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A Leaders Intelligence is less important than Wisdom and Emotional Intelligence

A leaders intelligence is less important than wisdom and emotional intelligence, and technical skills are important only for certain leadership positions.

Intelligence vs. Wisdom

Intelligence is an important trait for leaders but it is not the most important trait. Wisdom is far more important the intelligence. Greenleaf (1996) stated that one of the problems that geniuses have in the world is that they are sometimes led by people who are less developed intellectually. The more wisdom a leader has the better the choice will be made. Making snap decisions on the spur of the moment without fully understanding the intent or the consequences can leave leaders in a very public mess (Smythe, & Norton, 2011). Leaders that lack wisdom are also more prone to making decisions that are unethical. Since many executives (former Enron Corporation Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow and former Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling) received their training at the best business schools, some researchers and executives assert that it is not lack of ‘‘intelligence’’ or ‘‘brains’’, but lack of ‘‘wisdom’’ that caused these scandals (Tank, & Chen, 2008). It is well to know as much as one can about traditional views of right and wrong, but one must not expect that the right choice for very many occasions will emerge directly from this storehouse (Greenleaf, 1996). Storehouse in other words intelligence or knowledge.

Intelligence vs. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is much more important than intelligence. Emotional intelligence was a greater predictor of academic and social success than mental ability or personality (Downey, Lee, Stough, 2011). In the position of leader, the importance of emotional intelligence tends to be positioned around 85% and IQ at 15% (Hahn, Sabou, Toader, & Radulescu, 2012). Emotional intelligence contributes 80 to 90 percent of the competencies that distinguish outstanding to average leaders (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee, 2004). 98% of "top performers" have a high emotional intelligence quotient (Hahn, Sabou, Toader, & Radulescu, 2012).

Leader Level and Technical Skills

Not all leaders need high technical skills. For the leaders at the highest level, such as chief executive officers (CEOs), presidents, and senior officers, technical competencies are not as essential (Northouse, 2012). Technical skills are most needed at the lower levels, conceptual skills are most needed at the executive levels, and human skills are needed to about the same degree at all managerial levels (Blahely, Martinec, & Lane, 1994).


The strengths of this paper were that it did go into detail of the different personal attributes of leadership. The weakness was that all traits were treated equally, when some traits like emotional intelligence are more important for a leader than intelligence.


Blahely, G., Martinec, C., & Lane, M. (1994). Management development programs: the effects of management level and corporate strategy. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 5(1), 5-19.

Downey, L., & Lee, B., & Stough, C. (2011). Recruitment consultant revenue: relationships with IQ, personality, and emotional intelligence. International Journal of Selection & Assessment, 19(3), 280-286. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2389.2011.00557.x

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. E., & McKee, A. (2004). Primal leadership, learning to lead with emotional intelligence. (1 ed.). Boston, Massachusettes: Harvard Business Press.

Greenleaf, R. On becoming a servant leader: The private writings of Robert K. Greenleaf. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hahn, R., Sabou, S., Toader, R., & Radulescu, C. (2012). About emotional intelligence and leadership. Annals of the University of Oradea, Economic Sciences Series, 21(2), 744-749.

Northouse, P. (2012). Leadership: Theory and practice. (6 ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publishing.

Smythe, E., & Norton, A. (2011). Leadership: wisdom in action. Info-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, 11(1), 1-11.

Tank, T., & Chen, Y. (2008). Intelligence vs. wisdom: the love of money, Machiavellianism, and unethical behaviour across college major and gender. Journal of Business Ethics, 82(1), 1-26. doi: 10.1007/s10551-007-9559-1