Intelligence of Influencers

Gardner Extraordinary Minds, 110-1

Except for those (like the anthropologist Margaret Mead and the physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer) who begin as academics, most Influencers are not particularly gifted in disciplinary study and do not like school.  They are seen as youths of talent and energy who lack a clear sense of where they are going to end up.

Influencers favor certain intelligences.  They need to be gifted in language, particularly spoken language, because of the importance of storytelling.  Either this talent unfolds in a natural way, as occurred with future university president Robert Maynard Hutchins, or it must be worked on compulsively, as happened with Winston Churchill.  A gifted for written language is also welcome, though less essential, except for those who aspire to exert influence in an indirect manner.  The capacity to confront fundamental questions about life–recently dubbed existential intelligence–is also valued.

The other area of strength inheres in the realm of personal intelligence.  It is vital that Influencers understand other individuals: what motivates them, how to work cooperatively with them if possible, how to manipulate them if necessary.  High IQs are no help in this matter.  (As if to underscore this point, studies of political leaders have revealed that the most charismatic have little understanding of economic issues.)  Finally, a shrewd sense of oneself–one’s sometimes changing goals, strengths, weaknesses, and needs–is an important ingredient for the successful Influencer.


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