Why Emotional Intelligence Trumps a Towering Intellect

I listened to a fascinating interview on The Business Programme on RTE 1 radio yesterday. It was so interesting that I was unable to get out of my car until it finished.

The interviewee was an Irish man, Walter O’Brien, who has a towering IQ- the 5th highest IQ (197) on the planet.  He now runs Scorpion enterprises and his life inspired the TV series, Scorpion, although I must admit I know nothing about this outfit.

He hacked NASA from a dial up modem on his family farm in Kilkenny when he was a teenager. But he was asked whether having such a high IQ was a blessing or a curse and he answered, ‘both’.

He went on to explain that the most successful people are not those with the highest IQ. In fact, the Malcolm Gladwell book ‘Outliers, pointed out the most successful people had an IQ of 120.

And successful individuals rely 80% on emotional intelligence and only 20% on pure intellect.

The reason for this is because extremely high IQ individuals do not have the emotional intelligence to succeed. The reason is they lack, or have great difficulty with, empathy.

As Walter O’Brien explained this is almost inevitable as the intellect does set the high IQ individual apart from the ordinary Joe and Josephine.

Is it any surprise, therefore, that empathy is lacking or absent entirely?

O’Brien explained that he had to learn emotional intelligence and how to respond to other people. Because without it he was losing business when he started his business as a teenager. He was creating perfect software that was almost poetic.

But his competitor’s CEO getting new clients by playing golf at the weekend with potential clients and leads.

The key takeaway that I took, however, is the value of emotional intelligence in order to succeed.

Because ultimately you will need to deal with other human beings and a towering intellect ranks a poor second to emotional intelligence and some street smarts.

You can listen to the full interview here.

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