Project Management

Emotional Intelligence in Project Leaders: EQ Over IQ

Think of someone during your occupational experience who made an impact, be it negative or positive, on your career path. Have someone in mind? Ok. Now think about how and why they came to mind. Were you impressed by their academic abilities and accomplishments, or intrigued by the manner in which they expressed themselves? Perhaps you were influenced by the way they addressed you or others, or quite possibly a combination of the above or for other reasons. What ever the result may be, what if I told you that both the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) came into play?

What’s the difference between IQ and EQ, you ask?  IQ is a score derived from one of several standardized tests designed to assess an individual’s intelligence and is used to determine academic abilities and identify individuals with off-the-chart intelligence or mental challenges. EQ is defined as an individual’s ability to identify, evaluate, control, and express emotions.  In layman’s terms, think of this as book smart versus street savvy.

In the business world, while there is no known direct connection between IQ and EQ, many statistics have shown that people with higher IQ scores do tend to have increased salaries over those with lower scores. However, people with high EQ usually make great leaders and team players because of their ability to understand, empathize, and connect with the people around them.

Ok, now that you’ve taken the red pill, let me show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. As a project manager at WebDevStudios, I am here today to talk about project leadership and how I feel EQ trumps IQ (pun intended) in this arena every time.


What is project leadership?

According to, the simple definition of project leadership is, “the act of leading teams towards the successful completion of a project, requiring skills in both management and leadership.” It is a soft skill–part art, part science.

Effective project leaders are grounded and centered, which helps from an overall project visibility standpoint, and they are aware of what is going on at all times and mindful of others’ needs. They are analytical and insightful, with the ability to foresee and evaluate risks.


At the same time, they can come up with creative solutions and are able to instill a sense of urgency when required. Most importantly, they build cohesion by reaching out and motivating people to see and achieve results.


How can I become an effective project leader?

I’m sorry to say there are no predefined set of rules for how to become an effective project leader. I can tell you from personal experience in project management, there is a continual balancing act between what you know (IQ) and how you react in the moment (EQ) to a variety of situations that can (and will) come about during your projects. So how does one grow to become an effective project leader? Well, first you should know where you are in the matrix.


No, not THE MATRIX, but rather Susanne Madsen’s Project Leadership Matrix as shown in another recent article on



Susanne Madsen, an internationally recognized project leadership coach, designed a simple and easy to read matrix that breaks down project leadership into four quadrants, each with aspects of both EQ and IQ present:

I: Reactive People-Leadership: Drawn to helping out when there is interpersonal conflict.

II: Reactive Task Management: Defect management, issue resolution and firefighting.

III: Proactive Task Management: Planning, managing risks, and quality assurance. Looking ahead to mitigate items, but still with a task focus.

IV: Proactive People-Leadership: Focused on strategic relationship building, on the project’s vision, and providing direction to the team.

In the article, Susanne also adds:

“While we’re all different and there’s likely none of us who fall squarely in one corner, the most effective project leaders fall within a mix of quadrants three and four. Being pro-active while both authoritative and engaging, is clearly better than playing catch up and reacting to the crisis of the day.”

Be the servant leader

I truly believe that no project manager should work on an island and your most valuable resource is your team. As a project leader, you are the servant leader, and need to do everything within your power to enable your team to get the job done on time, on budget and with the highest quality possible.

The best tool for project success is clear, upfront and constant communications. This is especially important for distributed teams and when working remotely from clients. Being able to get across what you know, what you don’t know, and what each team member needs to do their job is not always easy.

The presence of EQ in this case is also affirmed by Susanne Madsen in her teachings when she says, “Leaders ask a lot of questions. They don’t just tell you what to do like a manager does. And because leaders are so interested in people and the individual, they have a high amount of emotional intelligence.”

Help Me Help You

Driving it home

When it comes to the combination of IQ and EQ, there is no cookie cutter solution. The balance is different for us all as individuals along with the company and culture you work within. And while there are many different methods and tools for calculating and refining your EQ, I will leave that for another time (spoiler alert: A future blog post in the works).

However, in the context of becoming an effective project leader, the Project Leadership Matrix can be a useful tool to help measure where you are as a project leader. As a project manager, I find myself floating mostly in quadrant three (and sometimes two, unfortunately) but I am striving to move up into quadrant four as early and often as I can.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”  I feel that an effective project leader plays in integral role in not only bringing the team together, but also keeping everyone together and on the right path to success!


1 thought on “Emotional Intelligence in Project Leaders: EQ Over IQ

Have a comment?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

accessibilityadminaggregationanchorarrow-rightattach-iconbackupsblogbookmarksbuddypresscachingcalendarcaret-downcartunifiedcouponcrediblecredit-cardcustommigrationdesigndevecomfriendsgallerygoodgroupsgrowthhostingideasinternationalizationiphoneloyaltymailmaphealthmessagingArtboard 1migrationsmultiple-sourcesmultisitenewsnotificationsperformancephonepluginprofilesresearcharrowscalablescrapingsecuresecureseosharearrowarrowsourcestreamsupporttwitchunifiedupdatesvaultwebsitewordpress