EQ vs. IQ: Which Is More Important for Your Success?


Achieving success in today’s world requires more than raw intelligence. It demands empathy, effective communication skills and adaptability across personal and professional situations. Understanding the difference between emotional intelligence (EQ) vs. intelligence quotient (IQ) is vital to career and personal growth. EQ and IQ each contribute to your personal and professional outcomes. Developing EQ in harmony with IQ unlocks a competitive advantage, helping individuals thrive in diverse personal and professional settings.

What is EQ?

EQ stands for emotional quotient, commonly referred to as “emotional intelligence” or “EI.” It encompasses our ability to recognize, understand and manage our emotions, helping us develop greater self-awareness in our social interactions. At the same time, EQ also helps us better recognize and understand the emotions of others through cues such as facial expressions, tone and implications in the words they speak. These attributes collectively provide for greater competency in areas of self-regulation, motivation, empathy and overall social skills.

Emotional intelligence impacts both our personal and professional lives. Those with higher EQ exhibit strong communication skills, helping them succeed in collaborative settings both at home and the office. People with high EQ are also more adaptable to change, are better at conflict resolution and are valued as leaders regardless of their work title. Organizations that hire high-EQ employees generally experience thriving work cultures, greater teamwork and improved customer loyalty and satisfaction.

EQ is not fixed or rigid. Rather, it is a skill that you can learn. Moreover, it is multifaceted with distinct areas including motivation, social awareness and other emotional competencies. Tools such as emotional intelligence tests provide accurate means to measure your emotional competencies, providing opportunities for personal development and growth.

What is IQ?

IQ, or intelligence quotient, serves as a measure of our transferable intellectual abilities. It quantifies problem-solving ability, logical reasoning, math skills, spatial understanding and even linguistic skills. By assessing these cognitive functions, IQ tests provide a window to cognitive intelligence applicable across most situations. Whether studying to be a doctor or learning to use new office software systems, higher IQ individuals better understand and apply what they are taught.

IQ is measured relative to an individual’s age group. That is, a 2-year-old would not be expected to have the same intelligence quotient at that age as they would at age 20. This helps stabilize IQ scores across life. Unlike EQ, IQ is less malleable and is not something you can learn. Some factors such as brain injury, drug or alcohol abuse or entrance into a healthier environment may impact scores, as can temporary changes such as stress levels. Still, IQ tends to be fixed within narrow parameters while EQ more resembles a skill set nearly anyone can improve upon.

Which is more important? EQ vs. IQ

Determining the importance of EQ vs. IQ is complicated. But determining where you should focus your time and energy is simple: develop your EQ.

IQ matters. With a baseline of 100, those scoring under 75 will experience difficulties performing routine tasks most people take for granted. Those scoring above 135 or so may be considered genius. Thankfully, the vast majority of us are in the normal IQ range between 85 and 115 following a typical bell-curve distribution pattern.

If you’re looking to succeed in your workplace or family and social relations, odds are that IQ plays a minor role. EQ, on the other hand, plays a bigger role. It’s also something you can learn. Data shows that greater self-awareness, emotional temperament, communication skills and other factors contribute to career success.

Most importantly, emotional intelligence lies within your control—you can learn it. One step at a time, you can harness the skills necessary to build healthy relationships socially, at work and at home. By focusing on the importance of developing your emotional intelligence, you can:

  1. Understand your own emotions, leading to greater self-confidence
  2. Regulate impulsive actions that weaken leadership
  3. Build interpersonal relationships for greater collaboration
  4. Resolve conflicts without drama or hard feelings
  5. Make more sound, lasting decisions without fear or self-doubt

Ultimately, asking whether IQ vs. EQ is more important is like deciding which is more important for your car: the engine or the steering wheel. IQ is your engine. You cannot go anywhere without it. But EQ serves as the steering wheel, taking you exactly where you want to go. Your ride has advantages and limitations, but your destination is entirely in your hands.

EQ vs. IQ: Where should I focus for success?

IQ tends to be relatively fixed across your lifetime. Focusing on greater emotional intelligence yields greater gains for personal development and professional growth. Also, one must keep in mind that while high IQ may help measure an individual’s capacity to learn, it does not measure their willingness to learn. High IQ people can suffer from the same self-limiting beliefs, lack of motivation, personal doubts and inhibitions as anyone else. High EQ individuals, on the other hand, are more likely to cultivate growth mindsets, leading to greater cooperation, motivation and willingness to embrace new challenges. In addition, high EQ people appear as natural leaders due not only to their communications skills, but also to their adaptability and resilience. They may actually appear smarter among their peers.

Lastly, a cautionary note. Like IQ, EQ is not a total measure of a person’s value. While working with the National Science Foundation, I helped manage programs to bring people with disabilities into STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Our focus was on assisting students diagnosed on the autism spectrum. These highly intelligent students typically exhibited low emotional capacities including social awkwardness, inability to read others’ emotions and low self-awareness. We saw their value as future aerospace, chemical, civil and software engineers. Rather than leave them behind, we helped them navigate life.

As you develop your emotional intelligence, part of that enhanced EQ will mean working well with a diversity of people, including some with lower EQ than your own. That is when your talents for empathy and communications matter most. Put your leadership skills to work by seeing strengths in others. Simply put, lead your diverse staff and colleagues to success.

Photo by NDAB Creativity/Shutterstock.com

Bryan enjoys the digital space where arts and technology meet. As a writer, he has worked in education, health and wellbeing, and manufacturing. He also assists smaller businesses in web development including accessibility and content development. In his free time, he hikes trails in central Florida.

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