Looking at work groups and organizations, we can ask the question, “Is the leader the smartest person in the room?” What is the relationship between intelligence (IQ) and effective leadership? While academic, or “verbal,” intelligence (IQ) matters, there are other forms of intelligence that are equally important for success in the workplace.

Being smart—having a high IQ—is related to success both on the job and in leadership positions, but the relationship is not all that strong. Smart people can usually figure out how to do a job, and they are good at the more “academic” parts of the position. But to be truly successful requires other forms of intelligence

Emotional intelligence has become quite a popular construct, and it involves knowledge of emotions in oneself and others. It is related to ability to build relationships at work, to monitor and control emotional displays, and to display appropriate feelings. It is a lack of emotional intelligence that often derails leaders who act out and throw tantrums or alienate loyal and dedicated workers.

The third important form of intelligence is social intelligence, and it involves understanding social situations, relationships, and knowing what to do in a given situation. Although social intelligence doesn’t get as much attention as the other intelligences, our research shows that it is most important for leadership success.

While it is commonly believed that intelligence is innate and can’t be increased, research on emotional and social intelligence suggests that there are underlying emotional and social skills that can be developed. Just as you can increase your vocabulary and general knowledge through education (your IQ), you can also work to improve emotional skills (EQ) and social skills/abilities (SQ).

References

Goleman, D. (1998). Working With Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam.

Riggio, R.E., Murphy, S.E., & Pirozzolo, F.J. (Eds.), (2002). Multiple Intelligences and Leadership. New York: Taylor & Francis.

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