Twenty-first century leadership training can benefit from a comprehensive framework rooted in emerging scientific knowledge. The Human Quotient (HQ) is an overarching model with three interwoven components. The “quotient” can be defined as “proactive” divided by “reactive,” as manifested in three key areas of human experience and performance: cognitive, behavioral and interpersonal.

When individuals are more proactive than reactive in each of these spheres, they position themselves for success as innovative and effective leaders. Leadership development programs and executive coaching can be useful tools to impart the concepts of HQ and empower leaders to implement its core principles.


The cognitive dimension of HQ grows via an increase in proactive thinking and a decrease in reactive thinking. The latter is driven by the circumstances of the moment, old ways of doing things or “groupthink.” Proactive thinking, on the other hand, has two major components that increase HQ. The first is mindful self-reflection, which propels self-awareness. Self-reflection has been a theme in philosophy since ancient times, and its relevance to sound decision-making is increasingly confirmed by cognitive psychology and neuroscience. The second component of proactive thinking is strategic reasoning, which is essential for visionary, forward-thinking business development. Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why” reveals how proactive thinking underlies the growth and flourishing of some of the world’s most profitable and influential companies, such as Apple.


The behavioral dimension of HQ rises when individuals reduce their reactivity to stressful situations in the workplace and regulate their emotional responses effectively. Reactive behaviors – such as yelling, eye-rolling or demeaning others – can create toxic work environments, reduce productivity and profitability, and limit career growth. Proactive regulation and modulation of behaviors are essential.

There is growing evidence that proactive stress management, including mindfulness strategies, can enhance job satisfaction, improve performance and deepen collaborative relationships in the workplace. Mindfulness, which can be defined as non-judgmental present-moment awareness, can be developed using meditation, controlled breathing and other activities. All of them can be taught using training programs and mindfulness coaching, which some companies are providing in workplace seminars or as part of an employee benefits package.


The interpersonal aspect of HQ involves effortful nurturing of relationships with a broad range of colleagues, collaborators and other stakeholders. Individuals with high HQ do not regard themselves as passive onlookers who are beleaguered by work-related challenges and interpersonal conflict. Instead, they intentionally and proactively shape positive relationships by fostering social connectedness, empathizing with the experience of others, and contributing more value than they expect or feel they deserve.

Individuals can often increase the interpersonal dimension of HQ with seemingly simple behaviors, such as taking a colleague out for lunch, asking how his or her family is, or walking down the hall to chat instead of sending an email. Coaching and training programs can help individuals implement nuanced strategies to proactively reach out to others in order to optimize collaborative relations and drive results.

Organizations can teach the principles of HQ in a didactic format in training programs and convey them in an individually customized format in executive coaching. Regardless of the venue or specifics of the learning experience, the trainer or coach must challenge the client to develop a self-disciplined mindset as a driving force rather than a bystander.

In addition to didactics, leadership trainers can facilitate active learning experiences in break-out groups with focused dialogues and other exercises to increase the proactive mindset while decreasing the reactive approach. Executive coaches, similarly, must facilitate powerful conversations in which they call out passive thought patterns (e.g., “My boss hasn’t told me what my role is”) and foster proactive thinking (e.g., “I’m going to propose to the CEO what my role should be and engage in a conversation about how to move things forward”). This kind of transformation increases HQ and serves as a rock-solid foundation for career growth and successful leadership development.