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IQ or EQ?

Chris Harrison

April 24, 2024

What’s more important for success – IQ or EQ? Do you need one or both; and what’s the right mix?  How should you even define success nowadays? Profit, sustainability? Where do community and diversity fit in?


There’s no doubt that leaders, managers and employees are all being judged by a new yardstick. Not just by how smart we are, our training qualifications or years of experience. Increasingly it’s about how well we handle ourselves and other people.

Until quite recently people used to think intelligence was just about IQ. 100 years ago, well-meaning psychologists wanted to classify children’s intelligence to help schools address different needs. Alfred Binet created the IQ test to measure intelligence... or so he thought. The letters I and Q stand for Intelligence Quotient (the amount of intelligence you have) but they’re a misnomer. Binet’s test assesses only one aspect of intelligence: cognitive. But human intelligence is much broader. Imagine measuring only the milk in your fridge, then saying: “this fridge contains 1.6 litres of liquid.”  What of the four litres of water, the six cans of beer or the bottle of lemon juice? They’re liquids too.

Then psychologists started noticing that some people with lower IQs could out perform others with higher IQs. So, they began to speculate about other forms of intelligence: practical, analytical, creative, linguistic… even musical.

IQ is about logic, abstract thought, processing speed and short-term memory. All functions of the frontal lobes of the brain. But EQ – shorthand for Emotional Intelligence - is rooted in the emotional centres of the brain. Because of this, EQ is at the core of who we are and impacts almost every part of our lives. It’s why Psychologist Daniel Goleman subtitled his first book on Emotional Intelligence “Why it can matter more than IQ.”

Most people think that a greater IQ produces better exam results. But, in 2006, Duckworth& Seligman measured levels of self-discipline in students. They found that it was twice as reliable for predicting a student’s academic success than their IQ. Academic ability isn’t as important as self-discipline for academic success. Self-discipline is part of Emotional, not Cognitive, Intelligence.

The good news is that EQ skills can be developed over time. Given the correct stimulus and the opportunity to practice simple techniques, we can all become better at managing our own emotions and influencing those of others. Whether you suffer from anxiety in social contexts or wish you could control your temper. Or you wonder why employees never listen to what you say. It's now possible to build your emotional skillsets; and strengthen your psychological core. Meaning life can get better for you and the people around you.