Leadership and Emotional Intelligence: Why EQ Matters More Than IQ

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Leadership and Emotional Intelligence: Why EQ Matters More Than IQ 

When it comes to the qualities that tend to be associated with good leadership, a lot of people tend to think more about traditional “smarts” like intelligence. It is certainly true that many successful leaders have a high IQ (which stands for intelligence quotient - a score determined through a standardised test that measures your ability to reason and problem solve to establish how “intelligent” you are). Research shows that most influential leaders have an IQ of around 120, which is above the average IQ score of 100. 

However, the fact is that emotional intelligence can actually play an equally – if not more important – role in leadership, as it is an important skill that ties directly into some of the many skills and qualities that any good leader should possess. But what exactly is emotional intelligence (or EQ), and why is it important for a good leader to be emotionally intelligent?  

EQ stands for emotional quotient. Just as IQ tells you how “intelligent” you are, your EQ tells you how emotionally intelligent you are. When we talk about emotional intelligence, we are basically referring to four things: self-awareness (or how well you can recognise and understand your own emotions), self-management (or how well you can recognise and control your own emotions), social awareness (or how well you can empathise with and recognise the emotions of others), and relationships management (or how well you can communicate and build and maintain positive relationships with others). All four of these things play an equally important role in how effective you are as a leader. 

Here are a few other reasons why EQ matters just as much, if not more, than IQ when it comes to the qualities we should be looking for in an effective leader: 

  • It allows you to communicate effectively with others: Effective communication is one of the biggest cornerstones for business success. As a leader, you will be responsible for setting the strategic vision and direction for your business, which you will then need to communicate to your team. For this reason, it is imperative that leaders possess the emotional intelligence necessary to be able to communicate effectively with others.
  • It allows you to develop strong interpersonal skills: Effective communication is really just one piece of the broader interpersonal skills puzzle. In fact, there are many other times as a leader when you will be required to demonstrate interpersonal skills – for example, when showing active listening skills, having challenging conversations, developing relationships with others, being empathetic to others’ needs and emotions, and understanding the unique perspectives of others. Emotional intelligence is what will allow you to express yourself appropriately in these situations, whilst developing better working relationships with the others around you.
  • It will allow you to lead your team: As a leader, you will be responsible for leading and motivating your team towards the achievement of your business’s goals or objectives. This will require skills like communication, influencing, and negotiation – all of which tie into the emotional intelligence piece. There will also be times when you need to have difficult conversations and resolve conflicts, which emotional intelligence will help with as well.
  • It will allow you to better understand your customers: When it comes to ensuring the success of your business, a big part of that goes back to understanding the wants and needs of your customers. When you are able to understand what others are thinking and feeling, you will be better placed to respond accordingly to their needs. In turn, this will lead to improved customer satisfaction and success for your business. 
  • It will allow you to make good decisions: Any time that we make a decision, there are a number of different factors that will come into play that will influence the choice that we ultimately make. Some of these factors will be emotional or interpersonal, so emotional intelligence will allow us to consider and understand these factors and take them into account when it comes to how we solve problems and make decisions.
  • It will allow you to become more resilient: As a leader, there will be times when you experience obstacles, failures, and setbacks. With emotional intelligence, you will be able to remain strong and resilient even in times of adversity. This will play an important role in allowing you to bounce back and maintain a positive attitude, even despite any problems that you may face along the way.
  • It will allow you to manage your own stress: There are times when it can be stressful being a leader, so it is important that you are able to manage your own stress. Being emotionally intelligent will enable you to manage your own stress, allowing you to maintain a better sense of mental health and wellbeing overall. It will also allow you to help the others in your team to manage their own stress, to ensure they are able to cope when times get tough, or they are working under pressure. 

As you can see, there are lots of reasons why it is important for leaders to be emotionally intelligent. Whilst emotional intelligence or EQ is often seen as being more of a “soft skill”, its importance really cannot be overstated when it comes to the qualities that we should be looking for in an effective leader. For this reason, the development of emotional intelligence is an important element of many women’s leadership programs, which aim to equip women with the skills they need to excel as a female leader. 


Caroline Kennedy is an award-winning CEO with a track record of leading multinational companies with up to $250 million in revenue. She is also the founder of Empowering Women Leaders: Awaken the Powerful Leader Within – a transformative six-week program designed to help women master the art of leadership. If you’re ready to unleash your hidden potential and become the leader that you were always meant to be, find out more at https://www.carolinekennedy.com.au/womens-leadership-program/. 

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