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leaders more than IQ

Why leaders need more than just IQ to succeed

With new challenges facing the modern business environment there is a growing need for more than just ‘good’ leaders. Leaders of excellent calibre are needed to lead organisations to goal achievement. While intelligence is an important trait in leaders, it takes more than being smart to be an excellent leader. Some of the most notable leaders in history possess some admirable traits in addition to intelligence such as assertiveness, integrity, authenticity and much more.

Recently, there have been a lot of discussions concerning emotional intelligence and how important is for leaders. Being smart is not enough and for it to have a positive impact in a leader’s life, intelligence must be managed to make a leader successful. There are people who have great intelligence, high IQ, incredible talents, and yet they still fail in life. To manage this intelligence and make something out of it, one needs to learn how to manage it to productivity.

According to Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, besides IQ, leaders need emotional intelligence in the form of:


Self-awareness is about the understanding of one’s emotions by recognising a feeling when it happens. The ability to monitor feelings related to different situations and having a sense of self-understanding is the height of self-awareness, while on the contrary, not being able to recognise one’s feelings leaves one at the emotion’s mercy. Self-awareness for leaders helps take control of surrounding situations. According to a study by MIT, CEOs who are self-aware are able to identify their unfavourable tendencies and adjust their behaviour accordingly such that they can be themselves but in control of their emotions according to the situation.

Motivating oneself

The most successful leaders are able to remain motivated even when situations are not so favourable. It is through staying motivated that they are able to keep others motivated as well. This comes with optimism and versatility, traits that are very important for leaders because the business environment will always have its ups and down and only the strong are able to keep their heads above water at all times. For example, even with the dip in Apple’s popularity after Steve Jobs passed away, Apple has recovered its growth. The new leaders have been able to maintain an optimism to keep the company’s employee’s motivated as well.

Interpersonal intelligence

There are no leaders without followers; and how leaders create followers comes from interpersonal intelligence. This means recognising the emotions of others, being empathic and learning how to effectively relate with others. You cannot be emotionally ‘tone deaf’ when being a leader. Instead, you should be empathic enough to read subtle social signals that will help you understand others more and relate better with them, achieving social competence. Some of the most influential leaders in history such as Mahatma Ghandi managed to get a following by showing connection to the emotions of their followers. This is an example of display of interpersonal independence.

Leaders would have a hard time excelling in modern day business environment by solely depending on their intelligence. IQ must be supplemented with discipline, self-awareness, people skills and motivation to make an excellent leader.

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