EQ versus IQ: How important is it in today's leaders?

Is this you or anyone you know?

Have you ever sensed an explosion start inside your body that ended in a shouted stream of words you didn’t intend to say? Or perhaps you’ve witnessed people on your team disagree, with voices getting increasingly louder until it made everyone else uncomfortable? Or, someone suddenly goes quiet and stops participating in team discussions, giving very little in terms of initiative or contribution?

These are all examples of behaviors that happen when emotional intelligence (EQ) is missing as a vital tool in a person’s toolbox. It’s been years since we’ve acknowledged that emotional intelligence is as important or even more important than IQ or intellect. Too often, leaders in organizations still believe that a person’s schooling, scientific discovery, or work experience—one’s functional intelligence— are the things to look for when hiring, when instead, emotional intelligence is what allows people to work well together and build the relationships that support collaboration, creativity, teamwork, and higher potential and performance.

Why is this so? Purely logical reasoning sets the stage for win-lose scenarios. In Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch, the metaphor of the rider and the elephant —the intellect and the emotions—reminds us that ultimately, humans are emotional beings and in order to effect change within organizations, we must appeal to emotions, acknowledging our inner selves which allows us to become more authentic, vulnerable, compassionate— all elements that leaders require to lead in these dynamic and complex environments.

What does having emotional intelligence look like? Here is a table that contrasts skilled and less skilled levels of emotional intelligence.

emotional intelligence for leaders chart



Want to make a change and improve your own Emotional Intelligence?

In his books, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ and Working With Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman presents five categories of emotional intelligence.


  • Do you frankly understand and face your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how your actions affect others’ moods, behaviors, or feelings? Are you aware of your own patterned responses to stress? Are you open to receiving and learning from constructive feedback? Do you recognize and understand your own emotions?

Goleman suggests that people who possess self-awareness are more forgiving of themselves and others, have a good sense of humor, are confident in their abilities, and are aware of how other people perceive them.

To improve your self-awareness:

  • Stillness and Meditation – Sit still, breathe, and quiet your thoughts. What do you notice?
  • Without judgement, write down what you are aware of. Keeping writing past your mind-chatter until you get to real observations. What do you notice?
  • Notice what causes discontent within yourself. Allow yourself to feel this discomfort along with whatever comes up.
  • Notice when you get triggered and by whom. Also pay attention to what specifically triggers you. Is it the person? Tone of voice? Timing? Or what they are pushing on? How is this familiar to other times in your life?
  • Find a person who is able to provide you honest, yet supportive constructive feedback. Stay open to learning something new about yourself or how you do things. Build a team of people that care about your personal growth and support you unconditionally.
  • Learn something new and notice how you approach new experiences.
  • Work on building your awareness and having a growth mindset.
  • Pay attention to your growth and celebrate it.


Are you able to pinpoint what triggers you in the workplace and with colleagues? Are you able to monitor your emotions by exercising restraint and control so that you do not adversely impact someone else and the need to constantly make repairs with them? What do you do in the heat of the moment?

When triggered, you will need to create space —inner space to feel and understand what it is that is the right thing to do next. This requires slowing down and sensing inward. What makes you uncomfortable? Why? What specifically created the trigger? How will you respond from a new perspective, one that is different from your most easily and habitually accessed reaction that might not actually serve the bigger picture? Go over common scenarios in your mind and create a plan; a blueprint. Follow this towards deepening your awareness of your triggers and creating more space to breathe, feel, think, and ultimately, change yourself for the better.

When you’re skilled in self-regulation, you are a better listener. People feel safer coming to you as a thought partner, sounding board, or trusted advisor. You learn where opportunities exist in a more timely manner and can adapt to these changes with more groundedness and confidence. You raise your consciousness in both yourself and others by modeling healthy communication and respectful behavior.
Those who are skilled in self-regulation tend to be flexible and adapt well to change. They are also good at managing conflict and diffusing tense or difficult situations.

To improve your self-regulation:

  • Notice and be mindful of your own thoughts and feelings. Just note what they are without judgement.
  • Understand your window of tolerance in varying circumstances and use the motivation of adding skills to expand your tolerance to keep practicing.
  • Learn to become comfortable with uncomfortable feelings. Breathe and create more space for you to feel them. They will pass.
  • Reframe problems as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Use “I” statements to make requests and state experiences and expectations from your own point of view.
  • Pause and realize that you can respond versus reacting. Know the difference between the two and recognize that you have a choice in how you act, speak, and affect a situation.


Are you motivated by learning with and from others on your team? Do you bring a sense of hope, optimism, or inspiration to work and are generally resilient when you face disappointment? Are you driven by more than your salary or your title but rather, being a great leader or a valued team member?

Ultimately, as leaders, you want to build teams of people who seek internal rewards, who share their passions and talents freely and openly in the workplace and with their teams, and who have the ability to find and achieve flow. They take initiative because they are motivated to follow their passions, do great work, support and inspire others, and

To improve your sense of motivation:

  • Notice when you focus on extrinsic motivation vs. intrinsic motivation. What’s driving you?
  • Celebrate and make notice of achieving milestones, big and small. Create rituals that are fun, playful, and joyful for your teams.
  • Know yourself and chunk down or stack your workflow to match your workflow.
  • Find a mentor or coach to keep you motivated and generating momentum.
  • Find an accountability partner to witness your progress and reflect back what they see and hear as you share your results on a regular basis in company.


Can you feel compassion for others and understand them well enough to make a genuine connection? Can you create solutions and systems that stem from your understanding of people’s needs, wellbeing, and concerns? Do you care about people and how they feel? Do you understand the connection of EQ to your work and leadership?

Empathy allows you to make connections between what you sense about others’ emotional states and the capacity to genuinely hold space for these feelings with compassion and understanding. As leaders, how we are in touch with others’ feelings can guides us in our determination of what’s needed and what can be possible.

To improve your empathy:

Get proximate; get to know people who are different than you and whose perspectives and life experiences can add value to your work together.
Develop skills and comfort with feeling a wide range of emotions, all of which stem from the human experience. Practice finding words to communicate these feelings with others.


Do you have good rapport with your colleagues and do people generally support, trust and respect you? Can you be direct when there are issues without talking behind anyone’s back or triangulating conversations that should be held with transparency? Do people feel safe talking to you about things before they are fully formed?

People managers who can build relationships well with others through authentic connection and positive, effective communication create benefit for their teams and the organization. The skills here include active listening, vulnerability, openness, verbal and non verbal communication, and sensing how to be strategic in terms of word choice, timing, and context in connecting with others.

To improve your people skills:

  • Choose to see the good and the strengths in others. Notice what this lens does to your mindset and behaviors and how this impacts the relationships you have with colleagues.
  • Follow your curiosity about other people’s experiences. Ask open-ended questions to engage in authentic dialogue.
  • Learn from others who have good social skills. Charisma is the triad of warmth, power and presence. How might you elevate your own charisma?
  • Start with eye contact on zoom and in person. Put away your phone or device when you’re having a conversation. Learn people’s names and pronounce them correctly.
  • Watch your body language in terms of showing interest and engagement in active listening.

These skills are not won overnight. Take your time practicing them and be gentle with yourself through the process. Accessing our innate EQ is just one of the facets of our team coaching solutions. With a strategic and energetic approach, we co-create the people and system changes required to achieve greater possibilities. Our leadership team experience amplifies your capacity to imagine new solutions and transcend today’s demands.

Learn more about team coaching here. If you would like a FREE 30 minute consultation, schedule a call with one of our leaders.