9 Forms of Intelligence that Accurately Predict Employee Potential

Part Three in our series on Potential Quotient.

We all want to unleash our untapped potential, and the potential of others.Jim Collins reveals that getting the right people on the bus is key.This creates a fundamental leadership question for each of us. How do we discover whether someone is the right person, possessing the needed potential to grow fully and move the entire team toward the vision or dream? This is the vital question of leadership and influence.

Being able to accurately predict potential and to realize that potential ensures right-fit high-potential talent that creates real competitive advantage in employer branding, engagement and retention, and business performance at minimal cost.

 Roger Edwards Sr. VP of Strategic Consulting at Pilat HR Solutions

But what allows us to accurately predict this potential? Past performance and intelligence play a role but are they the best indicators? Our research shows they are not the primary indicators. Today we’ll take a look at why these aren’t the best indicators and what are the best indicators.

Different Forms of Intelligence

One challenge to tying intelligence alone to potential is that there are multiple forms of intelligence. Psychologist Howard Gardner in his 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences outlined 9 forms of intelligence:

1. Natural Intelligence

Naturalistic intelligence refers to a human being’s sensitivity to the natural world. This is the ability to distinguish among nature’s different features such as animals, plants, rock configurations, cloud formations etc.

2. Musical Intelligence

The intelligence involved in this ability to recognize tone, rhythm, timbre and pitch is musical intelligence. With this type of intelligence, people are able to detect, generate, reproduce and contemplate music as clearly exhibited by attuned listeners, musicians, composers, vocalists and conductors

3. Mathematical Intelligence

This type of intelligence equips a person with the ability to calculate and carry out mathematical operations, as well as to mull over hypotheses and propositions. Those who are “number or reasoning smart” tend to easily recognize relationships and patterns, demonstrate sequential reasoning skills, and generate and use abstract thoughts.

4. Interpersonal Intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence makes it possible for a person to communicate effectively through verbal and nonverbal means, distinguish among others, sense people’s temperament and moods, and consider various points of view. You’ll usually find this type of intelligence manifested by politicians, social workers, actors and teachers.

5. Kinesthetic Intelligence

“Body smart” people possess the capacity to stay graceful and coordinated when using a range of physical skills and manipulating objects. People with bodily-kinesthetic intelligence have an almost perfect sense of timing, and their mind-body coordination is nearly faultless.

6. Linguistic Intelligence

Linguistic intelligence involves the human capacity to think in words and use these to make oneself understood. It is this type of intelligence that allows a person to appoint complex meanings and express these through the use of language.

7. Intra-personal Intelligence

Intra-personal intelligence is the remarkable ability to understand themselves, their thoughts, and their emotions and are capable of using this knowledge to plan their lives possess.

8. Spatial Intelligence

Spatial intelligence is defined as the human capacity to consider things in three dimensions. This type of intelligence involves the following core capacities: a dynamic imagination, image manipulation, mental imagery, artistic and graphic skills, and spatial reasoning.

9. Existential Intelligence

Newest to the field of intelligence realms is the recognition that an existential intelligence exists. People with high existential intelligence tend to mull over “deep” thoughts. These thoughts may include the why’s and how’s of life and death. While most people just shake these kinds of thoughts away, individuals who are particularly keen to their own existence are drawn to exploring such questions like why are people born, how do they get here and why do they die.

While all of these forms of intelligence are vital to success, they alone are not sufficient to become the measure of who will become a key influencer and good leader. In fact, leaders have dotted history from all different areas of the above types of intelligence. The type of intelligence one possesses will shape what field of leadership in which one will emerge (ex. music, social work, etc.) it is not the prime determiner of whether they possess actual leadership and influence potential.

Experience as an Indicator

Experience is important to shaping the leader. But it must be noted that measuring experience is difficult. Oftentimes, only direct experience in a field is considered. This fails to account for the experience an individual might gain in cross-field, cross-cultural, or seemingly unrelated endeavors. These experiences can, in fact, open up the leader’s mind to non-traditional approaches. Science is filled with wonderfully discoveries made by those who were quite unfamiliar in the specifics of the field and thus were more open to non-traditional solutions.

Another example is the female workforce. Oftentimes, married women have non-continuous work experience, taking a career hiatus to raise a child. Thus their direct experience in a field or role might appear to be less than a counterpart. However, their “real world” experience as a mother, volunteer, etc. might have offered them increased applicable experience in shaping and influencing others.

In other cases, early life experiences might have shaped individuals dramatically. For good or bad, these experiences deeply changed the individual, yet will be difficult to perceive on a resume or CV. Many of the capabilities needed for leadership were forged in leader’s childhood and were events that cannot be duplicated on behalf of other’s in order to grow.

Experience is important, but it is still not the prime measure of potential.

Discovering the Potential Quotient

Measuring a person’s potential to become a future leader, history shaper, and effective influencer more directly affords you the opportunity to develop a specific trait which directly impacts your life experience and each of the nine intelligences. That is what Potential Quotient is all about. It consists of these seven factors or attributes that are key to an individual’s performance; confidence, commitment, courage, passion, empowering, trustworthiness and likeability. Each of us possess these seven traits, the question is to what degree.


Karen Keller, Ph.D., CEO of Karen Keller International, Inc., is author and creator of the Keller Influence Indicator® (KII®). She is a clinical psychologist and Master Certified Coach specializing in influence and human behavior. Dr. Keller develops programs, materials and resources relating to the Art of Influence. Her latest influence report, SOCR®, incorporates a person’s Seven Influence Traits® as related to 5 Organizational Competencies. She is passionate at helping people and companies develop their influence potential and an influence culture. Dr. Keller speaks to groups around the globe about the impact of influence in business and relationships. Contact her at or

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