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Emotional Intelligence versus Personality Assessments - A Beginner's Guide to Selecting the Righ

Are you a Human Resources consultant or Executive Coach looking to choose an assessment for your organization?

Are you new to the psychometric arts and want to know which assessment will be most impactful for your style of coaching?

This article discusses a broad overview of the 5 major psychological perspectives, where a few of the major assessments fall within that range, and a recommendation at the end.

Disclaimer: I have not been asked to recommend assessments by any of the assessment providers, this is simply based on my experience and observations.

I am often asked about the difference between emotional intelligence and personality. While both are extremely important to measure if an organization is serious about leadership and organizational development, emotional intelligence and personality assessments measure completely different aspects of the psychological spectrum, and it is important to understand what you want to measure, to determine how it will help your organization.

In my role as an I-O psychologist, I have been fortunate enough to help many Fortune 500 organizations, government departments, and individual coaching practitioners, select proper assessments and stand up coaching practices and internal behavioral psychology consultancies. A big portion of that process is to understand what the desired business outcomes of the new coaching practice are (selection, succession planning, leadership development, team performance acceleration, etc.), and then recommend which assessment can serve as a baseline instrument for those outcomes.

This article will discuss my personal insights within this journey, help others who are searching for the right assessment for their organization, and highlight where each assessment falls on the psychological spectrum.

While I will discuss what each assessment intends to measure and the outcome that is expected, this isn’t a discussion about reliability (the degree to which an assessment produces stable and consistent results) or validity (how well the assessment measures what it is intended to measure). We can certainly nerd out about those things in a side discussion, but we will assume that all of the assessments discussed here are considered reliable and valid, unless otherwise noted. This will also not be a deep dive into psychometric assessment theory, but rather a general overview and a discussion about where certain assessments fall in the psychological spectrum, in order to guide you into making the right choice for you and your organization.

Why Assess Anything?

Leaders make important decisions every day, so gaining insight into how those decisions are made, and what could be done to make those decisions better, faster, and stronger, leads to better change management and employee engagement (among tons of other great things) within organizations. Assessments give leaders a clear understanding of performance capabilities, motives, drivers, possible personality derailers, use of emotional skill, and external views of the self. Assessments help organizations identify and develop top talent, increase employee engagement and achieve desired business outcomes, quickly and cost-effectively.

The 5 Major Perspectives in Psychology

Why do people do what they do? The scientific study of psychology examines how we think, feel and behave. Over the years, 5 major perspectives have emerged, which is important to note when discussing which organizational assessment is right for you. Every leadership development program, coaching practice, or organizational effectiveness initiative, follows a psychological approach, so understanding them, and where assessments fall within them, is vital to success.

Every leadership development program, coaching practice, or organizational effectiveness initiative, follows a psychological approach, so understanding them, and where assessments fall within them, is vital to success.

A summary of the 5 perspectives are below:

Psychodynamic Approach. Sigmund Freud was one of the original psychodynamic psychologists, who believed that sex drove most of our impulses. Psychologists in this school of thought believe that unconscious drives and experiences from early childhood are at the root of your behaviors and that discovering these hidden and often repressed memories are the key to determining current day behavior.

Biological Approach. Psychologists who take the biological approach look at how your nervous system, hormones and genetic makeup affect your behavior. Biological psychologists seek relationships between your mental states, your brain, and hormones, and how those relate to actions. For the biological approach, you are the sum of all of your parts. Your actions and thoughts are a function of your brain chemistry and physiological needs, meaning that all of your actions are based off physical needs and internal characteristics. Behavioral Approach. Psychologists of the behavioral approach believe that external environmental stimuli influence your behavior and that individuals can be led to act in a certain way if the environment promoted it. Behavioral psychologists believe that you learn through a system of reinforcements and punishment, and that free will does not exist, since our behavior is a consequence of environment and conditioning.

Cognitive Approach. Cognitive psychologists believe that your behavior is determined by your thoughts and emotions. How you act is based upon internal processes and cognitive psychology combines behavioral outcomes with self-insight about negative or self-limiting thoughts. Essentially, your thoughts create self-fulfilling prophecies about outcomes and behavior. A quote by Henry Ford that illustrates this approach is “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”.

Humanistic Approach. Humanistic psychologists believe that all humans are essentially good and that each is motivated to realize his or her full potential. Feeling good about yourself is simply a function of fulfilling your needs and goals, or at the very least, constantly aspiring to do so. The humanistic approach works on individual empowerment and humanistic psychologists believe in the good of mankind and emphasize the individual’s inherent drive towards self-actualization and creativity. With this approach, the sole focus is on strengths.

Below is a graphic to summarizes the above and illustrates which perspectives focus on dysfunction and which focus on performance.

How Each Perspective Applies to Assessment Theory

The Freudian and behavioral approaches focus on diving into an individual’s dysfunction, and assumes the key to increased performance and better living is a matter of identifying these dysfunctions, labelling them, and becoming self-aware of the impact that they have on our internal thought processes. For Freudians and behaviorists, the goal is to get back to a "Personality State of Zero." Any assessments that fall in this range simply seek to exhume dark aspects of our personality and bring them to light.

The biological approach also looks at internal aspects to determine behavior, but doesn’t necessarily assume that an individual has dysfunction. Any assessments that fall within this range, seek to help individuals understand internal aspects and how they drive behavior.

The cognitive approach does not focus on dysfunction or internal characteristics, but instead focuses on emotions and expectations. Any assessments that fall within this range seek to help individuals understand emotional states and how positive self-talk and thoughts can drive performance.

The humanistic approach focuses solely on maximizing potential and identifying strengths, while ignoring derailers, dysfunction, and other internal aspects of behavior. Any assessments that fall within this range seek to drive self-actualization.

So, as someone who wants to bring an assessment to your organization, you have to ask yourself, what do you want to measure?

  • Do you want to identify team dysfunction or discover why certain leaders are behaving in a self-defeating way?

  • Do you want to assess the best way to guide leaders through tough transitions and help them maximize change leadership?

  • Is lack of awareness driving organizational dysfunction, or is it a lack of social skill?

Below I will discuss where each assessment falls within the 5 perspectives.

Another Disclaimer: There are hundreds of assessments out there and I chose the top few in each category (trait, type, strengths, EI) that I have direct experience administering. I was not asked by any of the assessment companies to endorse in this manner, and the graphic is only for illustrative purposes.

Let’s start with the famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This is an introspective self-assessment, based off type theory, that delivers a personality type to the assessment taker in the form of 4 representative letters (ENFP, ISTJ, etc.). This assessment simply seeks to identify which function guides human experience and perception, solely focusing on self-awareness. While very popular due to time in the market and its “entry level” applicability, I rarely recommend this assessment for any type of leadership or organizational development, due to reliability and validity issues, and lack of a true development plan after the assessment. Once you find out your type, there really isn’t much more to do, except maybe put those 4 letters in your email signature and seek out others like you.

Next, StrengthsFinder 2.0, and its kissing cousin StandOut 2.0, focus solely on strengths, and assessing which strengths are most prominent within each individual. While it is important to understand the strengths that each leader possesses, the danger with this type of assessment is that they both ignore personality and emotional intelligence factors, environmental fit, and other drivers of behavior that are vital to effective leadership development. These types of assessments make people feel good (hence solely falling in the humanistic range) but lack any true developmental aspects other than “strengths” as a vague concept. As of this writing, the scientific community is split on the idea of a strengths-based development approach, most leaning not-in-favor (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2016).

For example, StandOut 2.0 identifies an individual’s top 2 strengths, then assigns a label to it (such as Pioneer, Teacher, Advisor, etc.) and seeks to identify group performance based on the diversity of those labels, but the labels and performance associations with them are arbitrary and not widely accepted. In my experience, focusing solely on strengths, while ignoring environment, emotional and social skill, and personality characteristics that drive behavior, can be detrimental and borderline dangerous when making important business and talent decisions, and strengths-based coaching can actually weaken the individual (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2016).

I threw the Rorschach test in there for fun, it is never used in leadership development as it seeks to detect underlying thought disorder, but I wanted to illustrate where it fell within the spectrum, and I just really like that symbol.

Next, Hogan Assessments (and others that measure Big-5 Personality characteristics), are a great blend of behavioral (environmental fit, motives, drivers) and biological (internal characteristics that drive our behavior). Hogan has a wide array of assessments that measure the “bright” side of personality, which drives leadership development through self-awareness, the “dark” side of personality, which drives leadership development by exposing dark characteristics that individuals exhibit when they are not self-monitoring, and the “inside” of personality, which measures organizational fit, what drives us, and what motivates us (Hogan & Hogan, 2007).

The only limitation to this assessment, is that personality is static over time (more on that later), so any assessment of pure personality is mostly for self-awareness instead of skill development (Bar-On, 2002). (Hogan has since added an emotional intelligence add-on to their HDS and HPI assessment, but it is not a stand-alone assessment and is not as robust as dedicated Emotional Intelligence assessments).

The EQ-i 2.0, measures emotional intelligence, which is a set of dynamic skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way (Bar-On, 2002). The EQ-i 2.0 covers the largest band of the psychological spectrum, as it focuses on internal characteristics, balance of emotional skill, self-awareness, creating positive thoughts and behaviors, and maximizing self-actualization. Emotional intelligence has been proven to drive performance for over 100 years, as Edward Thorndike noted in the 1920s that the best mechanic in the factory may fail as a foreman for lack of social intelligence (Thorndike, 1932).

Leadership and organizational development fall into two broad buckets – self-awareness and skill development. Generally speaking, personality assessment seeks to increase self-awareness while emotional intelligence assessment seeks to increase use of skill. Both drive positive outcomes.

Leadership and organizational development fall into two broad buckets – self-awareness and skill development. Generally speaking, personality assessment seeks to increase self-awareness while emotional intelligence assessment seeks to increase use of skill. Both drive positive outcomes.

Personality vs EI vs IQ

Personality and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) are static, meaning that they do not change much, if at all, over time (Hogan & Hogan, 2007). If we cannot change these characteristics, the greatest value in assessment is generating self-awareness. EI is dynamic, meaning that it can be increased (or decreased) based on active assessment, development and coaching (Bar-On, 2002). IQ is simply how well someone recalls facts from memory, and has rarely been correlated to workplace success, so the assessment of IQ from a workplace perspective isn’t necessary. However, personality and emotional intelligence have been linked to workplace success by many scientific studies over the last century (Bar-On, 2002; Hogan & Hogan, 2007; Beasley, 1987; Bennet, 2011).

The Venn Diagram of You

The Venn Diagram of You

My Recommendation

Without having the chance to speak with you and understand your needs, I will offer this broad recommend for your organization, based off the psychological perspectives and where most leadership development and organization effectiveness efforts fall within.

I would suggest both Hogan and the EQ-i 2.0. I know, it’s a bit of a cop out, but the focus of this article was to highlight that there really is no “EI versus Personality” battle, because they both measure two totally separate constructs with two vastly different goals. Hogan is one of many that measure personality based off the Five-Factor model, but its psychometric properties and reputation in the corporate world are second to none. I have had great success using Hogan for personality driven leadership development and organizational effectiveness (more information at

The EQ-i 2.0 is the premier emotional intelligence assessment. It contains a Workplace and Leadership report for individuals, a Group report to identify team dysfunction and strength-building, and a 360-assessment report to identify an individual’s identity and reputation (more information at There are other emotional intelligence assessments, but none offer the broad applicability of the EQ-i 2.0, combined with ease of administration, interpretation, and use.

Adding both of these assessments to your coaching arsenal ensures that you will be well equipped to tackle any development need. Steer clear of pure type-based personality assessments or assessments that only focus on strengths and ignore the rest of the psychological spectrum.

Extra Credit for the Solo-Practitioners. As I mentioned above, there are many personality assessments and many emotional intelligence assessments. However, not only are Hogan and the EQ-i 2.0 the best ones that I have used in this space, the support from the assessment providers is world-class. Hogan and MHS each have a great platform to administer the assessment, that is intuitive and easy to use, and each have dedicated support staff that are vested in the success of the executive-coach-turned-entrepreneur. One of the major reasons I chose both of those assessments to become certified in was the post-certification support I knew was available to consultants afterwards.


It is important to understand 3 things before selecting the right assessment for your organization, coaching practice or behavioral psychology program.

What psychological perspective will we align to in order to drive our desired business outcomes?

My personal preference for my coaching practice is a combination of the Humanistic and Cognitive perspectives while using emotional intelligence (EQ-i 2.0) and the Five-Factor Model (Hogan) as a lens to assess, guide, and improve the client’s condition. As a reminder, humanistic psychology believes in the good of mankind and emphasizes the client’s inherent drive towards self-actualization and creativity, while cognitive psychology combines behavioral outcomes with self-insight about negative or self-limiting thoughts. While other psychology theories certainly can be effective, this unique combination allows for precision assessment of the client’s condition while focusing on the potential, the possible, and the achievable. After reading about the 5 perspectives, which will you align to?

How easily can others within my organization become certified in this assessment as we build our coaching practice?

You won’t be able to do this alone, and the best way to have the organization adopt your recommendation for assessment is to first become certified yourself and demonstrate its value, and then convince others to join you in your pursuit of mastering the psychometric arts. Both Hogan and EQ-i have simple, yet thorough, certification processes, that can enable others in your organization very quickly. The bulk of my consulting/enablement work has been in helping organizations build this capacity and help company assessment pioneers stand up coaching practices and behavioral consultancies from within. If you would like to know who I recommend for certification courses, or if you want to know more about how to stand up coaching practices individually or within global organizations, check out my website and reach out.

What type of post-certification support is available to me from the assessment administrator and I-O community when I have questions on administration, interpretation, and scientific applicability?

As stated before, Hogan and MHS have world-class support waiting for you, and tons of research on all different types of applications for assessment results. Don’t tell them I sent you though, they don’t know that I wrote this article.

Selecting the right assessment is paramount to the success of your leadership development and organizational effectiveness programs. Do your research, talk to assessment companies, and ask for a free sample (they will often let you take the assessment for free and then debrief you on the results). Once you have chosen one or two (hopefully one EI assessment and one personality assessment), turn inward and become the internal organizational champion that will drive business outcomes with your new psychometric abilities.

The ROI you will deliver will be massive.

Trust me, I’m a doctor.


Bar-On, R. (2002). EQ-i Technical Manual. Toronto, Canada: Multi-Health Systems.

Beasley, K. (1987). The Emotional Quotient. Mensa Research Journal.

Bennett, D. (2011). Examining the Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence of Managers and Organizational Commitment of Subordinates. Northcentral University.

Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2016). Strengths-Based Coaching Can Actually Weaken You. Harvard Business Review.

Hogan & Hogan (2007). Hogan Personality Inventory. Tulsa, OK. Hogan Assessment Systems.

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