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Emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) may drain away as lawyers rise

Over a five year period, more than 100,000 executives took emotional intelligence tests (Harv. Bus. Rev., Dec. 2005 at 24). Their scores for EQ, on a 100 point scale, peaked at the “manager” level – which in the case of lawyers might be about 8-12 years out of law school (average score of 77.5), and then declines from “director” – the next few years (74.5 score), through “executive/VP,” perhaps the equivalent of direct reports to the general counsel (72.5), down to “senior executive,” the general counsel (71).

The researchers, and the authors of a book on the topic, speculate that “companies are still promoting executives principally on the basis of what they know or on how long they’ve served the company, rather than their ability to lead.” Note the implied premise that strong leaders have high EQ scores.

I wonder about the direction of cause and effect. Does being promoted breed EQ deafness or do the EQ deaf stand a better chance of being promoted?

General counsel should be aware, according to these authors, that “for every job we’ve studied, emotional intelligence is a better predictor of performance than technical skill, experience, or intellect.” (See my post of July 31, 2005 doubting this claim of emotional intelligence proselytizers and my post of Nov. 13, 2005.)

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