Which Is More Important: Emotional Intelligence or IQ?

Do you believe some people are just born successful leaders?

Or do you think effective leadership is a skill that can actually be acquired?

Most of all, do you think leaders are successful because they are smarter than others? Or do they have another distinctive attribute?

Take this story as an example…

In the mid-1980s, as a young manger, I took my first DiSC® behavioral style analysis profile, and I credit it with changing the course of my career. The term “Emotional Intelligence” was already being used in academic circles at that time. But it was actually 10 years later that Daniel Goleman popularized the term with his book: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

And it was much later when I realized the benefits I gained from taking the DiSC® profile. They stem from the concept of Emotional Intelligence, or EQ.


Why Emotional Intelligence Is Important – And Real

The DISC® profile gave me insight into the strengths and weaknesses of my managing style. Plus, it highlighted blind spots that were tripping up my relationships with colleagues and hurting my credibility as a leader.

It also introduced me to the fact that not everyone else sees the world as I do. Therefore, being an effective leader requires the ability to see the world from the perspective of those you wish to lead.

As it turns out, the DISC® profile introduced me to the four pillars of emotional intelligence.

In the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, authors Bradberry and Greaves identify emotional intelligence as one of three essential components of the “whole” person. The other two components are IQ and personality.

They further identify four core skills or pillars that make up emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

Self-awareness and self-management are intrapersonal skills. Meanwhile, social awareness and relationship management are interpersonal skills.

which is more important: emotional intelligence or iq? 1

Why Successful Leaders Need More EQ

Goleman conducted his research at nearly 200 large, global companies. And what he found was surprising. A leader does need the qualities traditionally associated with leadership to be successful (think: intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision). But those skills alone are insufficient.

Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence. And this includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

He then calculated the ratio of technical skills, IQ, and emotional intelligence as ingredients of excellent performance. And emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important as the others for jobs at all levels.

Bradberry and Greaves also found that 90% of the top performers studied were also ranked high in emotional intelligence. Meanwhile, only 20% of bottom performers had a high level of EQ.

While some other researchers have found the predictive ability of emotional intelligence to be unsubstantiated, I have gained significant benefits from the awareness and skills I developed as a result of DiSC® and other tools for improving the skills associated with Emotional Intelligence. I have also seen my clients who have made the effort to enhance their emotional intelligence related skills benefit from it.


Can You Increase Your Level of Emotional Intelligence?

Yes, you can.

And it starts with self-awareness.

1. Take a self-evaluation

There are a number of assessments that can assist you in this area. I use Everything DiSC® profiles including the 8 Dimensions of Leadership Map (request your free 8 Dimensions of Leadership map) with my clients.

Other options include Strengths Finder, and VIA Character Strengths. Bradberry and Greaves’ book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 includes a code to take their EI Appraisal assessment.


2. Take the time to listen to others

The second step is to begin to see the world through the eyes of others – to understand what motivates others. You can start by asking questions and then truly listening to the answers.

Ask questions like:

  • What is important to you?
  • And what do you value?
  • What are your goals?
  • What outcome do you want to achieve?
  • Help me understand what led you to make that decision.

Plus, see this past post for tips on strengthening your interpersonal skills.

To more fully understand how others perceive the world, you need a model that describes the various perspectives or “world views”. This model would depict the various filters that individuals use in perceiving reality.

The Everything DiSC® behavioral style model can be helpful in understanding others as well as understanding yourself.


Are You Still Unsure If Emotional Intelligence Is Fact or Fiction?

Try this simple exercise and see for yourself.

Think about the best leader you ever worked for. What traits made that leader great? And what did he or she do to make you consider them an exceptional leader? Write your answers down.

Now think about the worst person you ever worked for. What did this person do that caused you to identify him or her in this category? Write down your responses.

Which category do your responses fall into? And would you categorize your responses as intellectual, cognitive or technical traits?

Or, would you categorize them as having to do with intrapersonal and interpersonal skills associated with emotional intelligence?


Some people might be lucky enough to be born with a high level of emotional intelligence. But fortunately for the rest of us, it is a skill that can be acquired and even continually improved, with the right tools.


Are you ready for a self-reflection exercise to become a better leader?


Read more about The Everything DiSC® assessments here.


To find out more about gaining and improving effective leadership skills, get in touch here.


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