Although the word “intelligence” is used extensively, there is no agreed single definition of this word.

It is subjective and can mean different things when used in different contexts. 


What is IQ?

Traditionally, intelligence referred only to the intellectual aspects of intelligence such as memory, problem-solving, analytical and scholastic abilities — commonly known as intelligence quotient (IQ).

IQ was introduced in the early 1900s to measure a person’s level of cognitive intelligence.

Currently, the concept of IQ is widely used, especially in the education sector, to determine academic success.

It was not until recently that people became more aware of another aspect of intelligence, which also plays an important part in determining success.

This aspect of intelligence is emotional intelligence-, which includes such things as personal and social abilities.


What is EQ?

The term “emotional intelligence” (EI) — often interchanged with the term “emotional quotient” (EQ) — became popular after Daniel Goleman published his first book called Emotional Intelligence in 1995.

In his best-selling book, Goleman pointed out that IQ only accounts for 20 per cent of a person’s success in life; the rest is attributed to other factors including EQ.

EQ refers to a person’s capacity for recognising his own feelings and those of others, and for motivating and managing emotions in himself and in his relationships.

The discussion of EQ often begins with an emotional challenge from Aristotle, as stated in Goleman’s book: “Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not easy.”

EQ involves controlling one’s emotions to fit the particular situation. This is different from a purely rational or intellectual response to various management situations.

When a person has a high EQ, he will react in a proper manner to the individuals in the situation, as well as the situation itself.

A person reacting with his IQ would simply react to the facts of the situation and negate the “total picture”, which includes the irrationality of human behaviour.


Important role of EQ

The study of EQ has increasingly gained popularity among many diverse organisations.

IQ, or intellectual intelligence, is a concept that has been established for many years.

Although people with a high IQ are usually successful academically, they are not always the most successful people at work or in life. 

Both IQ and EQ are important factors contributing to workplace success. However, it is EQ that distinguishes star performers from average performers. 

EQ also plays a very important role in enhancing management, leadership and organisation effectiveness in areas such as teamwork, decision-making, employee commitment, productivity and motivation.

The skills of EQ allow you to understand yourself and others. They enable you to build trusting relationships with others.

We have heard the adage that states: “We are hired for our qualifications, but we get promoted for our attitude and ability.”

Emotionally intelligent people have acquired the skills and abilities not only to read and understand others but also to engage empathetically in an honest, firm and constructive manner.

IQ and EQ can affect innovation and creativity, an essential part of any competitive business.

This is because creativity depends on two types of thinking:

•   Convergent, which is the type of thinking that determines IQ; and

•   Divergent, the thinking that determines EQ.

However, study reveals that there is a greater correlation between EQ and innovation than IQ and innovation.

Moreover, EQ can enhance the level of creativity within an organisation by establishing a supportive environment that encourages workers to explore their ideas freely.


EQ and leadership

Emotionally intelligent leaders can have a positive impact on organisations by:

•   Helping employees grow, learn and develop;

•   Creating a sense of purpose and meaning;

•   Instilling unity and team spirit; and

•   Basing relationships on trust and respect, which allows employees to take risks and fully contribute to the organisation.

Most work in organisations is done in teams, and EQ applies to teams as well as organisations. Leaders develop a team’s EQ by creating norms that foster a strong group identity, build trust among members, and instil a belief among members that they can be effective and succeed as a team.


Article by Chris Fenney, co-founder and director of Training Edge International. He has more than 30 years’ experience in training and management development. For details, e-mail or visit