IQ, EQ and AQ – yet another acronym?

IQ, EQ and AQ – yet another acronym?

Anyone who has been working as a leader or in the area of human resource management for some time will be used to seeing new abbreviations for competences popping up from time to time. In addition to professional knowledge, personal skills and competencies, which are measurable or less pragmatically measurable (in any case, certainly not by way of mathematical formula) are of paramount importance in filling management positions.  Among these, IQ (intelligence quotient), is often taken into account as a factor which has become accepted by the market as commonplace and is in fact rarely used by itself any longer. Over the last 7-8 years, EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) has caught up and become increasingly important, and rightly so. Then the crisis caused by the recent pandemic, the real and inescapable VUCA world we are now living in, has brought the realisation that AQ (adaptability quotient), is at least as important, if not one the single most important indicator in measuring managerial competence. In fact, it is not so much a recent concept, but rather something that we increasingly need and can rely on if we want to live our daily lives as leaders and professionals in a stable and successful way in the long term.

In this article, we will discuss the role of IQ, EQ and AQ in leadership and how they relate to the selection of leaders.

IQ, or intelligence quotient

IQ, also known as intelligence quotient, has been a measure of intellectual and cognitive ability since the early 1900s. Its value indicates characteristics such as

  • cognitive ability,
  • verbal ability,
  • short-term memory,
  • visual abilities,
  • intellectual abilities,
  • problem solving,
  • openness to innovation

As this indicator has become more widespread, it has been increasingly considered as a correlating to success; however, research findings on this relationship are varied. British psychologist Liam Hudson, for example, has shown that a person with an average IQ (typically around 100) or lower (e.g. 70) does indeed perform worse than a person with an outstanding IQ (e.g. 170). However, when comparing the performances of two people with above average IQs (e.g. 130 and 180), no significant difference can be found. Nevertheless, a correlation between IQ and educational attainment has been shown to exist: those with higher IQs are more likely to obtain more advanced degrees, but in professional life IQ alone has no such role. In other words, this figure only shows whether someone is “smart” enough to start creating a path to success for themselves through education. At the same time, it does not show who will become an outstanding professional, employee and leader in business over the long run.

EQ, or emotional intelligence quotient

If not IQ, then what sets excellent leaders apart from the rest? It was in the 1970s that EQ (emotional quotient) became the focus of attention in scientific and psychological circles.  EQ became part of an intelligence model consisting of 6+2 elements, created in the early 1980s by Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner, which has since become one of the best known and most widely used models in business.

Similarly to IQ, EQ is also measured by way of tests, but these focus on emotional, affective skills rather than cognitive ones. Perceiving, managing and positively influencing one’s own as well as others’ emotions play a central role in EQ. Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, author and researcher on emotional and social intelligence, has identified five elements of emotional intelligence (1995):

  • Self-awareness: the ability to recognize, name and understand our own emotions, as well as our thoughts and actions related to them.
  • Self-regulation: the ability to manage one’s own emotions, to exercise control over them, and to monitor them. By properly controlling our undesirable emotions and impulses, we try to transform them into positive emotions.
  • Motivation: the ability to consciously get into an emotional state that leads to productivity. Creating self-motivation is directly linked to success. Intrinsic motivation (enthusiasm, self-identity, progress, development, being in flow) are just as important as extrinsic motivation (money, rewards, power).
  • Empathy: the ability to read and understand the emotions of others. We are able to perceive the situation and feelings of others and to successfully influence the latter (either positively or negatively, although positive influences will certainly lead to more effective results in the long run).
  • Social skills: the ability to form and maintain appropriate social relationships.

It can be seen from this list that these are essential attributes of successful leaders. Managing emotions consciously, exercising self-control, creating motivation, empathy, team spirit and trust are essential elements in the toolkit of a successful leader. These are the human aspects and dimensions that define our emotional characteristics.

Goleman, who created this model, goes as far as claiming that “truly effective leaders are distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence. Without it, even a person can have first-class training, an incisive mind, and an endless supply of good ideas, but he still won’t make a good leader.”

Research by Cotrus et al. (2012) shows that emotional intelligence is responsible for 80% of success in the workplace. However, such and similar findings are often criticised. One of the most common theoretical criticisms is that emotional abilities cannot be treated in the same category as intelligence, as they refer to different types of attributes. However, all researchers and experts agree on the undeniable importance of cognitive and affective skills for success and leadership. In other words, there’s more to this than simple intellect and emotion.

AQ, or adaptation quotient – resilience

The AQ (adaptability quotient or adversity quotient) is best conceived as a measure of the ability to adapt. AQ, which has been present in business life for some years, was originally used for measuring companies’ ability to adjust to an often unpredictably changing environment, through adaptations, product and service development and strategy.
When we talk about human and managerial factors, AQ is about facing adversity. The road to success is full of challenges and difficulties, so facing and overcoming them is also an indicator of professional success.

Elements associated with AQ include, for example:

  • attitude,
  • mental stress management,
  • long-term thinking and planning,
  • the ability to learn,
  • adapting to changes in the environment,
  • coping with unexpected situations,
  • perseverance,
  • crisis management.

These skills may be familiar from the description of another buzzword that has been important in business for many years: resilience. Adapted from psychology, the concept of resilience refers to the ability to be resistant and flexible at the same time – capability to give appropriate reactions and to adapt to varied and unpredictable external effects. People with high resilience can quickly and easily return to a path of “equilibrium growth” after a difficult situation. Instead of despairing, they try to learn from various difficult and complex challenging situations, and they incorporate the lessons learnt into their lives and activities.

It is no wonder that the emergence of AQ is not a recent phenomenon, as the path to long-term success and outstanding leadership has been of interest to humanity for centuries. Psychology, sociology and business are intertwined to determine the clearest formula for success. AQ also plays an important role in the development of IQ and EQ, as it is only through good adaptation that we can harness our cognitive and affective abilities. AQ paves the way towards developing our other skills. Undoubtedly, therefore, AQ occupies a special position among the capabilities of good leaders.

IQ + EQ + AQ = SUCCESS (?)

Good leaders have qualities that drive and build them, their teams and the organisations they represent. They are good experts with the necessary knowledge in their respective fields, and they know the established customs and also follow new developments. Furthermore, good leasers are also good at directing others: they are empathetic, open-minded, excellent judges of character, kind-hearted but firm. They also have the suitable motivation, are inspiring and themselves easily inspired. They adapt quickly and easily to sudden situations, face challenges with concentration, see through complex situations and identify the necessary solutions.

The list above could be continued, but it is easy to recognize the pattern that the qualities of a good leader can be classified as one (or more) of elements of IQ, EQ or AQ. The basis for long-term success is the joint development and the combined, complex use of these. Psychological research has shown that 20% of long-term success depends on IQ, 40% on EQ and a further 40% on AQ. Scientific evidence suggests that generally those with high IQ, EQ and AQ will be successful leaders in the long run.

In business, however, this is not so evident. The measurement of these indicators is still subject to much criticism, and they are often not quantifiable. Moreover, it depends on the situation when high adaptability is needed or when, for example, emotional skills are more important. When it comes to finding and selecting a leader, it is not enough to rely on tests. Rather, it is about people skills, intuition and experience gained over many years that count. The theoretical knowledge combined with these can lead to real success in finding good leaders.

The latter is a rather complex task, for which companies often hire a headhunter or external HR consultant. In addition to their extensive network of contacts, they have the knowledge and experience to help spot the signs of a successful leader, which are clearly identifiable, but not necessarily obvious. JobGroup Prime’s headhunters and HR consultants working in the field of executive search also perform their work along these lines. This ensures that they are always presenting candidates who are a long-term fit with the company’s culture, strategic direction and mission.

Finally, it is also worth being aware that the combination of IQ, EQ, and AQ only covers a subset of the attributes referring to human, personal and business success. In our fast-paced and ever more rapidly changing business world, CQ, (creative quotient) and SQ (spiritual quotient) are becoming increasingly important as well. Alongside these, the PQ (physical quotient) is also becoming increasingly relevant in more and more situations. It includes not only coping with physical challenges, but also the positive effects of physical health and exercise on the mind. But we will discuss these on another occasion.

The various quotients and our children

As parents and as experts in building the workforce of the future, we are also committed to the development, growth and future readiness of children. IQ, EQ, AQ (and other quotients) refer to qualities that can be improved from a very young age – and our children instinctively demand such development!

Through playful examples and tasks taken from our everyday lives, children can learn from an early age about the values of success in school, resilience, adaptability and empathy, for example. These challenges are present, wittingly or unwittingly, in our children’s lives from their earliest years in the community. In closing, I would like to quote a suggestion from the author of a recent professional article: “The best thing we can do is to praise our children for their efforts and diligence.”

If we only ever praise them for how smart, creative or kind they are, they will try to rely on the qualities they already have and will be less motivated to develop naturally. However, through praising their hard work, we can support them in their long-term independent and collaborative development.

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