IQ vs EQ


“Stephen” is amazingly talented. He is an expert in his field. He consults with organizations and teaches graduate courses in his discipline. His mind is sharp. He is articulate. He has a breadth of experience that enables him to speak wisdom into problem situations…but he’s near the bottom of the list for “go-to” people when new projects and problems come up. Why? He is abrasive and arrogant, and creates that “walking-on-eggshells” atmosphere in teams. In short, he isn’t self-aware and he doesn’t know how to get along with people.

Stephen’s story highlights the difference between two general types of intelligence: cognitive and emotional-social intelligence. Cognitive intelligence, popularly referred to as IQ, is comprised of all the things we know and things we can do. It is all of what Stephen does so well and what we refer to when we say, “He knows his stuff!

But, as we’ve all experienced with coworkers, friends, and family members like Stephen, cognitive intelligence isn’t the whole picture of any individual. In fact, it is really a small part of the picture.

The bigger part of the picture is emotional-social intelligence, often called EQ. One of the earliest researchers in EQ is Reuven Bar-On who defines this as, “an array of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills and behaviors that determine how well we understand and express ourselves, understand others and relate with them, and cope with daily demands, challenges and pressures.”1 It is the part of Stephen’s life that his coworkers are most frustrated with. It is the intelligence in which he is weakest and undermines his long-term success and effectiveness, both personally and professionally.

Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of EQ in the ‘90s with his best selling books. He has also written a few articles for Harvard Business Review. In “Leadership That Gets Results,”2 Goleman describes four fundamental capabilities that comprise EQ. They are:

  • Self-awareness: the ability to read and understand your emotions, realistically assess your strengths and weaknesses, and possess a positive sense of self-worth.
  • Self-management: the ability to control disruptive emotions, be consistently honest, manage yourself and responsibilities, be flexible, pursue excellence, and seize opportunities.
  • Social Awareness: skill at sensing others’ emotions and being empathetic, ability to read organizational culture and navigate politics, and recognize and meets others’ needs.
  • Social Skill: the ability to lead and inspire others through vision, utilize a variety of persuasive tactics, build others through feedback and guidance, listen well, send clear and well-tuned messages, initiate new ideas and lead in new directions, de-escalate conflict and orchestrate resolution, cultivate a web of relationships, and promote cooperation and teamwork.

Think of a leader you know who is exceptionally effective with people. Look at that list above. It’s likely your leader is self-aware, manages himself well, is socially aware, and is adept at working with people and organizations. That person has high EQ. Think, too, about what this person knows and does, their IQ. Their IQ is probably good, but probably not what this person is known for. Their IQ is not their hallmark quality. Which has contributed more to this person’s success, EQ or IQ?

Here is an important point for all leaders:
Our organizations tend to invest a lot into helping people develop knowledge and skills, their IQ. At the same time they invest very little, if anything at all, into emotional-social intelligence, EQ. Yet, the bottom line is that people’s ability to succeed and their evaluation on the job is almost always dependent upon EQ.

The next time you start the process of inviting someone to join your organization or your team, think about this. What’s on your list of qualifications? Does the list focus on IQ or EQ?

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at] with your questions.

Photo “Travel Into The Mind” by Anna Tatti. Available at

1: “A broad definition of emotional-social intelligence according to the Bar-On model.” Found at
2: Goleman, D. “Leadership That Gets Results,” Harvard Business Review, March/April, 2000.

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