Are IQ and EQ past their ‘used by date’ in Predicting Leadership Success?

Decades of leadership training and development have been focused on the intellectual (IQ) and emotional (EQ) attributes of the individual leader. Measurement schema have been developed in the form of IQ and EQ ‘intelligence’ measures as a means for identifying and developing potential leaders. But how successful have they been in predicting actual success? Most of us will have been exposed to ‘successful’ leaders that were desperately short on IQ, EQ or sometimes even both. As a case in point, recently the Harvard Business Review published its Top 100 CEOs based on long-term objective performance measures.
Not surprisingly, top of the list is Steve Jobs, who has left a legacy in Apple that perhaps we will never see the likes of again.  While few would question Job’s IQ, his EQ capability was somewhat questionable. If we revisit the core elements of EQ they are:

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
  2. Self-regulation – involves controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
  3. Social skill – managing relationships to move people in the desired direction
  4. Empathy – considering other people’s feelings especially when making decisions and
  5. Motivation – being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.

It only requires a brief read of his biographies to suggest that he would have failed on the ‘Self Regulation’ and ‘Empathy’ dimensions. Low IQ is also shown not to be a barrier for becoming a successful leader, with leadership guru Garrison Wynn quoting a study of one group of successful leaders having an average IQ of 104.

It may be a little harsh to suggest that IQ and EQ are useless measures in predicting leadership success, but its not hard to argue that they are clearly insufficient predictors. We believe the key issue affecting leadership developers and trainers is that their thinking is locked in a ‘Newtonian World’. Newtonian thinking about leadership squarely places the individual as the unit of study, that needs to be dissected and analysed to uncover insights that might separate highly successful leaders from the rest. The result has been extensive IQ and EQ metrics, but no magic formulas. This ‘inside-out’ style of thinking ignores the external environments within which leaders operate. When we take an “outside in” and more holistic perspective we can start to gain a much richer appreciation of what makes a successful leader tick. This style of thinking is regularly called ‘Quantum Thinking’. The contrast with Newtonian thinking is summarised below:

Newtonian vs quantum

When we apply a quantum thinking lens to the leadership conundrum we can start to appreciate the effect of the external environment on leadership success. Boris Groysberg, Andrew N. McLean, and Nitin Nohria’s  2006 Harvard Business Review study looked at how portable leaders were when moving companies. The researchers used GE executives as their sample and studied their relative success when moving to other companies as the CEO. GE is roundly acknowledged as a nursery for high performing business executives. The researchers found that the least portable traits were related to ‘Relationship Human Capital’ and ‘Company Specific Human Capital’. In other words, it is the external environment, made up of relationships and social and cultural norms, that had the biggest impact on success, independent of any generic IQ and EQ attributes.

Acknowledged leadership guru and author Steve Denning, in describing his concepts around radical management change, also preaches an ‘outside in’ perspective. In his analysis of the missing ingredients in leadership today he states: we need to get beyond thinking about leadership as merely making better individuals. That’s because systems are stronger than individuals. Having better individual leaders won’t do much for the crisis in leadership”.

So where do we start with an outside-in perspective?

We think the missing ingredient is a leader’s ‘social capital’ – in other words the connectedness of a leader. Dr Hilary Armstrong introduced the concept of ‘Connected Intelligence (CQ)’ in her paper ‘Follow the Leader: Leadership development for the future.CQ IQ EQ  Unlike IQ and EQ, CQ is not ‘owned’ by an individual, but exists as a shared asset that one can contribute to, but not control. Unlike a 360 degree performance review, its not simply about getting feedback, its about co-creating the future. While Steve Jobs may have failed the EQ test, his links to the entertainment industry through Pixar and Disney, during his enforced leave from Apple, afforded him the contacts and capability to forge the cross industry partnerships required to make products like the iPod,  iPhone and iPad possible.  Apple’s competitors did not lack the capability to produce competitive hardware. What they lacked was a leader with the CQ to harness the complex ecosystem of relationships required to deliver the whole product. 

We have written previously in more detail about a personal social capital diagnostic. In this post we noted that participants in social networking platforms like Linkedin and Facebook can gain some insight into their networking patterns by the analytics provided by these platforms. Draw NetworkBut to test how ‘portable’ your skills might be to a target organisation for yourself, simply take a piece of paper and list out 10 to 20 people that you believe that you have the capacity to influence, or be influenced by in this organisation. If it’s someone you think you can influence draw an arrow toward them. If it is someone that influences you, then draw the arrow towards yourself. If you influence each other, draw a double-ended arrow. It is worth pausing to think about the meaning of reciprocated connections. Are they an indicator of the level of trust between the two entities? What obligations and/or norms might exist between yourself and those on your map i.e. relationship dimension. Now try and complete the influence network by thinking about how your contacts might influence each other. Now review the structure of your map.

Structure gauge maps

Is it tightly clustered with many redundant links between your contacts in the target organisation (which could be your current organisation), like the structure on the right? If so, your fit with the ‘Company Specific Human Capital’ is strong and therefore your prospects for success high. If your map looks more like the ones to the left then you are likely to have some ‘Relationship Human Capital’ building to do and more likely, a longer gestation period for success.

A Final Word

While IQ and EQ’s time may not have come just yet, we believe that the Newtonian style of thinking that has generated them has now reached its limit. We can no longer think about leadership independent of the environment within which it is practiced.  Quantum style thinking provides the outside-in perspectives that will provide prospective leaders with the insights required to more comprehensively assess their future prospects as a leader.

That is why Optimice has partnered with the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership to bring Connected Intelligence (CQ) to the leadership development marketplace.

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About Laurence Lock Lee

I am a co-founder of Optimice Pty Ltd, the developer of Community Mapper, ONA Surveys, Visual Markets and Stakeholder Engagement. I am also the Chief Scientist and co-founder of Tech startup Swoop Analytics. My passion is networks; building them, participating in them, analysing them, improving them, writing about them. My work experience has largely been with corporate networks. However, I am excited about the prospect of working with community and network builders from all walks of life, be they NGOs, charities, professional societies, industry peak bodies, social enterprises etc... It doesn't take long to appreciate that 'building community' is the new 21st century mission statement.