25 November 2018

This article was featured in the December 2018 / January 2019 issue of the magazine.

Strong emotional intelligence is a significant trait in any successful leader. Samantha Caine, managing director of Business Linked Teams, weighs up the importance of EQ v IQ 

Successful leaders have long stood behind claims of a high intelligence quotient (IQ) being the key to their success. Donald Trump is one example of a leader who has made serial claims of a higher IQ than his peers. 

With many people placing a lot of pride in the numbers that represent their intelligence quotient, emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, is as important in leadership. And those with a high level of EQ will know better than to boast about their IQ.

While a person’s IQ can be difficult to grow, a higher EQ can be cultivated. For organisations joining the global movement of succession planning and investing in the growth of future leaders, emotional intelligence can be instilled in chosen candidates through the right training and development programmes. 


...able to interact effectively with other people – and this is a core competency of a successful leader


Unbound emotion

Teaching emotional intelligence is all about instructing people on how to be aware of both their emotions and the emotions of others, enabling them to use that information to formulate their response in a pragmatic and deliberate way. In the workplace this can be delivered through behavioural training which can transform the way people behave, particularly in relationships with other people and in leadership this is essential. 

Businesses are becoming increasingly aware that the ability to communicate with and relate to other people effectively is a core factor in ensuring business success in the future. Leading edge organisations recognise that their people resource is the single most significant factor that will enable them to differentiate themselves in the future and they want to invest in this resource.

IQ is still relevant in today’s workplace. It’s easier to measure than EQ, so typically organisations still select and promote people based on their IQ or technical capability. This means that they have skilled people to do their jobs but those people don’t necessarily have the EQ needed, for example, to work effectively in teams, to lead other people or to deal with difficult customers.

Emotional intelligence is about being able to interact effectively with other people – and this is a core competency of a successful leader. They must be able to lead, persuade, negotiate and inspire other people. The more emotionally capable a business is, the more agile it will be and the better it will be able to identify and respond to market changes and customer needs. 

Emotional intelligence is a combination of different skills, therefore measuring it is no simple feat. To some extent EQ is subjective which makes it even more challenging. EQ needs to be measured through a number of different routes including the results that they achieve and the competencies and tools that they have identified as core for their business. 

For managers, for example, a combination of results from 360-degree feedback, customer satisfaction surveys and achievement of objectives can all provide an indication of someone’s ability to work effectively with other people.


Getting the right balance

It would be unfair to say EQ is always more important than IQ since it really does depend on the role. However, most organisations would acknowledge that in general, developing IQ is easier than developing EQ and therefore developing EQ is where the focus should lay. IQ is easier to compartmentalise, structure and manage, so that’s why it maintains the focus. 

As far as true leadership goes, we would argue that a leader can have less IQ than those in their team. Yet they must be able to lead the team and empower them to achieve results. In many teams, the leader is not necessarily the expert so it is their ability to lead that counts. Take football managers for example – the manager is not the best footballer in the room and may never have been that accomplished as a player but they can still lead the team.

IQ training is something we are more familiar with. Schools, colleges and universities all focus on academic development – the development of IQ – and it’s often based on repeating information that has already been taught. 

The most effective behavioural training programmes focus on developing EQ by providing the theory and following it up with plenty of opportunities to test the new skills and receive feedback in a safe environment that replicates the real world working environment. By striking the right balance between EQ and IQ, organisations can ensure future success and continued success with effective leadership across the board.