The dean of Duke Fuqua looks specifically for candidates with ‘triple threat capabilities’ that don’t come naturally to everyone

‘Without decency, people won’t trust you,’ said Bill Boulding, pictured. Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business
  • Bill Boulding is the dean of DukeUniversity Fuqua School of Business.
  • He said he’s looking for students who display “triple threat capability leadership,” meaning they’re smart, sensitive, and decent people.
  • But these abilities don’t come naturally to everyone, so Fuqua has to be selective in whom it admits.

At Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, “well-rounded” isn’t just a nebulous term floating around the admissions office.

Dean Bill Boulding and his staff have boiled it down to a series of distinct traits that define the type of student they’re looking for.

In an interview with Business Insider, Boulding called this trait combination “triple threat capability leadership.” The package includes:

  • IQ (raw intelligence)
  • EQ (emotional intelligence)
  • DQ (“decency quotient”)

Boulding broke down why each item is important.

As for IQ, he said, “The truth is that you can’t be stupid if you’re going to be an effective leader. People may follow you once, but they’re not going to follow you twice if you don’t have the ability to really bring to bear your insight on the complexities that any business or any organisation faces.”

Then there’s EQ. Boulding said, “If you’re going to be working with other people, you have to be able to be sensitive to their emotions, their emotional state, and how they’re feeling. You have to be able to regulate your own emotions and be able to connect with one another in order to rally together and accomplish something extraordinary together.”

DQ is a less widely used term, but it’s no less important a concept at Fuqua. It shows that “you’re interested in other people; you’re interested in their success; you’re interested in bringing out their best,” Boulding said. “Without decency, people won’t trust you. You won’t be credible. You won’t be respected. People just will not enjoy working with you.”

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‘Triple threat capabilities’ don’t come naturally to everyone

Boulding’s vision of a leader who does the right thing, in addition to being smart and sensitive, sounds similar to what Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria previously told Business Insider.

Nohria breaks down leadership into two components – competence and character – and he said HBS students learn to develop both.

Competence is about getting people to trust you and your decisions: “It’s not like you can call yourself a leader just because you have an important position,” he said. Character is about your values, and your ability to make ethical decisions.

Ultimately, Boulding and his team at Fuqua are selective about who they admit because they’re realistic about who can become a triple-threat leader.

“We don’t think that just anybody can become a ‘leader of consequence,'” Boulding said, referring to a term that a former Fuqua dean used to describe “someone who is able to effectively perform as a leader and as a team player; they are brilliant and also human; they are analytical and a globalist.”

“You need to have the raw material in place, in terms of the IQ, EQ, and DQ,” Boulding said. “Then we can take those capabilities and turn your inclinations into real instincts.”