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Mon 26 Sep 2016 09:48 AM

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Why book smarts are overrated

What you need to succeed isn't book smarts, but honest and genuine emotional intelligence

Why book smarts are overrated
(Getty Images)

What you need to succeed isn't book smarts, but honest and genuine emotional intelligence

Everyone has heard of intelligence and emotional intelligence. The former is defined as your capacity for logic, abstract thought, understanding, memory and problem solving.

Where it comes from is anyone's guess. However most people would say it's key to doing well in business. After all, if you're not smart then how can you be expected to do your job?

But by itself, having a high IQ does not guarantee that you will stand out. New research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that as much as 85 percent of your financial success comes from 'human engineering' – the ability to communicate, negotiate and lead. Only 15 percent is down to technical knowledge.

Nobel Prize-winning psychology's Daniel Kahneman has a reasonable explanation for this that people would rather do business with a person they trust. He found that most people want to work with someone who is likeable, even if that person is offering a lower quality product or service at a higher price.

With this in mind, instead of trying to boost your IQ scores, you should make an investment in building your emotional intelligence. And it'll pay off.

Job researcher TalentSmart recently tested the EQ of more than a million people and found that people with high EQs make almost US$30,000 more annually than people with low scores. Ninety percent of the top performers in the study have high emotional intelligence, and that a single EQ point increase is worth an extra US$1,300 per year. But there's a catch.

A study from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington found that people don't blindly accept demonstrations of emotional intelligence at face value. The human race is far too sceptical for that. Instead, they look for emotional intelligence, as well as the signs that your emotions are authentic. In other words, people can tell when you're insincere or manipulative.

The same study found that the most powerful way to motivate staff is by inspiring trust and admiration through action, not words. Many leaders claim that authenticity is important to them, but successful leaders don't just say it, they live it every day. Going through the motions is not enough.

Instead, a successful leader needs to demonstrate the qualities that are associated with emotional intelligence.

So how best can you improve your emotional intelligence, and demonstrate it in a way that works? Perhaps it's best to study the hallmarks of genuine people.

Don’t make people try to like you

Genuine people know who they are. They realise that in work – just as in life – there are some people you like and others you don't. It's your job to be okay with that. It's not a matter of being popular at work; great leaders understand that they need to make unpopular decisions if that's what needs to be done.

With popularity removed from the equation, genuine people aren't desperate for attention. They don't show off, rather speak in a friendly, confident and concise manner.

Don't pass judgement

Being open-minded is a key trait of emotional intelligence. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who is not willing to listen. Successful leaders promote approachability – meaning they're more likely to have staff contribute new ideas.

The easiest way to do this is by being mindful of other people's points of view, and understand what makes them tick. Once you have eliminated your preconceived notions, you can be truly open to any and all ideas.

Be generous

Most people have worked with someone who has held knowledge or resources back, afraid that someone will accomplish more than them if they have everything you need to do your job.

Genuine people want others to do well because they are team players and confident in their own success. They don't withhold anything – be it business contacts, or even something as simple as their time – because they know that your success is their success, too.

Put down your phone

Nothing is worse than when someone switches off mid-conversation to look at an email or text message. When real leaders commit to a conversation, they focus all their energy on what you're saying.

Engage someone half-heartedly, and it will prevent them from having any real affinity for you. Instead, take a genuine interest in other people – ultimately, it will lead to good questions, and help you relate to what they're telling you.

They don't brag

People who boast and brag do it for one simple reason, they're insecure. They are worried that if they don't point out their accomplishments to everyone who will listen, people won't rate them very highly.

Genuine leaders don't brag, not simply because they are confident with their accomplishments. They realise that success stands on its own merits, regardless of how many people notice or appreciate it.