Skip to navigationSkip to content

Emotional intelligence is a better predictor of success than IQ

Getty Images/Hong Wu
Recently, Xi Jinping told recent graduates that emotional intelligence was more important than IQ.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

This originally appeared on LinkedIn. You can follow Daniel Goleman here 

A Chinese friend writes that last week President Xi, the new national leader, told a graduating class that Emotional Intelligence is “more important than IQ,” and a competence that should be pursued in the workplace.

The news made the front page of Chinese newspapers.

I want to add a few details. First, let’s be clear: for workplace success, IQ matters, too—just not in the same way that EI does. IQ remains the best predictor of which level of job someone can hold. For the professions (medicine, teaching, accounting and the like) you need an IQ roughly a standard deviation among the norm—that is, around 115 or higher.

But once you are in that position, IQ does not guarantee that you will be outstanding in your performance, nor that you will emerge as a leader. A main reason IQ no longer predicts success once you are on the job is that everyone you are competing with is about as smart as you. That’s when emotional intelligence adds great value.

The workplace competencies that independent studies have identified as distinguishing outstanding performers and leaders from the average are largely based on emotional intelligence—and as you go higher up the organizational ladder, they have greater and greater value.

I have a suggestion for China—and any other country that recognizes the value of emotional intelligence for its people and its workers. Teach these life skills in school, beginning in early childhood and continuing to university.

A meta-analysis of more than 200 separate studies that compared students with emotional intelligence-based programs and those without them found that positive behavior increased 10 percent, negative went down 10 percent, and academic achievement scores jumped up 11 percent.

These programs, called “social/emotional learning,” or SEL, take little or no time from the standard academic topics, yet let children learn better. Singapore is the first nation to mandate that all children there receive SEL.

These are the competencies that distinguish star leaders from average. Teaching these life skills in schools could turn them into leadership academies.

And the good news: if you didn’t master in earlier life the emotional intelligence abilities you need for your job, it’s never too late. Get a coach.

Here are some additional resources for educators and counselors:

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.