Late Apple CEO and Co-Founder Steve Jobs is undoubtedly regarded as one of the most intelligent businessmen of all time, credited for the initiation of the smartphone revolution and countless other tech innovations.

As a child, Jobs displayed a keen intelligence that prompted his parents and educators to have his IQ tested. 

As a 4th grader, Job’s scores were equivalent to those of someone in the 10th grade. Adjusted for performance, his IQ was estimated to be near 170, placing him well beyond the guidelines of what is considered gifted.

With everything he went on to accomplish in his relatively short life, could this be the secret that gave him such a distinct edge over his competition?

If we analyze some of the most successful figures in business, we find that they express distinct qualities propagated by their high intelligence. This intelligence is commonly attributed solely to an above average IQ.

However, an equally important metric, that of EQ, or emotional intelligence quotient is often overlooked.

Similar to IQ, EQ measures emotional capacity as a separate and equally important form of intellect.

Two Sides Of Intelligence

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Both very distinct areas of intellectual ability, IQ and EQ can each be measured through normative testing.

An IQ test is administered using a range of tasks that assess various forms of intelligence including analytical thinking, mathematical ability, and spatial recognition.

Scores are standardized to a median score of 100, with more than 70% of the population scoring between 85 and 115. Scores over 115 are considered above average while those whose IQ is over 130 are classified as gifted.

Elementary students in the United States and Canada are routinely tested for giftedness, with more than 3 million currently enrolled in gifted programs.

Among experts in the field, giftedness is an oft-debated notion. Conservative definitions base it’s qualification on IQ scores and academic achievement, while more liberal interpretations recognize excellence in more subjective areas such as creative potential.

While IQ mostly accounts for raw, base-level intelligence, it does not take into consideration person-to-person relationships. This is where EQ comes into play.

Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to identify, understand and manage your own emotions, as well as the feelings of others.

Emotional intelligence is comprised of three key factors:

1)    Emotional awareness

2)    The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks at hand

3)    The ability to manage emotions — both your own and others.

While these points may seem simple at their core, their possession allows for mastery of essential qualities of success including:

  • Being easily adaptable to change due to a deep understanding of its necessity.
  • Being highly inquisitive, probative and open to finding and accepting new solutions to problems.
  • Having a thorough understanding of strengths and weaknesses including those of one’s self, colleagues, and competition. This allows one to fortify themselves and those around them while capitalizing on the vulnerabilities of the opposition.

EQ tests are conducted using a series of questions designed to measure several metrics such as self-perception, self-expression, decision making, stress management, response style, and adaptability.

Average scores range between 90-100 with a score of 160 considered perfect.

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IQ or EQ as a predictor of success?

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When considering the qualities that stem from high EQ, it becomes clear that it is a significant advantage in business, particularly in leadership roles. It directly influences necessary business skills such as negotiating, selling, and fundraising.

High EQ people may find the path to success easier due to their deep intrinsic understanding of their environment and the ability to turn that insight into action. This allows them to excel in situations that call for creativity, innovation, and persuasion, often outpacing those who possess higher traditional intelligence.

A fitting modern historical example of this is Medical Researcher Jonas Salk who began testing the first Polio vaccine in the early 1950’s. Possessing only average intelligence, Salk spearheaded a historical breakthrough in medicine with a revolutionary program that included more than 200,000 physicians and volunteers.

He was quoted as saying: “Instantly I saw that there were more efficient ways of typing viruses than were proposed by those who set forth the protocol that I was supposed to follow. I saw the world differently, so I could make things work more efficiently and effectively.”

Salk’s forward thinking and brazen confidence to be so boldly innovative was a direct result of his high EQ.

Even with above average intelligence, a person who lacks these high-EQ attributes is much less likely to stand up as the voice of dissenting opinion or have the conviction to oppose the status quo.


Despite the weight ordinarily placed on high IQ, experts agree that people with high EQ are more prone to achieving success in life than those with lower EQ, even if their traditional IQ is only average. This is due, in part, to their high adaptability and vast scope of potential.

Daniel Goldman, Psychologist and Author of “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” explained this reality in his book, stating: “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, you don’t have self-awareness, you’re not able to manage your distressing emotions, you can’t have empathy and effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

Fortunately, however, emotional intelligence, unlike IQ, (which reflects an individual’s ability to learn and remains constant throughout one’s life) is not capped by genetic predispositions and can be both developed and improved over time. Those with lower  EQ can work to refine these qualities over time as they move toward improved success.

The best case scenario, of course, is that a person possesses both a healthy EQ and high IQ. Individuals lucky enough to have such a potent combination are often some of the most successful people in the business world.