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Friday, November 28, 2014

IQ, EQ, and secrets to success

Teddy Roosevelt said, "The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people." Time and again, I find this to be true. What are the other ingredients? When you make that list, where does intelligence rank? For all but a few, specialized professions, it ranks low if it even comes up. So, why do we put so much emphasis on intelligence in our society?

Sometimes called "soft skills," successful people most often work well in teams, get along with others, and communicate effectively. They see problems and challenges as opportunities, operating as proactive problem solvers. They bounce back from setbacks and use failure as a tool for improvement. Caring and kindness show in their actions, respecting others and expressing gratitude and empathy. These are people you want to work with or for, and people employers are always looking for. Notice, IQ does not come into play in this discussion.  These skills represent another kind of intelligence.

Best-selling author Daniel Goleman wrote Emotional Intelligence: Why It Matters More Than IQ in 1995, changing the conversation on how human beings are "smart." Since, research on the topic has repeatedly shown that people with high Emotional Intelligence or "EQ" are mentally healthy, have high job performance ratings, and excel in leadership. It turns out that compassion, communication, empathy and work ethic may mean much more than intellectual capacity.

When psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth embarked on her teaching career, she found "that I.Q. was not the only difference between my best and my worst students.Some of my strongest performers did not have stratospheric I.Q. scores. Some of my smartest kids weren't doing so well."  In her landmark TED talk, Duckworth posits that resilience or "grit", not intelligence, is most critical to a successful life. Resilience is a Core Value of our school, along with Relationships and Respect.  These are critical emotional intelligence traits, and they are deeply connected: Strong, supportive, respectful and positive relationships with adults help at-risk youth build resilience. Development of these core values leads not only to academic growth but also, more importantly, to life-long success.

Picture for a moment someone you really like and respect. Why? Chances are, they listen to you. They've given you real praise, gentle feedback, and shown you gratitude and appreciation. They are respectful, caring and competent. They've stepped in to help when you needed support, motivation, or understanding. They are likely good at what they do, but this is more because of their values and behaviors than their intellect and acuity.

Intelligence does matter. Each profession has necessary skills, knowledge and abilities, and if one cannot learn those they cannot succeed. We need to be able to learn  and master new skills in our chosen field, job, vocation. Unfortunately, we've all seen people who are just not smart enough to be successful in a particular field or position. You cannot be successful if you are below the low bar for intelligence in your profession. Mechanics have got to understand the workings of an engine, teachers have a solid grasp on their content and pedagogy, nurses the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Intelligence matters; you have to be smart enough.

Surely, it is important to be smart. Brilliant people are responsible for breakthrough innovations and advancements in medicine and science throughout human history. In certain fields, transcendent intelligence is of paramount importance. These are highly specialized, often isolated professions. In general society, what's more important, IQ or EQ? George Lucas says "One of the most important things our schools can do to prepare students is to teach emotional intelligence." I agree. What do we want our students to become? We want them educated and intelligent, for sure. More importantly, we want them to join society and our workforce as healthy, positive, productive citizens. We want them smart enough for their chosen professions, and emotionally adjusted to succeed, even thrive, on paths they choose.

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