Since the early days of the industrial era, leadership has been equated with personality traits statistically more likely to be found in men, like confidence and charisma, which has been found to backfire.
According to organizational psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, author of Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And How to Fix It), the best leaders combine IQ (intellectual intelligence) with EQ (emotional intelligence), which enables personal effectiveness and self-awareness.
While both males and females are equal when it comes to IQ, Chamorro-Premuzic points out that women have greater EQ and, in general, perform better as leaders.
Yet in the society in which we live and work, women are often stereotyped for being too "emotional," and too much emotion in business, the naysayers object, translates to perceived "weakness."
Being "emotional," however, has little to do with elements associated with high EQ. Take self-awareness (the ability to recognize one's own emotions and those of others), or empathy and compassion, as good examples. These traits, which women with EQ bring to the leadership table with greater ease, create positive business impact for all stakeholders.
Five things to increase your emotional intelligence (and create impact)
Whatever role you're in, it's imperative to exercise the traits of emotional intelligence to enhance your professional development. To that end, I had the privilege to connect with five powerhouse female executives holding vast leadership positions and ask for their top EQ tips that have contributed to their successful careers.
1. Be human and self-disclose.
You don't have to be perfect or pretend you are. As a matter of fact, you can be a better leader if you are authentically you--imperfections and all, says Jenny McCuiston, co-founder of Goldfish Swim School.
There is so much strength in knowing your weaknesses and being vulnerable enough with your teams to share them. Self-disclose and be human--engage in storytelling, discuss a mistake or risk you took, share an emotion--these interactions allow others to feel more connected to you as the leader.
This will help build trust, inspire collaboration toward achieving collective goals, increase leader-employee connection, and advance innovation--all while providing an opportunity for personal growth and development.
2. Show assertiveness in tough situations.
People in positions of leadership will face organizational conflict, but one must be assertive when handling all situations--even instances that happen to be tense, says Dr. Tina Bacon-DeFrece, president and CEO of Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More.
This means not apologizing when asking a team member to rise up to your standards or not letting others take credit for your ideas. While a passive-aggressive or overly aggressive attitude alienates and prevents success, facing conflict with an assertive mindset enacts progress to benefit the whole team.
3. Explore the "why" of how others feel.
Shelly Sun, founder and CEO of BrightStar Care, explains it's important to explore the "why" of how others feel and strive to see things from their perspective, not just your own. Slowing down and trying to grasp an understanding of their day-to-day is a critical lesson in exploring the "why" and will allow you to provide them with a solution that they need.
4. Be a solution seeker.
Next time you're faced with an obstacle, Inger Nicolaisen, founder of Nikita Hair, suggests to flip the "we have a problem" mentality into an opportunity to find solutions with your team. Then, promote and encourage yourself and your team to have an open dialog.
By sharing ideas and listening to each other, your team will feel a sense of contribution and responsibility in building a culture of accountability and respect. This culture--one that empowers and raises people up through interpersonal relationships--will lead your company or career in a direction you can be proud of.
5. Build your social and self-awareness.
In order to be the best resources for their employees, they have worked every position in the company--from front desk to instructor. This helps the pair know exactly what they are requiring employees to commit to and how they can best help them if situations become stressful.
When training employees and even themselves, Micheli and Roemer encourage asking for help, along with admitting and learning from their mistakes, as it makes them stronger team players.