For years now emotional intelligence (EI) has been touted as an important skill set to have, and one that women in particular, have mastered.
It was Daniel Goleman who popularized this concept. He found that the most effective leaders were alike in one crucial way – they had emotional intelligence. They had empathy for other people.
However, recently German researchers have found that being nice doesn’t pay and in fact women who are agreeable, earned $80,000 less in their lifetime that those who were more ruthless and demonstrated more male behaviours.
It is now believed that to survive and succeed in business, you need toughness. So often, observes Suzy Welch, former editor of the Harvard Business Review, women take on the good mother role. She believes that “empathy paralyzes you when you need to make tough people decisions or give tough feedback.”
And certainly when you talk to successful entrepreneurs, they admit that they’ve kept someone on the payroll longer than they should and that in hindsight, they would have done better to fire the employee early on when the signs were there that it wasn’t going to work.
Another component of emotional intelligence is self-knowledge and this too, researchers believe, turns out to be a dangerous weapon for women at work. Research suggests that men tend to over-estimate their abilities, while women tend to underestimate theirs. Women doubt themselves and self-doubt is not an asset in business.
However, in a recent study, How Remarkable Women Lead, the two female consultants argue that a woman’s emotional depth helps her be not just a better person, but a better leader who can deliver results.
Personally I like the way women lead and their collaborative approach to business. Being sensitive to people’s needs can take you a long way. But success lies in knowing when to use your emotional intelligence, and when to make the tough decisions that have to be made if your business is to survive and grow.
What do you think?