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  • Writer's pictureJay Williams

EQ vs. IQ

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and understand the emotions of yourself and others, and to adjust your behavior accordingly.


  • Is elastic and can grow.

  • A great predictor of success.

  • Improved social and people skills.

  • Ability to identify, evaluate and navigate emotions.


  • Is inherent and unchangeable.

  • Not a predictor of success.

  • Improved problem-solving and technical skills.

  • Ability to learn, understand, and apply information.

You don’t have to be in the fields of engineering, life sciences or technology to be tempted to choose IQ over EQ, technical skills over soft skills, ability over willingness, or aptitude over attitude when evaluating candidates for positions in your company. Several books have been written on EQ including a few referenced below. My goal is to shift your thinking with this topic so you can make a better choice when you recruit, hire, and coach.

Because I knew you would ask: According to the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale Fifth Edition, an average IQ score is any score within the range of 80-119, where scores closer to 80 are considered low average, and scores closer to 119 are considered high average. Next, the range considered superior is within 120- 129, above which is the gifted range, 130-145.

Now, here’s a list of some very successful people who didn’t make it to the top of the IQ scale, just like me, and maybe like you and your people.

  • Abraham Lincoln: Sixteenth President of the United States.

  • Muhammad Ali: One of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century.

  • Dr. James Watson: Scientist and Nobel Prize winner.

  • Andy Warhol: Artist, film director, and producer.

  • E.O. Wilson: Scientist and Pulitzer Prize winner.

  • Richard P. Feynman: Physicist and Nobel Prize winner.

  • Francis Crick: Molecular biologist and Nobel Prize winner.

IQ measures intelligence functions like problem-solving skills, pattern recognition, mathematical logic, and finding connections among verbal concepts. But what it doesn’t measure is a person’s general knowledge of facts and figures, like whether they know the capital of Djibouti (wait for it: Djibouti).

Your IQ is generally fixed. It’s likely there will be minor fluctuations of a few points from one examination to another based on how well-rested you are, whether you’re distracted or simply by chance on the day it is measured.

There are exceptions to the rule. Recent research shows chronic financial stress can actually lower your IQ. In their book, Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, behavioral economists Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir conducted a two-part experiment. First, they asked a group of people to imagine they needed to pay $300 for a car repair. Next, they gave the participants tests to determine their IQ. The results yielded no significant difference in response to the IQ test between poor and wealthy participants.

However, when the same experiment was conducted with a $3,000 car repair, the result was quite different. The poor participants did significantly worse on the test than the wealthy participants. In fact, they scored 10 to 12 points lower. Note to self: If your people are experiencing financial stress due to the economy or personal circumstances it will affect their problem solving, creativity and productivity.

Ever since the publication of Daniel Goleman’s first book on the topic in 1995, emotional intelligence has become one of the hottest buzzwords in corporate America. When the Harvard Business Review published an article on the topic a few years ago, it attracted a higher percentage of readers than any other article published in that periodical in the last 40 years. When the CEO of Johnson & Johnson read the article, he was so impressed he sent copies to the 400 top executives in the company worldwide.

Since almost the beginning of time, we’ve tried to measure intelligence. Early criteria hypothesized there should be a correlation between intelligence and other observable traits like reflexes, muscle grip, and head size. But here’s the flaw in the thinking around IQ: We believed and acted as if your IQ was an indicator or predictor of your success.

Here are eight facts about emotional intelligence from recent studies that dispel that thinking:

  1. High levels of EQ can ensure that you get the job more easily: 71 percent of top managers find EQ more important for business than IQ, and 59 percent would immediately reject the candidate with high IQ, but low EQ.

  2. And once you get the job, EQ will help you to advance further: our EQ is responsible for 58 percent of our job performance, while IQ only accounts for 4 to 25 percent of it. Additionally, more than 90 percent of high performers have above-average EQ.

  3. People with high EQ annually earn $29,000 more than their colleagues with lower EQ. On average, every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary.

  4. Emotional intelligence is not only important for your business life: 30 to 50 percent of our total marital happiness depends on it.

  5. Emotional intelligence helps us deal with negative emotions. People who experience uncontrollable destructive emotions on a regular basis have a 19 percent higher chance of heart disease and a frightening 70 percent higher chance of developing cancer.

  6. Your EQ can help you improve your public image. A study of malpractice lawsuits showed that surgeons who spent an extra three minutes comforting and being supportive towards patients were less likely to be sued.

  7. The core of emotional intelligence is understanding one’s emotions and the emotional states of others. Unfortunately, only 36 percent of people can recognize their emotions accurately and timely.

  8. Women and men have equal potential for developing emotional intelligence. No excuses, men!

To maximize your emotional intelligence, you must develop the ability to identify and understand the emotions of yourself and others, and adjust your behavior accordingly, all at the same time. If you can identify you’re upset, but do not understand why, EQ is not maximized. If you can identify that you’re upset and understand it’s due to someone being late to a meeting, but don’t adjust your tone or behavior, you’re not maximizing EQ.

The full equation of emotional intelligence looks like this: You identify you’re upset because someone has shown a lack of respect by being late. You start the meeting at the scheduled time to show respect to the group who was there on time. After the meeting, you connect with the person who was late to better understand what happened and what needs to happen in the future so they can be at meetings on time. You identified, understood, and adjusted your behavior for the best outcome.

Here’s the great news: Unlike IQ, you can learn how to be emotionally intelligent. Emotional and social skills are four times more important than IQ when considering success and prestige in professional settings. In a study of PhDs, social and emotional intelligence was significantly more important to professional success and prestige than IQ alone. We can increase our EQ level by practicing emotionally intelligent behavior until it becomes habit. This is why I believe a leader can be made. Where is your EQ on a scale of 1-10 (10 being best)? How can you improve your EQ? How would you rate the EQ of your people? The answers to these questions will dictate your success.

My intent is to maximize your EQ, not to minimize the importance of IQ. And when you combine your IQ and EQ, you get your XQ, a combination of IQ, EQ, and personality traits. When you triangulate these three things together, you can create amazing synergy at work.

Employers are now testing for the personality traits, or “X” factor that they believe will lead to success in a particular role. It’s being called “X” because no one truly knows what the traits are yet. This is part of the new era of optimized hiring. With these tests, employers can identify the employees who will be happiest and most successful in the role they are hiring for and it helps with retention and productivity. A recent survey showed 35 percent of companies around the world are using a form of personality assessment to measure XQ.

Keep EQ in mind, and remember—the very thing that determines your success is 100 percent in your control. And as you grow and move forward, understand the need to factor in IQ, EQ, and XQ as you build and develop your teams.


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