Emotional Intelligence – Women’s Not So Secret Weapon

success conceptA recently released study by an academic from Virginia Commonwealth University revealed that, surprisingly or not, it’s not skills, experience or IQ that is the most important factor for career success. The most important factor, it turns out, is emotional intelligence, the ability to perceive other people’s emotions and interpret them correctly, to control your own emotions and use them to prioritize your actions, and to respond in an adequate way to others’ emotions. This latest study confirms the findings of previous ones that have highlighted how important emotional intelligence is for career development.

Consider this example: you come to work and your manager snaps at you for no apparent reason. It is emotional intelligence that will tell you if you should be worried that the manager is unhappy with your work or there’s something else that has upset him or her, such as an argument at home. If you fail to read their emotions correctly, you risk either snapping at them yourself which will get you nowhere nice, or getting anxious that there’s something wrong with your work. Emotional intelligence, in other words, helps you respond to a situation in an appropriate way, rather than react to it without thinking; it helps you develop productive professional relationships and ultimately leads you to career success. But why can emotional intelligence be particularly important for women? For one thing, we are on average more socially intelligent than men, and emotional intelligence is an aspect of social intelligence. For another, even though research has shown that there is a very small overall difference between the average emotional intelligence of men and that of women, with women outperforming men by 1%, we seem to be particularly good at some aspects of emotional intelligence that are essential for leadership.

The aspect in which women most decidedly do better than men is predicting the emotional consequences of various actions, according to fresh research from non-profit organization Six Seconds, which studied around 24,000 leaders and workers from around the world. This substantial ability to predict emotional consequences of actions means that women are better placed to think strategically and use emotions accordingly. What’s probably even more interesting, however, is that the gender gap in overall emotional intelligence grows from 1% to 2% when looking into people in leadership positions. In other words, female leaders outperform male ones even more often than women in non-leadership positions. They seem to be able to manage their emotions even better than the general female working population and they also perform better when it comes to taking a proactive, solution-focused approach in their work; better than male leaders and better than women in non-leadership positions.

However, in order to be more successful overall, women with leadership aspirations should work on their ability to harness the insights their emotional intelligence gives them. That is, they need to develop the ability to use these insights when planning on particular actions, perfecting their responses rather than reactions, however adequate these reactions may be. This is something that men are better at in general. The thing to remember is that even though it’s often said that women are more emotional than men and this could turn into a hurdle when it comes to career advancement, we are perfectly capable of turning this enhanced emotionality to our advantage, rather than trying to push it away altogether. The crucial thing is not to let it get the upper hand over reason but make these two work together in balance.