As someone whose job it is to get people to click on things, I can tell you definitively there's a huge amount of anxiety out there about IQ. Write anything about how to boost your IQ, gauge your intelligence, or make others think you're smart and the clicks will pour in.
But while this intense interest in all things IQ is understandable, if your goal is to become an entrepreneur, it also might be misplaced. When it comes to being a successful business owner, emotional intelligence, or EQ, matters a whole lot more than IQ, a massive new analysis of some 40 studies and more than 65,000 entrepreneurs found.
The mother of all studies on EQ and entrepreneurial success
This won't come as a huge shock to anyone who has been carefully following the research on the relative importance of cognitive performance versus social skills on professional success. While IQ is a good predictor of success in many fields, in collaborative business environments, a variety of studies have shown that EQ can give you a bigger leg up.
Google, for instance, conducted a multi-year study into the traits of its most effective managers. The famously brainy company was surprised to find that people skills were much more important for team performance than sheer mental horsepower. Harvard researchers recently came to similar conclusions that found teams whose members had EQ outperformed those with a higher collective IQ.
These results didn't surprise Texas Tech University professor Jared Allen either. "I was an entrepreneur for over 10 years and had many friends that were very successful entrepreneurs, yet were not the brightest individuals. Instead, they had great social skills and the ability to manage their emotions and mindset during the inevitable difficulties that arise while building a venture. That is, they had high emotional intelligence," he told PsyPost.
But he wanted to back up this instinct with data. Together with colleagues, Allen gathered up 40 studies on more than 65,000 entrepreneurs' traits and success. The data looked at both EQ and cognitive performance, as well as measures of business success like financial success, company growth, company size, and subjective success. The results of this massive exercise in number crunching were crystal clear.
"The researchers found that both general mental ability and emotional intelligence were positively tied to entrepreneurial success. However -- as they had predicted -- emotional intelligence was a far stronger predictor of success than mental ability. While emotional intelligence explained 89.1 percent of the variance in entrepreneurial success, mental ability explained only 10.9 percent," PsyPost reports.
Good news for aspiring entrepreneurs
That's a whopping big difference. It's also good news for aspiring entrepreneurs. Experts say that EQ is far easier to train through conscious effort than IQ (though there is plenty you can do to make the most of whatever level of cognitive potential you were born with).
That means building up the most important capacity for success as a business owner --a.k.a., EQ -- is within your reach. If you're willing to devote enough time to coaching and learning, you can develop this most essential skill for entrepreneurial success.
So don't be one of those people anxiously Googling articles on IQ late at night and wondering if you have what it takes. Intelligence is great, but your IQ probably won't stop you from being your own boss. Only a lack of willingness to put in the work will.