A counter argument to Is Emotional Intelligence Overrated?

Earlier this month Adam Grant (a Wharton Business School Professor) posted a blog on the Huffington Post Emotional Intelligence is Overrated.  The blog went viral in the Twittersphere.

Grant described how he thought a CEO who considered EQ to be more important than IQ and who was spending millions on training and EQ assessment was wasting his company’s money.  In the end they agreed to a study which using hundreds of salespeople demonstrated that IQ was 5 times more powerful that EQ in determining compensation.  Grant then quoted a meta-analysis by Dana Joseph and Dan Newman which demonstrated that IQ accounted for 14% of job performance and EQ only 1%.  However after convincingly arguing the case that EQ is overrated Grant then backtracks saying that it is a set of skills that can be useful particularly in jobs where emotions are important such as sales (even though his own study showed it was not).

Part of the problem stems back to Daniel Goleman.  Unfortunately his book Emotional Intelligence contained the subtitle “Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”.  Since the book’s publication in 1995 many EQ practitioners have converted the result that IQ accounts for job 20% of performance into a hypothesis that EQ will predict 80% of future performance.  Even Daniel Goleman has publically disavowed the 80% hypothesis yet it is still continually repeated.  However what Goleman puts forward and I agree is that once “once you’re in a high-IQ position, intellect loses its power to determine who will emerge as a productive employee or an effective leader. For that, how you handle yourself and your relationships — in other words, the emotional intelligence skill set — matters more than your IQ.”
I have an interesting confirmation of this which I use in my training programs.  One question we discuss is the ideal components of leadership.  I ask my participants which are the two most important components from the following list:
Change Agent
People skills
Self management
Strategic thinker
Team player

The list was taken from a study done for the Karpin report (1994) which asked 100 experienced business managers from Australia’s largest organisations the same question.  “People skills” was ranked far and away the most important component.  (Ethics, by the way ranked stone motherless last.)  I have been running workshops since the early 1990s and my experience has been that the more senior the manager the higher the ranking of “people skills”.

So while I differ from Grant do not think that EQ is overrated I do agree with another statement in his blog namely EQ and IQ are correlated.  IQ is the capacity to learn. The higher your IQ, the easier it is for you to develop emotional intelligence.  However the key to emotional intelligence is understanding your core emotions compared to your transient emotions.  Your core emotions are driven by your temperament – what you are genetically born with.  Based on a study of 11,000 identical twins nature is around twice as important as nurture.  I have found the 7MTF/Humm-Wadsworth model of seven core emotions the most practical tool for people to use and once understood (takes a day) dramatically lifts their emotional intelligence.

People drive performance, emotions drive people, temperament drives emotions.


Phil Fine

23 Nov,2017
Before we all jump aboard the EQ bandwagon, we shouldn't give IQ the heave-ho. (if you'll allow me to mix metaphors!). An individual can be warm, outgoing, considerate, indeed, a genuine people person, not to mention a team builder and leader par excellence. But if his score on a test measuring spatial visualization is only average, like that of yours truly, he'll likely design a bridge or an overpass that will collapse and crush your car when you drive beneath it. In pure research, in academe and in engineering, IQ is still important, perhaps even more so than EQ. Moreover, with some highly intelligent people, lofty levels of EQ will always be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Such individuals should therefore aim for a staff, rather than for a line, position. In other words, if the person is a top-notch lawyer, he should aim to be vice-president of legal affairs where he would, at most, only have to supervise a handful of individuals. But as a divisional vice president, he'd have to oversee hundreds, if not thousands, of employees, draining whatever EQ ability he might have.

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