Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Emotional Intelligence (also known as interpersonal intelligence) are incredibly important and will continue to be very important. However, until recently, it was THE most important type of intelligence. It’s not anymore.
In the past, people with high EQ were rewarded with networks of people to leverage in deal-making.
It makes sense that EQ was the dominant trait in a world previously dominated by: “it is not what you know, but who you know.”
That was the world we lived in in the 20th Century — a world defined by middlemen and rent-seekers. The who-you-knows would put together two what-you-knows and take a transaction fee for their service. They were the brokers, bankers, agents, and management consultants – the ones using their high EQs to close deals and make sales. They were essential for society.
In most professions, people with high EQ would massively outperform people who had very high levels of other intelligence (like IQ, creativity, intra-intelligence [self-awareness], spiritual intelligence, physical intelligence, and more). Most of the highest paying jobs in the last 100 years relied heavily on EQ.
But, technology is now replacing “who you knows” with platforms that do the same job.
In the last few years, technology has replaced the “who-you-knows” faster than the “what-you-knows.” LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google (not to mention tons of other companies that are taking market share from middlemen) are far better connectors than anyone profiled in Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point.
Upwork is another great example. This database has replaced most talent agencies and allows qualified freelancers to provide quotes, book jobs, and create for their clients 24/7/365. The “who you knows” used to control these client leads. Now, it’s handled by code (much to the delight of the creative community).
In this new world, EQ will remain essential but will not be as dominant as it once was. IQ also may decline a bit (as computers are taking over that area too). We’ll see a higher value placed on some of the other skills, traits, and intelligence like creativity, self-awareness, spiritual intelligence, and more.
In a world with far less face-to-face interaction, EQ loses even more value.
COVID-19 has eliminated in-person networking in favor of video conference calls. But, it’s very difficult to sense another person’s emotional signals over video chat. (PS if you want some tips on how to moderate a great virtual discussion, read my article here).
Video chat is another blow to EQ. If you’ve built a career on networking using your great emotional intelligence to make people feel comfortable, and suddenly you’re left with a video chat where none of that translates, your edge is gone. Your high EQ has lost market value.
And none of us know how many of these changes in communication will stick even after COVID-19 disappears. Are businesses going to pay up to send their employees on national and international flights for meetings when they’ve learned to do business remotely? I’m not so sure.
All of this works to transition power from the “who you knows” to the “what you builts.”
The future will be defined by what you’ve built, not who you know.
With the move to digital platforms as connectors, the way to generate business is no longer networking – it’s showcasing the things you’ve built.
The gate-keepers for scaling to potential customers are gone – destroyed by low-cost software and scalable media. You no longer need the gate-keepers’ permission (and money) to showcase your product or bring it to an audience. There are about 4.57 billion internet users just waiting to see (and purchase) your product.
You no longer need to “know someone” to get a meeting with a book publisher – you can publish directly with Amazon.
You no longer need to get a job with the New York Times to build an audience – you can write on Substack or Ghost (or your own platform) and make a living directly off your readers.
You no longer need a TV network to scale your project – you can post to YouTube or Locals.com or Twitch and live off the ad revenue. This new paradigm has touched almost every industry.
The gate-keepers (for the most part) have fallen. And so have those who leveraged their EQ for access to those gate-keepers.
Our last four Presidents exemplify the fall of EQ.
EQ is crucial for leaders, and it has been the dominant trait of leaders until very recently. One good example of EQ peaking is where we would expect it most: our political leaders. The stereotypical back-slapping politician is becoming less and less common.
Of the 44 US Presidents, arguably the two with the highest EQ were Bill Clinton (#42) and George W. Bush (#43) — both of those had an uncanny ability to really hone in on someone, feel their pain, and make them feel like they were the only person that mattered in the room.
People who have met both walk away awed by their off-the-charts EQ (with Bill Clinton on the extreme high-end). These two Presidents defined their time where EQ was the dominant trait. EQ itself likely peaked around 2005.
Barack Obama (#44), is known as much more aloof and much less of a social animal than his two predecessors. To his admirers and critics alike, he’s known as distant and detached. He got criticized for not building relationships with Congress members while he was President (even members of his own party complained). Obama, while still high on EQ, was much lower than the two Presidents that preceded him. He relied on many other important qualities that made him an effective leader.
Donald Trump (#45) has an EQ at least one standard deviation below average. This is unprecedented, but it’s not an accident. What does Donald Trump have, if not EQ? A history of building stuff – TV shows, hotels, buildings, resorts, etc.
EQ just isn’t as important today as it was 15 years ago. And whether we like it or not, leaders in the next 100 years will have lower EQ than leaders of the last 100 years.
It’s not about who you know, but what you’ve built. This defines our time.
The value of EQ has peaked and is dropping dramatically. The future belongs to the builders, not the networkers.
Special thanks to Thomas Waschenfelder for his help and edits.
I really enjoy all your posts, but this one was my favorite to date. One of those that after you’re done reading it, you say, “He’s right.” Best, Mike
This is also true outside the United States. Leaders of most countries have lower EQs than in the past. For instance, Angela Merkel has a very low EQ. Her skills are that she is calm and much more detached (more similar to Obama).
I love this idea that the future belongs to the builders, and that software is allowing us to build and find buyers simultaneously.
It’s also important to know where you stand personally on the EQ level- my wife is very high EQ and should meet as many people as she can in person because people generally like her. I’m better off behind a computer!
Very interesting article! I enjoyed it very much. I like the idea that the future belongs to the builders.
One could make an argument that this is a return to the a time in which “makers” were the most powerful, before the rise of the knowledge worker.
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