Intelligence Quotient or IQ is a way to measure the level of potential ability of people, and as such has links to education and work performance, as well as personal survival.
Most people have an average IQ, (by definition, “average” is 100). If most people also have an average level of Emotional Intelligence (referred to as EI or EQ), when does it become important to have higher levels of either of these sets of skills?
People with a high IQ tend to be good problem solvers and when faced with new situations may often be smart enough to be able to figure out the best solution. When a person with a high IQ also has a high level of knowledge, which can be gained from experience as well as formal education qualifications, then they are likely to have a wide range of skills. So people with a high IQ who have qualifications and experience may often be seen as most suited to lead teams and organisations, and the best people to recruit, reward and retain.
What is emotional intelligence?
But in recent years we have been hearing more about the need for emotional intelligence in addition to IQ. EI includes the ability to pay attention to and accurately perceive, understand and regulate emotions.
There are a number of instruments that seek to “measure” emotional intelligence, including the Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test or MSCEIT.
Researchers point out that an important component of EI is emotion recognition ability (ERA) which has strong links with the use of “political” skills.
A study of 322 employees with a range of work roles in Germany suggest that ERA is associated with financial success and annual income. They argue that the abilities of politically skilled people to recognise and manage emotions allows them to appear to be sincere and trustworthy, whether or not this may be genuine.
Dark side of EQ
While people who have a high level of ERA may employ these skills for the greater good, they could also use these to achieve personal gain, including at the expense of others.
Higher levels of EI have been linked with ethical behaviour however it also takes some degree of interpersonal skill to manipulate others. Narcissists can be very charming, until those around them suffer the consequences of betrayal.
So while EI and interpersonal skills can enhance performance, it can also have a “dark side”. The nature of the relationship between EI and ethical behaviour at work is still in need of further research.
In my research, I classified five approaches to management decision-making about ethical issues: “Narcissistic”, “Legalistic”, “Worried”, “Entrepreneurial”, or “Navigation”, with the ability to choose to use “Navigation” seen as optimal. The use of each approach was linked to individual preferences and differing levels of four sets of skills: judgement, integrity, courage, and also humanity.
Humanity involves a capacity for understanding and forgiveness, and an appreciation that we can’t control everything, that odd, absurd and unintended things can happen, and therefore it is important to have a sense of humour. While having judgement and integrity and the courage to act on these is good, adding a sense of humour as well can elevate actions that are legal to behaviour that is ethical.
David Coghlan recommends a useful general approach to deciding what to do which involves four steps: be Attentive, be Intelligent, be Reasonable, and be Responsible.
Many of us would be aware of examples of people who may be “task smart” or technically highly competent, but not “people smart” as they lack interpersonal skills and are poor communicators.
While cognitive skills are important EI may also be needed to establish and maintain good working relationships and may be particularly important in team work and for roles which involve a high level of “emotional labour” including jobs in service industries, caring professions, and peace keeping or social control.
To be able to perform well, people need to be able to draw on cognitive and emotional skills at the right time to be able to survive, but preferably to thrive. People with a high IQ may generally be good at learning new skills related to EI. Managers can be taught how to pay attention to emotional cues and come to understand and behave in ways that help them, teams, and organisations perform better.
The “best” mix of IQ and EI
So, in the end, there is no defined “perfect mix”: it depends on who you are, who else you are with at the time, and what you want to achieve.
How others perceive you is based on their assessment of your IQ and EI, and these perceptions impact on how they behave towards you – and how they portray their impression of working with you to others. If others see you differently to how you see yourself or how you want to appear - knowing this may help you learn how to change your behaviour.