Dumi Magadlela
Dumi Magadlela

IQ is dead!

Part one: Emotional Intelligence 101

The one thing that tickles me endlessly on Thought Leader is the creativity in mixing serious issues of national concern with rib-cracking humour. I find some of the humour deliciously irreverent, and often laced with allegedly life-changing “lessons” and self-deprecating tips on how to cope with crap from fellow humans, especially the one in the mirror.

So, what is this “IQ is dead” thing that I am on about? Recently, psychologists have said that our IQs are not exactly what they are hyped up to be. They are not the most accurate known measurements of human intelligence. Apparently my IQ gives a very limited and rather skewed idea of my human capabilities. I am not very chuffed with the fact that recent studies by renowned psychologists (most of them in Europe and the US, unfortunately for us) suggest that it is emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) that matters the most in how one turns out in life. To prove this theory at face value, they say, just take a look at the kinds of business leaders around us, or the politicians who assume control of top political office all around the world.

The school system is a farce. Bantu education was worse. Well, maybe it was better than no education at all (but it was still crap). Now we have the indignity of having the most violent schools on Earth. Ja, the global education system is a farce. But don’t tell that to your kids (or anyone else’s). School is good … if you survive it. The point of this piece is that there is much more to human abilities than the conventional measurements of capability, intelligence and achievement are designed to reveal. This is where EQ comes into effect as the difference between OK and outstanding.

And then there is the puzzle of many school drop-outs becoming multibillionaires. Take a look at the likes of Richard Branson and good old nerdy Bill Gates. We have heard stories that these great guys were deemed hopeless at school or college, and the measures of capability then were either inadequate for them or simply inadequate.

These guys were virtually found to be too “dof” for promotion to the next grade, and they are among the most influential human beings alive today. IQ, my foot. These guys have something else better and bigger than IQ. They live and lead by their EQ, their ability to tune into theirs and others’ emotions, their inherent humane intelligence that we all possess, and things start to unravel around them.

Here’s the rub: at best, most of us are a bundle of emotions swirling around and grasping at our assumed and (well-)constructed identities. No, my dear TL blog reader, this is not a piece on existentialism. It is a toast to the power of emotional intelligence to raise the bar of human achievement to another level that IQ cannot reach. It is a celebration of the inherent intelligence that is in all of us. It is somehow heartening to know that my IQ is not all that it is hailed to be, that there is something else that can shape who I become other than a technical measurement on which I cannot really put a finger.

More people are taking the trouble to read stacks of books on this subject, and with good reason too. The common lack of this growing emotional intelligence is the very reason we find ourselves sitting with not only the kind of leadership we have, the kinds of service delivery we have, and the kind of cancerous and chronically negative mindsets we have to endure daily.

So, again, what exactly is this emotional intelligence stuff?

It is ubuntu intelligence. I have written before about the power of ubuntu in helping us connect to our inherent humanity in ourselves and in each other. Reuel Khoza is one of the first South African business leaders and authors who has written about the important role of EI and ubuntu in Mzansi business. He hails EI and ubuntu as the one combination of business tools that Africa can export. Allow me to quote an American writer on this. Daniel Goleman, a renowned expert on leadership and emotional intelligence, has defined EI as: “The capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.” So it is all about awareness, right?

The gurus of this fascinating subject say that when I am aware of myself, my thoughts, my feelings in each moment … then I am close to being emotionally intelligent. But who keeps track of their thoughts and feelings every moment? When would I get some work done, then? They say I would have to multitask on this one. There is more. The emotionally intelligent say that it is great to live in a “constant state of full awareness”.

Apparently the fun in pursuing EQ starts when I start being aware of what lies behind moments such as when I suddenly feel hot under the collar, or when someone calls me a racist pig or anything derogatory that presses my buttons. When someone calls me names … the worst kind … it is not about me. It is that person’s story, their drama, literally, or their issues coming out, and not mine. So I have to learn to laugh at it. And not take it personally. Easier said … but do-able.

Part two of this piece is more interesting, I promise. It looks at why business and political leaders must be emotionally intelligent. There is no suggestion here that politicians who sing and dance with their supporters are more emotionally intelligent than those who are allegedly aloof and detached. It’s always best to work with concrete data and not hearsay on such matters …