Photo Credit: Rawpixel,
Photo Credit: Rawpixel,

IQ vs. EQ: The Great Debate

Traditionally speaking, those with above average intelligence (perhaps the right letters after their name, or those educated in an ivy league school) were the optimal candidates for hire and potentially future leadership positions in corporate North America.

I would even go so far as to suggest that people who had those qualifications and belonged to a particular gender and race also had the advantage over other candidates. Even though others were equally suited for the position. It’s becoming increasingly clear through a broad range of literature on leadership, social change, technology, and economic globalization that IQ, gender, color or title are no longer the most important qualities of prospective hires.

In fact, leadership today requires a whole host of skillsets and a diverse workforce to have the corporate winning edge. Backed by scientific studies, female leaders tend to have the overall edge in emotional intelligence; a highly valued set of skills (possibly more than IQ) required in an ever-changing competitive economy.

The Male Tune-Out

“Are you listening to me…you haven’t heard a word I’ve said!”

Sound Familiar? According to Simon Bar-On of Cambridge University, the insula’s the part of the brain that’s partly responsible for emotional intelligence. Empathy, in particular. The insula’s the part of the brain that mimics what someone feels. It reads patterns and tell us what the behavior is. This is where the greatest evidence for gender differences in this skillset exists.

Women are particularly adept at decoding the behavioral patter and stay with the emotion so that the person’s nurtured and supported. Men, by way of contrast, decode the pattern, insulate themselves from the feeling and go into problem-solving mode.

So, is your partner trying to be a jerk? Not necessarily. Chances are they have gone into problem-solving mode which is accessed in a different part of the brain and he’ll remain there until a solution’s found. Here’s something interesting to note: Ruth Malloy of the HayGroup studies excellence in leaders and looked to verify these findings among people in leadership. If you have “super star” leaders, regardless of gender, the differences between the genders are negligible when it comes to emotional intelligence. BUT…how many of your leaders are “super stars?”

EQ Positively Impacts High Potential Retention

In 2016, Korn Ferry (a division of the HayGroup) conducted a study between 2011 and 2015 on social/emotional intelligence of 55,000 professionals at all levels of management. The Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) developed and co-owned by Richard E. Boyatzis and Daniel Goleman was used to evaluate the competencies of men and women in the following areas:

  • Achievement orientation
  • Adaptability
  • Coaching and mentorship
  • Conflict management
  • Empathy
  • Emotional Self-awareness
  • Inspirational leadership
  • Influence
  • Organizational awareness
  • Positive outlook
  • Teamwork
  • Emotional self-control

The findings were very interesting. Traditionally, women saw themselves as less competent and men tended to overrate their personal competencies. However, these results show something different:

  1. Greatest difference between men and women was found in emotional self-awareness. 86% of women are more likely to be emotionally self-aware. Yet, only 18.4% women demonstrated consistency with the skill, while only 9.9% of men were able to consistently demonstrate emotional awareness.
  2. Positive outlook was relatively the same for both genders- only 9% of women were more likely than men to have a positive outlook.
  3. Women outperformed men in coaching and mentoring, influence, inspirational leadership, conflict management, organizational awareness, adaptability, teamwork and achievement orientation.
  4. Emotional self-control’s the only competency in which men and women showed equal performance.

The researchers concluded that in order for businesses to be successful and sustainable into the foreseeable future, they need to place more value on emotional intelligence and its inherent skillset when hiring prospective employees, and certainly when filling leadership positions.

Women who score high in EQ should be empowered, nurtured, and guided towards leadership. Emotional intelligence should be explicitly taught and supported by organizations as part of their professional development regimen. The study was very clear in that leaders who ranked high in EQ positively correlated with how long team members stayed with the organization, and their performance within the organization. As corporations battle to obtain and retain high-potential employees, results like this really shouldn’t be overlooked.

Emotional Intelligence Comes from Age…Don’t You Think?

It makes perfect sense to me that one would gain emotional intelligence with age.

Don’t we start off with terrible two’s and three’s, stabilize, move into emotional and hormonal teens, stabilize, assert our knowledge and independence in our 20s, and then become wise to it all by the time we’re 50?

Well…not really. Fariselli, Ghini, and Freedman (2008) conducted a small study on age and emotional intelligence. 405 American people between the ages of 22 and 70 were surveyed. The study showed that emotional intelligence only slightly increases with age. Age was predictive of “knowing yourself” and “level of empathy.”

However, age wasn’t a predictor of navigating emotions, optimism, intrinsic motivation, and consequential thinking. So… the whole “with age comes wisdom” is completely over-stated. In this study, what they did find was that people are completely capable of learning the skills of emotional intelligence. As with anything else, some will be naturally-inclined, some will be stronger than others, and some will always struggle with EQ. Again, what’s important is that it must be valued and explicitly taught.

EQ is a Collective Responsibility

While it’s true that women have the edge in emotional intelligence, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the skills are well or appropriately employed. That’s where expert coaching, explicit training, and educational programs are needed.

I would like to suggest that this doesn’t just fall on corporate shoulders, but really it speaks more to a collective responsibility. Parents, schools, and community organizations are the first leaders for our children. When our children are small, it’s then that skills such as empathy, positivity, and teamwork need to be explicitly taught and reinforced to both genders.

Further, our children need to look to political leaders, community leaders, and all those in influential roles: athletes, actors, and performers, for examples of emotionally intelligent human beings– people who demonstrate emotional self-control, awareness of words and actions, compassion and empathy.

In the meantime, we can’t wait for someone else to take the lead. It’s your turn now to be a “super star” leader.

What’s one thing you can do today to boost your emotional intelligence? I would love to hear from you!