8 min read

EQ, IQ, And The Leadership Matrix

IQ's value has been visible for years, but modern day leadership requires a high level EQ as well. Leaders should have both, and this is why.
Written by
Jonathan Mitchell
Published on
April 12, 2024

What makes a good leader? What skills do they need to have? Is a person’s intellect the only true measurement that matters when it comes to a leadership position? These questions might seem valid, but in reality, they miss the mark entirely.

When measuring a person's intelligence, we often think of IQ or Intelligence Quotient. However, there has been a growing interest in EQ, or Emotional Quotient, in recent years. EQ measures a person's emotional intelligence

Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) are essential to have in leadership positions. IQ has always been a buzzword people are familiar with, and its reference is almost always that of a savant. However, it's become clear that emotional intelligence is also inherently valuable. The ability to empathize and communicate at a high level with other humans is where EQ comes in. Sure, being intelligent as a leader is helpful. However, if you cannot lead in a way that inspires and galvanizes those around you, the IQ won't matter.

So, let's explore the differences between IQ and EQ and why it's important leaders utilize both.

The Difference Between IQ and EQ

IQ measures a person's cognitive abilities. This includes logical reasoning, problem-solving, and pattern recognition. On the other hand, EQ measures a person's emotional intelligence. Essentially this references a person's ability to perceive, understand, and regulate their own emotions. In turn, they're more capable of understanding and empathizing with others.

IQ is crucial for success in many fields, but there is another side to that coin. EQ is just as vital to success in areas that require interpersonal skills. Studies have shown that people with high EQ are more likely to be successful in these areas than those with high IQ but low EQ.

The importance of both while occupying a leadership position can't be understated. A fact reinforced in a study by Adrian Furnham, Alistair McClelland, and Angela Mansi. They found that participants "showed no significant preference for gender or age of a boss but a strong preference for high EQ and IQ, with EQ more powerful than IQ." It's this happy medium that needs to be pursued. Like most things, that's easier said than done. It becomes especially difficult when stress levels increase.

How IQ and EQ Beneficially Affects Leadership

People with a high IQ but low EQ may struggle with social interactions. In contrast, people with a high EQ but low IQ may struggle with more analytical tasks and have difficulty with complex problem-solving. Leaders need a healthy dose of both. If one measurement is seen as more valuable, performance may suffer. Lauren Landry, the Director of Marketing and Communications for Harvard Business School Online, said in an article, "Leaders set the tone of their organization. If they lack emotional intelligence, it could have more far-reaching consequences, resulting in lower employee engagement and a higher turnover rate. While you might excel at your job technically, if you can't effectively communicate with your team or collaborate with others, those technical skills will get overlooked."

Having a balance of IQ and EQ means that a person can excel in analytical and social situations. It also means they are better equipped to handle stress and adapt to changing conditions. This makes them more resilient and successful in the long run.

"What is important for a leader is to understand their audience, solo or group. The influx of new joiners and the revised maturity of their tenured folks is an evolving scale and not necessarily the same as yesterday. If one can vary their approach to them in the right proportion of Goleman's 6 leadership styles (Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting and Commanding), then it fosters the right environment to collaborate and outperform." thinkbridge Delivery Unit Lead Kalyan Charkrabarti

The Future of IQ and EQ In Leaders

Our understanding of intelligence will continue evolving, and as we learn more we’ll be able to better utilize all the skills at our disposal. Eventually, we will likely see more emphasis on EQ in education and the workplace. There is also a growing interest in developing tools to help people improve their EQ, so we may see more emphasis on developing emotional intelligence alongside cognitive abilities in the future.

IQ and EQ are important measures of a person's intelligence, but they measure different things. Valuing both equally when evaluating leaders needs to become the norm. Leaders need to empathize with their teammates. The ability to think critically and apply emotional intelligence to complex situations will improve a leader's ability to get the best out of those around them. Even the ability to dissolve a disagreement requires both EQ and IQ, so it’s about time they’re valued equally.

"It happens with leadership where there are people who are in a leadership position and they'll say, 'You cannot argue with me.' You have to have a discussion. Otherwise, it's like someone is dictating you, and that's not a healthy environment. Even if you disagree, you have to present facts. If somebody disagrees with me and provides facts then we’ll discuss it. Then it becomes a discussion instead of a disagreement with an ego." thinkbridge Practice Unit Lead Nupur Agarwal


Anand Krishnan

CEO and Managing Partner

Andrew Zarkadas

Vice President - Growth

Shamik Mitra

Vice President - Client Services

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