3 Reasons Emotional Intelligence Wins When Choosing Leaders

There are varying opinions as to the importance of intelligence when bringing someone on your team. For a season, Google notoriously asked potential hires for their SAT scores because they believed that intelligence was a critical predictor of performance. Imagine being asked to call your mommy to see if she kept an old record of your score. Google has since dropped the practice because they found it did not predict anything.

In recent years, more attention has been given to “emotional intelligence” (EQ) than intellect (IQ). The “emotional intelligence” term has been popularized, in part, because of author and researcher Daniel Goleman. In his popular books Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, Goleman writes that the most effective leaders are emotionally intelligent. They have the ability to manage their emotions, to genuinely connect with people, to offer kindness and empathy, to lead with joy and inspiration, and to display the master skill of patience.

While I don’t dismiss intellect completely, I agree with Goleman in that emotional intelligence is more important. Here are three reasons why:

1. People are led most effectively by their hearts, not just their heads.

People who are intellectually smart but relationally dumb have a tendency to lead with logic and dismiss people’s hearts. Leaders who lead with their heads and not their hearts fail to leverage the conviction and shared values of people. Leaders who lead with their heads and not their hearts focus on the direction while losing sight of the people.

2. People care that their leaders care.

People cannot stand the feeling of being manipulated, and when they sense someone is only directing them for his/her own benefit, they stop following. Great leaders actually care for the people they are leading, not only the results the people produce. While this may seem basic, care and concern is the foundation for what is called “emotional intelligence.” Leaders who are emotionally intelligent deeply care for the people they serve.

3. Leadership that is Christian is the most effective leadership.

Emotional intelligence is not the same thing as extroversion. What then does it mean to be emotionally bright? Many of the qualities identified in Goleman’s research (kindness, patience, joy) are the fruit of a person walking with the Lord. The fruit of a believer who is filled with the Spirit of God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The most effective leadership comes from people fully submitted to the Spirit. Christian leadership is the most effective leadership because God enables His people to love people, to lead with joy, to bring peace to conflict, to display patience, to offer kindness and gentleness, and to control emotions.

So learn from Google’s adjustment. Intelligence alone is very incomplete.