Are leaders with better EQ than IQ needed in pandemic times?


By Mala Chawla

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Maya Angelou

The COVID-19 crisis is accelerating hour-to-hour and each of us is focused on keeping ourselves safe, both mentally and physically. The uncertainty and volatility of the situation are keeping us on edge at all times, leaving us overwhelmed. While the threat is real, running emotions and panic will only make the situation worse.

In the past few months, technology and digitalization have played a pivotal role in our transition to work-from-home and we’ve been talking about it endlessly.While no one will dispute their importance, the heart of any profession lies in its relationships and in the art of using Emotional Intelligence or EQ to manage them effectively. In times like COVID-19, EQ is perhaps ‘the most critical skill’ in any profession and a trait that ‘must’ be possessed by leaders across the globe.

While Intelligence quotient (IQ) relates to cognitive capabilities in the workplace, it is the attribute of EQ that helps us navigate through the uncertainty and potential loss that comes with a crisis. The same has been concreted with research that shows EI accounts for nearly 90% of what sets high performers apart from others with similar technical skills and knowledge.

Amid the crisis, two trends have propelled EQ to the center stage:

Reskilling – Firstly, with the ever-rising need and use of technology such as AI and automation taking over process-based tasks, employees who were previously engaged in iterative or learning roles must be reskilled for more creative areas, which will require high EQ.

Workplace transformation: Secondly, with the nature of the workplace rapidly transforming, the rise of the gig economy, diverse employee expectations, and an unfolding pandemic; the success of the employee will be determined more by EQ skills than IQ skills.

In these times of uncertainty, it is important to remember that each person handles stress differently. Trying to understand others and extending empathy can help them manage the situation better. Leaders of organizations have a critical role in helping others get through these times. This will also help in shaping their own growth as a leader, with Emotional intelligence at the forefront of this growth.

In the post corona period, when people will look back on these challenging times, people will remember two things about the pandemic: How they made through it and the leaders who led the way. It’s time to become the leader who will be remembered for empathy and emotional understanding rather than high IQ levels.

Mala Chawla is Managing Partner & Global Chair D&I,
Stanton Chase India



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