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For many years, a high intelligence quotient (IQ) was thought to be the primary factor determining an individual's success as a leader, but numerous studies point to a direct correlation between high emotional intelligence (EQ) and effective leadership. While IQ certainly plays a large role in determining an individual's cognitive ability and academic skill (i.e. "book smarts"), it is EQ that determines an individual's ability to understand, empathize, and connect with their teammates on an emotional level – qualities that are essential in good leaders.

What is IQ?

Intelligence quotient (IQ) is a measure of an individual's intelligence. People with high IQ excel at logical reasoning, language and math. A person's IQ can be measured by way of a standardized assessments like the Stanford-Binet test and the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities. These tests have often been used in educational settings to identify highly intelligent and gifted individuals as well as individuals who may need assistance determining their career options. IQ tests are limited, however, in that they do not test an individual's non-academic abilities. 

What is EQ?

The University of New Hampshire's psychology department defines emotional intelligence (EQ) as the "ability to validly reason with emotions and use emotions to enhance thought." Those with high EQ work well with others, take more initiative, and achieve more. While an individual's EQ is more subjective than his or her IQ, there are several standardized tests – such as the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso test and the Daniel Goleman model score – that measure emotional intelligence. These assessments focus on a person's ability to manage emotions, express emotions effectively, connect with others, and use their emotions to facilitate decision making.

EQ vs. IQ: Which is More Important

So which is the best indicator of leadership potential – EQ or IQ? Both are crucial factors of leadership ability, but high-EQ individuals possess the soft skills that are essential to thrive in today's international economy – such as empathy, effective communication, negotiation skills, and an ability to work well on a team. While academic skill and technical knowledge are still important in determining an individual's ability to process information quickly and complete complex tasks, HR professionals are increasingly looking to emotional intelligence as a key indicator of leadership ability in an increasingly global business landscape. As remote work becomes the norm, this ability to effectively lead others will be essential to creating more engaged, motivated, and productive employees.


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