Emotional Intelligence Matters More Than IQ


The Daniel Goleman Interview

So says Dr Daniel Goleman. More of that later. Intelligence has been the subject of hot debates. Each time some psychologist tried to settle the debate by designing a defining test that showed how to check for intelligence, there would be another wave of research that showed how flawed the test was. What is then a good measure of intelligence? Ask Mensa – the  high Intelligence Quotient society. Membership of Mensa is open to persons who have attained a score within the upper two percent of the general population on an approved intelligence test that has been properly administered and supervised. If you are curious to know the kind of questions that Mensa uses to test for intelligence, you can take a workout – not the actual test on their site just to see if you can crack those 30 questions in 30 minutes (try the Mensa workout). If two typists can type two pages in two minutes, how many typists will it take to type 18 pages in six minutes? Is the answer 3, 4, 6, 12 or 36? The average person’s IQ is 100, college grads usually fare better at 120 and the Mensa candidates usually have their IQ at 130+. The highest ever recorded IQ is 195 for Chris Langan – a score that only 1 in 100 million humans have that score. Chris never finished college and worked as a bar bouncer in New York.

Is Intelligence a Predictor of Success?

Then one could ask a more fundamental question – is intelligence a predictor of success. If you ask psychologist Dr Daniel Goleman the answer is an emphatic no. High IQ will get you hired. But Emotional Intelligence will ensure that you get promoted. Take a simple managerial task of giving performance feedback. It is a task that the manager and the team member dread equally. No one likes to give bad news. Now it turns out that even giving good news is not easy. It is not what you say but how you say it. Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s research shows that Even the boss’s tone of voice can trigger one or another brain area. In one study, when people got positive performance feedback that was delivered in a negative, cold tone of voice, they came out of the session feeling down–despite the good news.

The ability to manage emotions such as anger, humor, anxiety, optimism, melancholy and happiness determines how successfully you accomplish the tasks that you wish to. A genius who annoys people is not going to succeed. Our greatest strengths can turn out to be our greatest weaknesses as well if used inappropriately.  A comment made on Facebook or Twitter has led to the abrupt end of many a career. People can learn to manage emotions. This is definitely intelligence that we can acquire and learn.

What is the relation between IQ and emotional intelligence ie how we handle ourselves and our relationships. This psychologist from Harvard worked as a science journalist, reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books) was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half; with more than 5,000,000 copies in print worldwide in 30 languages, and has been a best seller in many countries.

Abhijit: What are Emotional Intelligence competencies that distinguish successful people?
Daniel Goleman
Daniel Goleman: There are dozens, but they generally fall into four overall categories: self-awareness (e.g., recognizing your feelings, why you have them, and how they impact your performance), self-management (e.g., handling distressing emotions well); social awareness (e.g., sensing what others are feeling – empathizing); and relationship management (conflict resolution, influence and persuasion, etc.).

Abhijit:  In your research what is the correlation between IQ and Emotional Intelligence?

Daniel Goleman: Generally, IQ determines what job you can get and hold, while EI predicts how well you will do in that career – whether you have the motivation and social abilities to be a star performer or leader.

Abhijit: Is Emotional Intelligence learnable or are we born with a certain inherent level of it that we can only adapt or improve upon marginally.

Daniel Goleman: EI is learned and learnable, at any point in life. If we have the right systematic learning situation, we can significantly improve on the targeted aspects of our EI. My colleague Richard Boyatzis has strong data on this in his work with executive MBAs, for instance.

Abhijit: What can some simple things organizations/ managers do to develop Emotional Intelligence among employees?

Daniel Goleman: An organization can highlight the value of EI by embedding it into its decisions on who to hire and promote, identifying high potentials, and leadership development. Making this publicly known helps, as does offering sound tools for strengthening EI skills.

Abhijit: Do individual contributors need the same degree of Emotional Intelligence as those who manage teams?

Daniel Goleman: To be  outstanding as an individual contributor, you need excellence in the self-mastery competencies, like optimism, the drive to improve performance, adaptability, etc. But to be a successful manager or leader, you need in addition strengths in the social mastery competencies – social awareness and relationship management.

Watch this wonderful video where Dr Daniel Goleman while addressing a group at Google says that since Google looks at hiring people who are very high on IQ, success in such a workplace is not going to be dependent on being smart (because everyone is fairly similar on that score). Success would be driven by Emotional Intelligence.


Read more articles on Emotional Intelligence by Dr Goleman

See the beautiful word cloud of this article on  Emotional Intelligence at Wordle.net

Download this caricature of Dr Goleman

A big thank you to Mohinish Sinha, Director, Hay Group in India for his help.

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  1. Thanks for sharing Abhijit. Lots of learning and reflecting from this piece.

  2. Dear AB,

    Super Like the post! EI = Success in life… Love the line “High IQ will get you hired. But Emotional Intelligence will ensure that you get promoted.” I guess the right mix of IQ + EI helps you to outshine others!

  3. Handling emotions is as important as using our Intelligence. 🙂

  4. I second that!


  1. […] These findings make sense too. Goleman and other emotional intelligence advocates are fond of saying, “High IQ will get you hired, but Emotional Intelligence (EI) will ensure you get promoted.” […]

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