Emotional Intelligence: Steve Job’s had the IQ, but what about EQ?

Emotional intelligence is defined by Golman as a competency of managing yourself and your relationships with others, making effective teamwork, leading others and forecasting the future, with each of these displaying positive effects in terms of productivity and performance [1]. Emotional intelligence is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions [2]. It’s an intangible quality, some possess the skills to recognise and interpret the emotions of others and the ability to control their own, and some don’t, but is it all that important in leadership?

Emotionally competent employees feel less distressed at work and those who have high emotional intelligence tend to show increased levels of organisational commitment. Also, emotionally competent employees may be offered more opportunities as they are better equipped to identify and effectively use them for their own benefit, resulting in increased organisational commitment [3].

When I think of the term ‘emotional intelligence’ it’s the most seemingly emotionally unintelligent, often volatile and assertive leaders, who speak what they think that come to mind; Donald Trump who appears to have a skewed sense of self-importance so has failed to develop  the ability to read people and situations [4], Steve Jobs, who was described as having Superman Syndrome [5]. But it’s not that often I think of the emotionally intelligent people, such as Richard Branson, or Barack Obama, who are generally thought quite highly of. So, the question is, how does emotional intelligence, or a lack of, affect those working around you? And can a lack of it be detrimental, or is it just a bonus to possess the skill?

The key to emotional intelligence is being totally self-aware and the ability to really know yourself, which isn’t easy for everyone, or maybe some people don’t really care to take the time. Alain Hunkins discusses in his own blog post why it is common for leaders to be emotionally unintelligent. He states three main reasons, those being that it takes effort to become self-aware, especially in a leadership role when all your attention is focussed externally, also it requires humility to be self-aware, not everyone possess humility and some people find the process of self-examination uncomfortable. Lastly, it requires courage to change. Leaders are often afraid to acknowledge the need to change and show compassion to their employees [6].


(source: Google Images)

Having seen the Steve Jobs biopic, it gave me a greater insight into how it might feel to work underneath someone so volatile and seemingly ignorant to other’s feelings and emotions. I’m sure most people would agree that he was a genius and achieved remarkable feats in his field, however he was also regarded as rude, dismissive, hostile, spiteful and his actions often disturbing, he ruled through bullying, fear and manipulation [7]. You would image this type of behaviour would be extremely demotivating, but one employee gave an account of their time at Apple. He worked as an engineer and would have to provide Jobs with quarterly demos, in which he would always criticise the product, leaving employees frustrated over his lack of regard for all the work they had put in. They realised how effective his method was as they began to shift their priorities and changed their way of working, leading them to pre-empt any criticisms he might make and try to avoid them, ultimately leading them to perform better than before [8].

I’ve been fortunate to always work for managers who are grounded, level-headed, compassionate, approachable and motivating, pretty much the qualities you would hope your manager possessed, but this isn’t the case for everyone. So, is it contextual? I have 2 jobs, I work at a marketing firm which employs 6 people and I also work at a data processing centre in a team of around 20 other people, and if either of my managers were to act in any way like Steve Jobs, it would be deemed wholly inappropriate, but does he get away with it because he is Steve Jobs? A genius and a creator and maybe the Apple culture and the way they were expected to work allowed him to behave the way that he did.



[1] 360 Solutions. (2013). Why Emotional Intelligence. Innovative Excellence in Leadership and Performance. Retrieved from CIPD: http://www.ieleadership.com/whitepapers/IELP_Emotional_Intel_White_Paper.pdf

[2] Salovey, P., & Mayer, D. J. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Baywood Publishing Co Inc, 186-211.

[3] Nikolaou, I., & Tsaousis, I. (2002). Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: exploring its effects on occupational stress and organisational commitment. The International Journal of Organisational Analysis, 327-342.

[4] Gimmack, P. (2016, November 7). Donald Trump’s emotional intelligence – let’s take a look… Retrieved from HR Zone: http://www.hrzone.com/lead/future/donald-trumps-emotional-intelligence-lets-take-a-look

[5] Nadler, R. (2011, November 16). Steve Jobs: Superman Syndrome, Low EQ, High IQ. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/leading-emotional-intelligence/201111/steve-jobs-superman-syndrome-low-eq-high-iq

[6] Hunkins, A. (2015, February 4). Top 3 Reasons Why Leaders Are Emotionally Unintelligent. Retrieved from Pioneer Leadership: http://www.pioneerleadership.com/2015/02/top-3-reasons-why-leaders-are-emotionally-unintelligent/

[7] Tate, R. (2011, October 7). What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs. Retrieved from Gawker: http://gawker.com/5847344/what-everyone-is-too-polite-to-say-about-steve-jobs

[8] Arthur, C. (2011, October 6). Apple insiders remember life working for Steve Jobs. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/oct/06/apple-insiders-remember-steve-jobs


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s