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Thought Leadership

Adam Bryant

What is your crisis quotient?

July 11, 2022

A new metric can help identify potential leaders who have what it takes to thrive in times of disruption.

The 20th century gave us an enduring two-part shorthand for describing the intellectual horsepower and emotional skills needed to work effectively with people: first, there was IQ, which is a measure of intelligence, introduced in 1912, then 78 years later, in 1990, came EQ, which tracks how well people perceive and understand emotions. The 21st century has already made it clear that endless disruption, constant crises, and heightened ambiguity and complexity are going to be the norm. And so it seems we need to add another Q to help identify the skills that allow some people to thrive in these kinds of conditions.

This idea was crystallized for me in a recent conversation with Laura Fuentes, the chief human resources officer of Hilton. She shared the concept of CQ, or crisis quotient, a new dimension of leadership that the global hotel chain has adopted since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 to describe the attributes leaders need to excel. CQ, in her view, includes the ability to focus on what matters most and make decisions in the face of uncertainty.

“Before COVID, a lot of companies tended to be very expansive in their strategy and to go after a million things,” Fuentes said. “We’ve all suffered from ill-fated attempts at prioritization over the years.” But when the pandemic brought the travel business to a halt, Hilton, like other hotel companies, had to figure out how to weather the crisis without knowing how long it would last, and that meant making hard decisions, such as closing hotels around the world, laying off workers, and restructuring its corporate offices. “Once we focused on the things that were going to get us through this period, we were able to move with greater speed and agility,” she added.

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The ExCo Group’s Adam Bryant wrote this article for his column in Strategy + Business.