What’s More Important, EQ or IQ? It’s More Complex Than You Think


If you could choose to have higher than average cognitive intelligence (IQ), or higher than average emotional intelligence (EQ), which would you pick?

Interestingly, many people nowadays like to pit IQ and EQ against each other. But the truth is they’re both important, for different reasons. 

Daniel Goleman is the bestselling author of the book that kicked off the emotional intelligence movement over 25 years ago. Considering his background, you might think Goleman would insist on EQ being more important. But Goleman has gone on record to point out that he believes IQ is actually the better determinant of a successful career, at least in the sense of determining what type of job you can get in the first place. 

“It typically takes an IQ about 115 or above to be able to handle the cognitive complexity facing an accountant, a physician or a top executive,” writes Goleman.

“But here’s the paradox,” Goleman continues. “Once you’re in a high-IQ position, intellect loses its power to determine who will emerge as a productive employee or an effective leader. For that, how you handle yourself and your relationships–in other words, the emotional intelligence skill set–matters more than your IQ. In a high-IQ job pool, soft skills like discipline, drive and empathy mark those who emerge as outstanding.”

In other words, according to Goleman, IQ will get you in the door. But EQ sets you apart from everyone else.

What about business owners and entrepreneurs? 

There’s no doubt that you want high-IQ individuals in your organization. They’ll help you innovate, to use critical thinking to find solutions to your most difficult problems. 

But we’ve all seen a team full of A-Players who underachieves because they don’t work well together.

That’s because implementing solutions is a whole different ballgame–especially when you’re working on a team. For this, you need EQ. You need to understand how emotions work. You need to be able to facilitate collaboration, to manage conflict. 

Yes, it’s the high-EQ individuals who can get the most out of those they work with–including those with high a high IQ. 

And if you’ve worked with enough high-IQ individuals, you know what a challenge that can be. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *