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From The


Developing our Multiple Intelligences

Do you think you’re intelligent?

Intelligence is something that we have decided has value in our society. However, we also have a particularly narrow view of what it means to be intelligent. In the most traditional sense, our intelligence has been measured our whole lives through tools like standardized assessments and IQ tests. When we think of ‘intelligence’ we often think of one’s mental capacity to learn or acquire certain knowledge and skills. In this way, our ability to solve mathematical equations or recall facts is evidence of our “intelligence”. In reality, this is only one of multiple forms of intelligence. There are many theories in practice, but I am particular to Roger Gill’s Seven Intelligences of Leadership. He believes that beyond the traditional understanding of Cognitive Intelligence that we also possess the capacity for:

  • Emotional Intelligence: understanding and responding to the needs and feelings of ourselves and others
  • Social Intelligence: social awareness and competency in interactions
  • Cultural Intelligence: the ability to connect with people from different cultural backgrounds and
  • Moral Intelligence: the ability to differentiate between right and wrong  
  • Spiritual Intelligence: understanding and responding to people’s need for meaning and worth
  • Behavioral Intelligence: the ability to plan and do, reflects multiple forms of intelligence

When we can think of intelligence in this way, we actually recognize and validate the breadth and depth of knowledge and skill that we possess as people. This is yet another way, like personality theory or learning styles, that shows just how unique and complex we are as individuals. Which intelligences do you think are your strengths? Which intelligences would you like to develop? We each have our own strengths and opportunities for growth in each of these areas which means that we each contribute something completely different to the groups and organizations that we are a part of.

Right now, there are huge pushes for emotional, cultural, and moral intelligence in organizations. Just being “smart” isn’t enough to make you successful anymore, you also need to be able to empathize, manage diversity, and be ethical. These things may seem obvious, but we often don’t spend as much time actively developing these intelligences – our school and work environments simply don’t prioritize them.

As educators, employers, and leaders, we can provide opportunities and spaces for this to happen. Here are some fun and easy activities to help develop each of the seven intelligences in your group or team:


  • Cognitive Intelligence: Knot Not a Knot – in this activity groups must use intuition, reason, and problem solving to determine if there is a knot tied in a pile of rope.


  • Emotional Intelligence: Post It Displays of Appreciation are an easy and colorful way to foster appreciation, care, and empathy in our organizations.


  • Social Intelligence: Needs and Offers asks us to take our emotional intelligence one step further and make meaningful agreements with our group that will help us interact and work better together.


  • Cultural Intelligence: An activity like Privilege Walk helps groups understand each other better by learning about each other’s backgrounds and experiences.


  • Moral Intelligence: Using an activity like Four Corners asks group members to think about their values and make choices based on those values.


  • Spiritual Intelligence: Create a Group Profile to understand what matters to your team and how that aligns to your vision.


  • Behavioral Intelligence: Challenge your team to take action and utilize all of their intelligences to complete a challenging team building activity like Forks, Knives, and Spoons.

Different situations and contexts require different kinds of intelligence so it is important that we work to enhance and exercise each intelligence through practice and application. Together, these intelligences help us to be thoughtful, intentional, considerate, and actionable. If we can effectively leverage these intelligences in ourselves and engage them in others then I believe we can accomplish truly incredible and influential things together. 

*Meet the Author*

Caelan Cooney is another Millennial who wants ‘to make an impact’, a self-proclaimed movie critic, avid explorer, lifelong learner, and Chapman University graduate.