Which product are you using?

EQ vs IQ: Which is Best for Collaborative Leadership?

Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 13:00
EQ vs IQ Leadership

In a recent column for SmartBrief, author and leadership guru Matt Paese explored a continuing debate in today’s increasingly technologized business world: Which is best, IQ or EQ? In other words, which matters more during the age of digital transformation: Cognitive ability (i.e. intelligence) or social savvy (i.e. emotional intelligence?

“The bout takes place in research circles and on the streets of global business,” Paese writes in his article. “No champion has been crowned, and there’s research to support both positions.”

EQ and IQ Both Prove Useful in Leadership for Different Reasons

Case in point: A new study conducted by Paese’s organization DDI, examined “objective assessments of more than 15,000 leaders across the globe.” Researchers reviewed test scores and survey responses, and they observed business leaders as they “led their way through a complex business simulation - coaching others, influencing partners, solving urgent dilemmas and crafting long-range business plans.” According to Paese, “IQ and EQ were measured in advance, and scores were used to predict observed behavior patterns.”

DDI’s results revealed what experienced business people might expect, as Paese summarizes: “IQ wins the complex business decision-making rounds: business savvy and financial acumen. But in the people-oriented rounds - cultivating networks and leading teams - EQ clearly dominates.”

Predicting Leadership Skills - What Happens When We Pit EQ vs IQ?

EQ vs IQ
Data & Image Source: ddiworld.com

Leadership in the Technological Age is About Flexibility

But Paese also issues a caveat and some advice for talent managers:

“No single characteristic can sustain a leader for very long, not in today’s chaotic world. So organizations should be wary of fixating on one asset or another… Assess the full profile for leadership, and push back on stakeholders who reduce people to a single feature.”

Paese’s thoughts inspired me to reflect on one of my recent posts:

4 Questions for Guaging Collaborative Leadership

Collaborative Leaders

In the piece, I contend that digital technology is changing the nature of leadership in buisness, because Unified Communications (UC) tools shape virtual collaboration by mixing multiple media modes into one setting. So now, every member of an organization can play a part in leading a company by leading business interactions with colleagues, customers and partners.

Under these virtual conditions, which make most of us more vulnerable to distraction, even routine business conversations, such as regular updates, require more deliberate planning and different delivery techniques to ensure efficient discussions and effective outcomes. “Soft skills” become especially important for managing today’s meeting environments, when participants are not sitting in the same room and nonverbal cues, such as body language, are not readily apparent.


Healthy Mix of EQ and IQ is Fundamental for Collaborative Leadership

So, while, in general, the answer to the question of whether EQ or IQ is best for business leaders is “it depends,” I argue that, in the specific case of collaborative leadership, soft skills are the clear winner.

And DDI’s work supports my claim. Paese’s research team featured seven business skills in their study:

  • Business Savvy
  • Financial Acumen
  • Influence
  • Compelling Communication
  • Leading Teams
  • Driving Execution
  • Cultivating Networks

The last four of those skills, I believe, are critical success factors for virtual collaboration, and EQ holds an advantage on each count. According to the DDI research, in the realm of “Compelling Communication” EQ has a 52% to 48% edge on IQ. For “Leading Teams,” EQ’s lead over IQ expands to 62% versus 38%. When “Driving Execution” is the issue, EQ beats IQ by an overwhelming proportion of 83/17. And if “Cultivating Networks” is the objective, EQ wallops IQ by a ratio of 99/1.

Am I advocating that today’s leaders ignore IQ when evaluating business talent? No. Technical aptitude still matters, as more and more companies move significant aspects of their operations to the cloud. But as more and more corporations enable employees to work from remote locations with mobile devices, I strongly recommend that executives weigh EQ heavily as a predictor of peak managerial performance in an increasingly virtual business landscape.


Contact an Expert