in different cultural contexts.

Leaders with high cultural intelligence are thought to be more effective than traditional leaders because they are better able to build relationships, communicate effectively, and handle cultural differences.


Organizations can support the development of cultural intelligence in leaders by providing training and development opportunities, fostering a positive diverse and inclusive work culture, and promoting cross-cultural experiences.

It’s important to note that cultural intelligence should be considered as part of a comprehensive approach when evaluating leaders and that other leadership styles and theories should also be considered.

Additionally, the concept of cultural intelligence has been widely accepted and integrated in multiple fields, including management and leadership, organizational behavior, international business, and education.

How to Measure CQ

Cultural intelligence (CQ) can be measured in a number of ways, and there are several assessment tools available to assess an individual’s CQ.

The most commonly used measure of CQ is the Cultural Intelligence Scale (CQS), which was developed by Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne.

The CQS assesses an individual’s CQ across the four components: cognitive, physical, emotional, and behavioral.

The CQS is a self-report questionnaire that contains items that assess an individual’s ability to understand and navigate cultural differences. It typically includes a mix of multiple-choice questions, Likert-scale items, and open-ended questions.

Another assessment tool is the Cultural Intelligence Profile (CQ-i) which is a 360-degree assessment, which means that it is completed by the individual being assessed, as well as by people who interact with them in a cultural setting, such as supervisors, peers, and subordinates.


The results of the CQS or CQ-i provide a general score for overall CQ, as well as scores for each of the four components of CQ: cognitive, physical, emotional, and behavioral.

These scores can be used to identify areas of strength and weakness and to guide development efforts.

It’s also important to consider that CQ, like any other construct, is a multidimensional concept, and it is important to use multiple assessment methods and sources to get a comprehensive view of the individual’s CQ.

Self-report questionnaires, ability tests, rating scales, and interviews can be used to measure different aspects of CQ, and multi-source assessment, such as observer ratings, leader diaries, and interviews can enhance the validity of the assessment.


Marty Hoffman

Marty Hoffman, MBA, PhD Management Consultant for Fortune 500 and Corporate Strategist 📍 San Francisco, CA More »

Related Articles

Back to top button