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How can we improve our emotional intelligence? What are the benefits?

This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of SafeGraph. 

The value of emotional quotient (EQ), and emotional intelligence (also known as interpersonal intelligence), has peaked and is dropping dramatically. EQ is incredibly important and will continue to be very important in the future. However, until recently it was the most important type of intelligence.

In most professions, people with high EQ would massively outperform people who had very high in other intelligences (like IQ, creativity, intra-intelligence or self-awareness, spiritual intelligence, physical intelligence, and more). Most of the highest paying jobs in the last 100 years relied heavily on EQ.

EQ should be the dominant trait in a world that is defined by “it is not what you know, but who you know.” That was the world we lived in in the 20th Century — a world that was 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. They were extremely important for society.

But in the last few years, who-you-knows have been replaced by technology faster than the what-you-knows. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google (not to mention tons of other companies that taking market share from middlemen) are far better connectors than anyone profiled in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.

In this new world, EQ will remain important but will not be dominant. IQ also may decline a bit (as computers are taking over that area too). So we should see a higher value placed on some of some of the other skills, traits, and intelligences (like creativity, self-awareness, spiritual intelligence, and more).

EQ is clearly important for leaders and it has been the dominant trait of leaders until very recently. One good example of EQ peaking is in the place where we would expect it most: our political leaders. The stereotypical back-slapping politician is becoming less and less common.

Of the 44 presidents of the United States, arguably the two with the highest EQ were Bill Clinton (number 42) and George W. Bush (number 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.

Our current president, Barack Obama (number 44), is known as much more aloof and much less of a social animal than either of his two predecessors. He gets criticized for not building relationships with members of Congress. Obama, while still high on EQ, is much lower that the two presidents that preceded him. He relies on many other important qualities that make him an effective leader.

The two people vying to succeed Obama are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — and both have exceedingly low EQs. For politicians (who generally have very high EQs), both of these major candidates fall at least one standard deviation below average. This is unprecedented. My contention is that this is not an accident. This defines our time. It is that EQ is not 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.

In conclusion, in the 21st Century, EQ will remain important but it will not be the dominant form of intelligence that it once was.

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