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Comparing the Value of EQ and IQ for Leaders


Until recently, an individual’s intelligence quotient (IQ) was thought of almost exclusively as the one major predictor for success—both as an individual and as a leader. Sure, someone could have superior “people skills,” but a high IQ has long been one of the only measurable traits used to identify a good leader. One can also not underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence for leadership.

High IQ is still relevant and is a large factor in one’s general cognitive ability. However, our understanding of what makes a good leader has evolved. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, determines an individual’s ability to understand, empathize, and connect with those around them. In the context of leadership, an ability to connect with teammates on an emotional level is essential for managing an efficient and productive team.

What Are IQ and EQ, Really?

It is well-understood by business leaders, mental health professionals, academics, and others that it’s impossible to categorize people based on a single scale. Essentially, ranking people based on IQ alone is an ineffective way to determine who would and would not make an effective leader. EQ offers a more multifaceted way to understand behaviors and decision making.

What Is IQ and How Is it Measured?

IQ was developed as a metric to quantify a person’s cognitive ability. Intelligence quotient is one of the most common way of measuring an individual’s intelligence. An individual with a high IQ would, typically, have an intuitive ability to grasp the principles of logic, mathematics, language, and other abstract concepts.

IQ is used as a predictor of one’s academic performance and is often used to identify those with intellectual gifts—generally for placement in special programs in school designed for high-IQ individuals. IQ is measured using standardized assessments.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in relying so heavily on IQ as a predictor is that IQ tests are inherently limited. That is, the tests themselves do not measure everything that would make a successful person or a good leader.

What Is EQ and How Is it Measured?

Emotional intelligence, defined by The University of New Hampshire Department of Psychology, is a person’s ability to validly reason with emotions and use emotions to enhance thought. When leaders possess a high level of emotional intelligence, it becomes easier to lead their teams. Emotional intelligence for leadership, although vital, is pretty difficult to measure.

For now, at least, there are fewer tools available to measure EQ objectively, as with IQ, but there are still several tests available. 

The Role of IQ and EQ in Effective Leaders

Both IQ and EQ are essential qualities in good leaders. They must both be technically adept and be able to connect with and manage their team. That said, an effective leader need not be the ultimate expert on a given subject among her team but managing the dynamics of a team, negotiating, and clear communication are absolutely essential. For this reason, an individual with high EQ will likely emerge as a more effective leader.

Do you need help identifying and developing effective leadership behaviors? Envision Global Leadership’s ALII-Map Enterprise assessment algorithm focuses on how leaders engage with their organization—including both teams and individuals.

Our assessment scores are used to measure a person’s ability to manage and express emotions, connect with others, and use emotions effectively in decision-making. Essentially, we’re measuring how leaders are using their EQ and how it affects their organizations.

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