A recent discussion between two distinguished university professors has resulted in a very recent and interesting article in the Harvard Business Review blog. (Oct 22, 2014)

While Wharton professor Adam Grant argues that Emotional Intelligence (EI) is overrated and that cognitive ability still proves to be more important than Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman rebuts and questions the specific assessment used by Grant. Daniel Goleman refers to numerous studies conducted by The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence.

At Kandidata Asia we have always argued that while cognitive ability as a threshold value is very important for hiring decisions – so is EI. Although a recruiting decision should of course, never be based on EI alone or on any single competency for that matter.

In steps Claudio Ferna´ndez-Araóz – an executive search consultant for the global executive search firm Egon Zehnder. Claudio has personally led more than 500 senior appointments and been involved in more than 20,000 candidates. He is the leader of the firm’s management appraisal practice, professional development, and intellectual capital creation. He has also studied various assessment approaches and their performance impact.

His conclusion is that one cannot emphasize enough the crucial importance of EI based competencies for success in leadership roles.

A study back in the late 1990s found that when the appointees excelled in experience and IQ but had low emotional intelligence, their failure rate was as high as 25%. However, those people with high emotional intelligence combined with at least one of the other two factors (experience or IQ) only failed in 3%-4% of the cases.

In other words, emotional intelligence coupled with high IQ or very relevant experience was a very strong predictor of success. However, highly intelligent or experienced candidates who lacked emotional intelligence were more likely to flame out.

This study was replicated for many different geographies and highly diverse cultures, including Japan and Germany, and the results were similar everywhere. People are hired for IQ and experience and fired for failing to manage themselves and others well.

Since then, Egon Zehnder has continued to use candidate assessment and performance data to develop their competency model, which guides them in their executive search and appraisal work across 69 offices.

Claudio goes on to say that in his teaching at Harvard’s graduate program on talent management, he has met hundreds of leaders from successful corporations all over the world and, without exception, the vast majority of the competencies they use to select and develop leaders are also based on emotional intelligence.

EI is no panacea but neither is IQ, or any other variable. Potential for growth is also critical and interestingly, the hallmarks of potential — the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination — are also heavily based on emotional intelligence. To adapt to changing circumstances, you’ll require much more than just IQ.

In sum, you can choose to ignore EI — but make sure you understand the risks.