Can there really be too much IQ?

The Curvilinear Effect of IQ on Leader

Some of the first empirical support for a curvilinear relationship between IQ and perceived leader effectiveness has just been published.*

We’ve known for some time that there’s a positive, linear association between IQ and leadership outcomes. That's why, cognitive ability testing has been a core element in selection procedures. Some have also theorized that there a “ceiling effect” on the impact of IQ as a predictor of success. That is, after a certain level IQ ceases to distinguish who is most successful or effective.

Now, with this new research, we have evidence to support the thesis that too much IQ can actually be a detractor. Beyond a certain point, increases in IQ may manifest in behavior that others perceive as less favorable. The "super smart" may think and speak in ways that seem to make things more complex than they need to be, creating more confusion than focus. These behaviors may even suggest an air of aloofness to some.

In any case, we are reminded that general intelligence or IQ – which is not the same as practical savvy or wisdom – is not enough on its own. Practical judgment and EQ are also vital parts of a leader’s overall capacity to be effective. Therefore, we must find ways to observe and appraise both kinds of intelligence when we are evaluating the potential or fit of a candidate for a bigger role in executive leadership.

* Source:

  1. Antonakis, J. et al, in press. "Can Super Smart Leaders Suffer From Too Much of a Good Thing? The Curvilinear Effect of Intelligence on Perceived Leadership Behavior." Journal of Applied Psychology, March 2017.