The crucial importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leaders


“Working as an executive search consultant, I’ve personally led more than 500 senior appointments and been involved in many more, interviewing more than 20,000 candidates. I’ve also carefully studied various assessment approaches and their performance impact.

My conclusion about emotional intelligence based on this experience? I can’t emphasize enough the crucial importance of EI-based competencies for success in leadership roles.

I analyzed the correlation of three main candidate variables (experience, IQ, and emotional intelligence) with the person’s performance once on the job and was amazed with the results. When the appointees excelled in experience and IQ but had low emotional intelligence, their failure rate was as high as 25%.

However, those people with high emotional intelligence combined with at least one of the other two factors (experience or IQ) only failed in 3%-4% of the cases. In other words, emotional intelligence coupled with high IQ or very relevant experience was a very strong predictor of success. However, highly intelligent or experienced candidates who lacked emotional intelligence were more likely to flame out.

My colleagues soon replicated this analysis for many different geographies and highly diverse cultures, including Japan and Germany, and the results were similar everywhere. People are hired for IQ and experience and fired for failing to manage themselves and others well.

While some of the attributes and skills that have proven to be necessary for success at the top are indeed mainly cognitive, such as strategic orientation or market insight, most of them are based on emotional intelligence, including results orientation, customer impact, collaboration and influencing, developing organizational capability, team leadership, and change leadership.

I’ve met hundreds of leaders from successful corporations all over the world and, without exception, the vast majority of the competencies they use to select and develop leaders are also based on emotional intelligence.” Read more

From an HBR article by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Egon Zehnder


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