A recent Korn Ferry/Hay House study put together in 2016 shows that women scored higher on all emotional intelligence categories than men except one. All data points out that those who score highest in emotional and social intelligence are the most effective leaders across organizations, as they are able to influence others, manage conflict well, and grow their people.
How then can women leverage their skills to reach leadership positions? And how can organizations offer more equal opportunities for skilled women take on leadership roles?
In the study mentioned above, data was collected from 55,000 professionals across 90 countries from 2011-2015 and across all levels of management. It showed that women scored highest when compared to men in self-awareness and empathy, and most closely on having a positive outlook. But women also scored higher on coaching & mentoring, influence, teamwork, and adaptability. The only component on which men rated equally, not higher than women, was on self-control. While this is the case men still vastly outnumber women in leadership positions across the board.
So how can women harness their emotional intelligence skills to become better leaders?
- Continue to develop and enhance your emotional intelligence skills – while the data shows that more women than men excel at developing these skills, not all women have highly developed emotional and social intelligence. For those who don’t, it can be helpful to focus on the following skills to grow as a professional and as a leader: conflict management, influence, achievement orientation, and adaptability. The more you hone these skills, the better.
- Focus on self-control – women’s brains are hardwired to focus more on the emotional nature of things and on nurturing the emotional space. Men’s brains are more focused on hearing the emotion and then turning it to find a solution. While these differences naturally exist, women can work to enhance their own self-control by finding tools to regulate their emotional state when needed and to act or make decisions when they are better able to regulate them. Tools such as breathing, meditation, taking a walk, etc. can help in managing the emotions and bringing more self-control to the situation.
While women can work on their leadership skills to enhance their ability to move up in the career ladder, systemic change is also necessary to allow for more women leaders. What can organizations do to enhance systems that enable the best person, and not the best man, to advance into leadership roles?
- Find out which women score high on emotional and social intelligence and provide them opportunities to flourish – when organizations are identifying high potentials or thinking about their succession planning, develop a way to determine who is scoring higher on emotional intelligence components (there are many emotional intelligence assessments out there). Once you identify who has those skills, provide them with leadership opportunities and continue to coach and mentor them.
- Create a rewards and recognition system the prizes these types of skills – what you focus on and measure, grows. If you want to grow a system that values the emotional intelligence skills that are essential for more effective leadership, then you have to fold those into the performance management system. Valuing things like team work, interpersonal skills, and communications can be a key to support the growth and development of more women leaders in an organization.
Overall, women can carve a path to professional success by leaning into their skills and continuing to hone and develop them. Emotional intelligence is a key indicator of success for women in organizations and luckily, like a fine wine, emotional intelligence can be developed with age and maturity. Leaning into valuable skills can help women and organizations close the gender gap in leadership circles.