IQ or EI? You Need Both

November 18, 2014

Recently, Daniel Goleman sat down with AMA to discuss his thoughts on the EI versus IQ debate. This is the second part of that interview.

AMA: You have previously mentioned that you believe emotional intelligence is vital to success in most areas of business. Do executives seem to understand the point you are making?

DG: The CEO of one of the world’s largest financial companies told me, “I hire the best and brightest – but I still get a Bell Curve for performance.” Why, he wanted to know, aren’t the smartest MBAs from top schools like Stanford, Harvard, and Wharton all highly successful on the job?

AMA: What was your response?

DG: I told him that the answer lies in the interplay between IQ and emotional intelligence – and explains why you need both for high performance. More than a century of research shows IQ is the best predictor of the job you can get and hold. There is tremendous cognitive complexity in a profession like medicine, or as a C-suite executive, or a professor at one of those prestigious business schools. The more your job revolves around cognitive tasks, the more strongly IQ will predict success. A computer programmer, accountant, or academic will all need strong cognitive skills to do well.

AMA: By that standard, it would seem that these graduates should be performing at a high level. Is something missing in the equation for success here?

DG: Yes, exactly. The more your success on the job depends on relating to people – whether in sales, as a team member, or as a leader – the more emotional intelligence matters. A high enough IQ is necessary, but not sufficient, for success.

AMA: You previously mentioned the various models of emotional intelligence. Is there one in particular that you prefer?

DG: Yes, in fact I developed my own model several years ago that is quite comprehensive. In this model there are two main parts: Self-mastery and social intelligence. The purely cognitive jobs require self-mastery, e.g., cognitive control, the ability to focus on the task at hand and ignore distractions.

But the second half of emotional intelligence, social adeptness, holds the key to that CEO’s question. As long as those super-smart MBAs are working by themselves, their IQ and self-mastery makes them high performers. But when they have to mesh as a team, meet clients, or lead others, that skill set falls short. They also need social intelligence.

AMA: You have been a champion of emotional intelligence for many years. Who are some other significant influencers taking on the topic of EI in the workplace?

DG: Claudio Fernandez-Aroaz, former head of research at Egon Zehnder International, spent decades hiring C-level executives for global companies. When he studied why some of those executives ended up being fired, he found that while they had been hired for their intelligence and business expertise – they were fired for a lack of emotional intelligence. Though they were smart, they were bullies or otherwise inept at people management.

Along the same lines, my colleague Richard Boyatzis, professor at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western University, has found that the vast majority of leadership competencies that predict the performance of sales leaders are based on emotional and social intelligence – not cognitive intelligence (like IQ).

AMA: Aside from them, is there any other groundbreaking research on emotional intelligence being conducted at the moment?

DG: There is actually a brand new meta-analysis of 132 different research studies involving more than 27,000 people, which I heard reported on by a coauthor, Ronald Humphreys, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. That yet-to-be published analysis concluded emotionally intelligent leaders have the most satisfied employees – if you like your boss, you’re more likely to like your job (just contemplate the opposite, morbid reality).

AMA: Being happier at work is one benefit of having an emotionally intelligent manager. What are some others?

DG: After reviewing all peer-reviewed research to date, the same study says emotional intelligence has been found to boost leadership effectiveness, job performance, negotiation skills, handling stress, organizational citizenship, and even academic performance.

And then there’s general life satisfaction and the quality of your relationships. So even though some academic studies seem to show emotional intelligence matters little for success in a job like sales, I’m skeptical.

AMA: Daniel Goleman, thank you for your time. We’ll be sure to stay up to date with your posts on emotional intelligence and look forward to hearing from you again soon.

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About The Author

Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. As a science journalist, Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, a Times bestseller for a year and a half—with more than 5,000,000 copies in print worldwide in 40 languages—has also been a bestseller in many countries. He has written books on other topics as well, including self-deception, creativity, transparency, meditation, social and emotional learning, ecoliteracy and the ecological crisis.


  1. avatar

    […] Does emotional intelligence matter in the workplace? In part 2 of his interview with AMA, expert Daniel Goleman discusses the merits of EI in the workplace.  […]

  2. avatar


    It is really an excellent article. I have recently joined a university as chief librarian in Pakistan. Here I have a team of 7 people. Then I also need to work closely with IT department, a campus radio station, university administration and many others to meet the desired objectives.

    This article helped me to understand that my “knowledge,” “experience,” and “IQ” alone will not help to work successfully in the organization. I have to learn and develop EI skills in myself and also in my team to progress in the today’s challenging environment.


  3. avatar

    About 10 years ago I did my Masters dissertation on ‘like and leadership’, I.e., what was the correlation between leadership and essentially, like-ability. My research concluded that the traits to be good at both were the same but in different order of importance

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