Berger Leadership Blog

How high is your decency quotient?

Dan with membersIn the past month, I've attended two events – my organization's annual leadership institute and Mastercard's Global Inclusive Growth Summit – that have touted a leadership trait that often flies under the radar. It's a component of servant leadership, which I practice and preach. It is decency quotient.

Duke University Fuqua School of Business Dean Bill Boulding wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review earlier this year to elevate the importance of decency in leadership. Successful leaders, he writes, have a triple-threat capability: intellect, emotional intelligence (EQ), and decency quotient (DQ).

I've written before about the importance of EQ, which is your ability to understand and effectively handle your own emotions and others'. Boulding explains how DQ goes a step further than EQ:

"DQ implies a person has not only empathy for employees and colleagues but also the genuine desire to care for them," he writes. "DQ means wanting something positive for everyone in the workplace and ensuring everyone feels respected and valued. DQ is evident in daily interactions with others. DQ implies a focus on doing right by others."

Boulding references a presentation to his students by Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga, with whom I had the pleasure to meet with this week at the summit, who emphasized the importance of DQ in ensuring a positive workplace environment where people enjoy coming to work and work with principle.

To establish this culture, leaders must demonstrate decency in all business decisions. Profit and results are motivating factors for success – they keep our businesses afloat – but they can't be your sole focus.

My organization is proud to represent the credit union industry where institutions are the epitome of decency. In times of hardship, such as government shutdowns or natural disasters or general charitable causes, credit unions are the first financial institutions to step up and offer members and communities support. They do this without being pushed by public criticism (unlike banks) – it's because their fundamental mission and business model puts members ahead of profits.

With this approach, the credit union mission builds trust and loyalty. It's something I work to implement at NAFCU, and you should work to duplicate at your organization, too.

Because when employees are connected to your mission, they feel a greater sense of fulfillment in their role. When leaders take the time to get to know employees, to offer flexibility in hard times, to be committed to individuals' success and growth, that's what will build strong relationships.

Our offices are where we spend a majority of our time. Employees should be treated with respect, and they should be expected to treat their peers, managers, and direct reports the same.

Reflect on how your decency quotient and be mindful of how you express it in your leadership strategy.

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About the Author

B. Dan Berger, President and CEO, NAFCU

Dan BergerB. Dan Berger first joined NAFCU in 2006 and has helped expand the association's reputation into becoming a premiere advocate for the credit union industry.

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