In the business world, we are always looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage. For many years, organizations thought that bright, intelligent people were the key to superior performance. But “book smarts,” in the form of high IQs or stellar GPAs, we now know do not always translate to equally exemplary job performance. The connection is limited at best.
An intelligence quotient (IQ) is best defined as a measurement of cognitive capacity–one’s ability to think and reason. Interestingly enough, IQs usually do not change much after the age of 12 to 15. Many jobs in today’s workplace require an above-average IQ; that is, they have “a high IQ threshold.” But hiring people with high IQs is again not a guarantee that they will perform well in the position.
The answer to why that is may rest in a conversation that took place between two psychology professors, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, in 1987. Salovey, of Yale University, and Mayer, of the University of New Hampshire, were discussing a particular, bumbling politician and posed the question: How could someone so smart act so inexplicably dumb? They came to the conclusion that good decision-making requires more than intellect or what we normally think of as IQ. Mayer and Salovey soon developed the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ).
Dan Goleman picked up on the theme in his 1995 best-selling book EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: WHY IT CAN MATTER MORE THAN IQ, a great read, by the way. His research led him to conclude that leaders drive action by building relationships, recognizing their own emotions, responding to the needs of others, and by revealing their own mistakes. He termed these traits emotional intelligence (EQ) and defined it generally as the ability to recognize, understand, use and manage emotions in oneself and in others. Unlike cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence can be taught and learned.
People with high EQs tend to have five qualities or competencies in common:
Optimism — ability to anticipate the best possible outcome of events or actions
Self-Awareness — knowledge of current emotional state, strengths and weaknesses
Empathy — understanding of others’ points of view and decision-making processes
Impulse Control — ability to mitigate an urge to act (as in: think first and act later)
Reality Testing — ability to see things as they are, not as we want them to be
The more of the qualities a person possesses, and the more they use them, the higher EQ they typically have.
Let’s take a look at EQ skills as it relates specifically to managers and leaders in the real world we all live. Managers are often appointed to the position not because of their management skills but because of their knowledge and experience. Some managers go on to become great leaders, while others become only good managers.
So what tests, if any, are available to gauge potential candidates for EQ competencies?
According to an article by Stephen Blakesley, a Vistage International speaker, two tests are available to effectively measure a person’s EQ; specifically, the MSCEIT developed by Mayer, Salovey, and David Caruso, was the first EQ test. A more updated version was developed by Reuven Bar-On, a psychologist who in fact coined the term “emotional quotient.” The Bar-On model (more widely used and validated than the MSCEIT) evaluates in five general areas:
Intra-Personal — ability to be aware of, manage, and express emotions
Inter-Personal — ability to initiate and maintain relationships with others
Adaptability — ability to be flexible, solve problems and be realistic
Stress Management — ability to tolerate stress and control impulses
General Mood — happiness and optimism levels
With the changes going on within associations today and their respective leadership ranks, it is even more important to understand the importance of EQs, both from the volunteer and the professional staff perspective. By doing so, it will only strengthen the partnership and put you at a competitive advantage.