Women, Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Are there gender differences regarding emotional intelligence competencies?

I was recently asked this question while facilitating a senior leadership development program. In fact, I often get asked this question. Women, Emotional Intelligence and Leadership is a much discussed topic these days.

Emotional intelligence assessments have found women and men to be equally as emotionally intelligent. However, men and women are strong in different competencies. Women score higher than men in areas of empathy and social responsibility. In contrast, men score higher than women in the areas of stress tolerance, assertiveness and self regard/self confidence.

So what does this mean for developing women leaders? 

The great news is that women’s strengths in empathy and social responsibility competencies are highly valued for today’s work, workplaces and organizations. The nature of work is increasingly complex and interdependent. Today’s workplaces are increasingly diverse with generational, gender and cultural differences. There are increased demands for social responsibility and accountability. And we are in the knowledge and service economy. This situation calls for an empowering, collaborative, and inclusive leadership approach that involves leading up, down, and across the organization through relationship. Therefore, what most women naturally bring to leadership is exactly what is needed for today’s work, workplaces and organizations.

Along with leading with strengths, it is important to work on developmental areas. This information on gender differences is helpful in guiding leadership development initiatives for women. Focusing on leader identity and authentic leadership voice and confidence will support increasing self regard and self confidence competencies. Focusing on assertiveness will help women leaders to ask for what they want and negotiate for what they need. Focusing on helping women leaders cultivate self care strategies and resilience will contribute to their stress tolerance.

Research by Daniel Goleman, Shawn Andrews, and Steven Stein among others, over the past decade, identifies that an individual’s emotional intelligence is an essential component of effective leadership. It is my perspective, as a leadership development program designer, facilitator, coach and consultant, that emotional intelligence development is an integral component of any comprehensive systematic approach to developing a leader. It is fundamental!

Psychologist, Ruth Malloy, at the HayGroup Boston, studies excellence in leaders.  Ruth finds that “…when you only look at the stars—leaders in the top ten percent of business performance—gender differences in emotional intelligence abilities wash out: the men are as good as the women, the women as good as the men, across the board.” This is not surprising, that at the most senior levels both men and women have strong emotional intelligence. And the great news is emotional intelligence can be learned, and, generally increases with age!

Emotional intelligence is essential for leaders and important for performance in all positions, emotional and social functioning, and overall wellbeing.

With this in mind, Women in Leadership for Life is excited to announce we are developing a new one day workshop for women on emotional intelligence. It includes taking the EQi 2.0 Self Assessment and receiving confidential EQi Leadership Report in a one on one coaching session prior to the one day workshop.

Watch our website www.womeninleadershipforlife.ca and our newsletters for the dates and details.

References and Resources:

Andrews: S. Women, Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. Training Industry Magazine. Winter 2014.


Stein,S. The EQ Leader: Instilling Passion, Creating Shared Goals and Building Meaningful Organizations through Emotional Intelligence. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2017.


Goleman, D. Are women more emotionally intelligent that men?

2011 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-brain-and-emotional-intelligence/201104/are-women-more-emotionally-intelligent-men

Hatala, L. & McCann, L. The Business Case for Women’s Leadership Development www.womeninleadershipforlife.ca/resources

Keep informed

Sign up for our newsletter to get inspiring articles, news about workshops and events, and a copy of our ebook, “13 Practices for Brilliant Women: A guide for transforming intentions into action.” We hope you’ll follow us on Facebook to see what is going on in the Women in Leadership for Life world. Find out more about the Empowering Women Leaders Program coming soon to Saskatoon and Calgary.