The formula beyond IQ

The formula beyond IQ

“Leadership is not just about giving orders; it’s about inspiring curiosity and emotional intelligence in others.”

– Unknown

In the ever-evolving leadership psychology landscape, there exists a dynamic formula that transcends conventional measures of intelligence. Beyond IQ, the winning combination of curiosity and emotional intelligence emerges as the secret sauce for unparalleled success in both personal and organisational realms. These two elements not only shape effective leadership but also ignite the flames of innovation and resilience. So, let’s step beyond the usual measures of intelligence and explore how curiosity and emotional intelligence create a winning formula for impactful leadership.

Curiosity: The Catalyst for Innovation

Curiosity, defined as an intrinsic desire to explore, learn and understand the world, is deeply ingrained in the human experience. This trait, often initiated in childhood, propels individuals to question, seek new experiences, and push the boundaries of knowledge. In the leadership context, curiosity becomes a potent catalyst for innovation.

Curiosity is associated with what psychologists term ‘divergent thinking.’ This cognitive process involves exploring multiple possibilities and generating a wide array of potential solutions to a problem. Studies in cognitive psychology, such as those by Guilford (1950) and Wallas (1926), highlight the role of divergent thinking in fostering creativity and innovation. When leaders exhibit curiosity, they engage in this style of thinking, approaching challenges with an open mind and considering various angles to stimulate creative problem-solving within their teams or organisations.

Emotional Intelligence: The Cornerstone of Relationships

On the flip side, emotional intelligence hones in on recognising, understanding, managing and effectively using emotions – both one’s own and those of others. It serves as an indispensable skill for leaders navigating diverse teams and complex interpersonal challenges. Scientific research underscores the pivotal role of emotional intelligence in effective leadership.

A study by Boyatzis, Goleman and Rhee (2000) provides empirical evidence emphasising the importance of emotional intelligence competencies in effective leadership. The study identifies empathy, self-awareness and emotional regulation as key components enabling leaders to connect with their teams and successfully navigate complex situations. Furthermore, the significance of emotional intelligence is corroborated by the works of Mayer and Salovey (1990), who introduced the concept, and subsequent research by Goleman (1995) highlighting its impact on leadership effectiveness.

Empathy, a crucial component of emotional intelligence, has been extensively studied in neuroscience. Understanding the emotions and perspectives of others, as facilitated by emotional intelligence, activates brain regions linked to empathy, strengthening interpersonal connections.

The Dynamic Synergy Between Curiosity and Emotional Intelligence

The strong interconnection between curiosity and emotional intelligence is supported by scientific insights and extends beyond casual observations. The interplay manifests in diverse ways:

Curiosity fosters empathy: Neuroscientific studies suggest that curious individuals exhibit enhanced activity in brain regions associated with empathy. When leaders approach situations with a curious mindset, their brain’s empathic circuits are more likely to engage, fostering a fundamental component of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence enhances curiosity: Neurological studies on emotional regulation reveal that individuals with high emotional intelligence can effectively control emotional responses. This regulation empowers leaders to remain open to new experiences and ideas even in challenging situations, reinforcing and sustaining their curiosity.

Curiosity drives self-awareness: The link between curiosity and self-awareness is also supported by research in psychology. Curious individuals often engage in self-reflection and self-examination, promoting a cornerstone of emotional intelligence. This self-awareness enables leaders to understand and manage their own emotions effectively.

Curiosity and workplace performance: The research detailed in the Harvard Business Review article “The Business Case for Curiosity” by Francesca Gino (2018) articulates the importance of curiosity in the workplace. The article highlights the correlation between curiosity, workplace performance and innovation. This aligns with studies on cognitive flexibility emphasising the role of curiosity in adapting to change and embracing new ideas.


Leaders who understand the deep link between curiosity and emotional intelligence hold a proven edge in today’s fast-paced leadership arena. Cultivating these qualities within themselves and their teams not only cultivates a positive and emotionally intelligent workplace but also aligns their leadership strategies with strong scientific principles.

This formula, where Curiosity and Emotional Intelligence synergise to create success (Curiosity + Emotional Intelligence = Success), isn’t merely a theoretical construct. Instead, it represents a powerful synergy capable of metamorphosing leaders into visionaries. In doing so, it lays the strategic groundwork for a future that not only illuminates their organizations but also contributes to a brighter, more impactful world at large.


  1. Gino, F. (2018). “The Business Case for Curiosity.” Harvard Business Review.
  1. Boyatzis, R. E., Goleman, D., & Rhee, K. (2000). “Clustering Competence in Emotional Intelligence: Insights from the Emotional Competence Inventory (ECI).” Handbook of Emotional Intelligence, 343-362.
  1. Guilford, J. P. (1950). “Creativity.” American Psychologist, 5(9), 444-454.
  1. Wallas, G. (1926). “The Art of Thought.” Harcourt, Brace, and Company.
  1. Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1990). “Emotional intelligence.” Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185-211.
  1. Goleman, D. (1995). “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” Bantam Books.

About Ramesh Nair

Ramesh is a seasoned Certified Leadership coach, Digital Strategist, and C-suite advisor with a proven track record of leading successful transformations in F500 companies. He has over 30 years of experience in the technology industry, and has led divisions generating over $300 million in revenue. He is also an expert in scaling technology delivery organisations, and has extensive experience in the US market. He understands that true transformation requires a growth mindset, and he creates a safe and confidential space for leaders to explore their setbacks, opportunities, aspirations, and career paths. He liberates them from growth-inhibiting mindsets and empowers them to reach their full potential. Additionally, he has been awarded membership in Leaders Excellence at Harvard Square, an esteemed organization dedicated to fostering leadership excellence globally.

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