New Research Shows Women Are Better at Using Soft Skills Crucial for Effective Leadership and Superior Business Performance, Finds Korn Ferry


Women Outperform Men in 11 of 12 Key Emotional Intelligence Competencies

LOS ANGELES, March 7, 2016 - According to new research by the Korn Ferry division of Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY), the preeminent global people and organizational advisory firm, women score higher than men on nearly all emotional intelligence competencies, except emotional self-control, where no gender differences are observed.

Data from 55,000 professionals across 90 countries and all levels of management, collected between 2011-2015, using the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI), developed and co-owned by Richard E. Boyatzis, Daniel Goleman and Korn Ferry, found that women more effectively employ the emotional and social competencies correlated with effective leadership and management than men.

“Historically in the workplace, there has been a tendency for women to self-evaluate themselves as less competent, while men tend to overrate themselves in their competencies,” said Boyatzis, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor, Case Western Reserve University. “Research shows, however, that the reality is often the opposite. If more men acted like women in employing their emotional and social competencies, they would be substantially and distinctly more effective in their work.”

In fact, when assessing the competency levels of both men and women across the 12 key areas of emotional and social intelligence, Korn Ferry research found:

  • The greatest difference between men and women can be seen in emotional self-awareness, where women are 86% more likely than men to be seen as using the competency consistently (18.4% of women demonstrate the competency consistently compared to just 9.9% of men).
  • Women are 45% more likely than men to be seen as demonstrating empathy consistently.
  • The smallest margin of difference is seen in positive outlook. When it comes to this emotional intelligence competency, women are only 9% more likely to exhibit the competency consistently than men.
  • Other competencies in which women outperform men are coaching & mentoring, influence, inspirational leadership, conflict management, organizational awareness, adaptability, teamwork and achievement orientation.
  • Emotional self-control is the only competency in which men and women showed equal performance.

“The data suggests a strong need for more women in the workforce to take on leadership roles,” said Goleman, Co-Director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University. “When you factor in the correlation between high emotional intelligence and those leaders who deliver better business results, there is a strong case for gender equity. Organizations must find ways to identify women who score highly on these competencies and empower them.”

As organizations increasingly recognize the importance of providing resources to further nurture and develop female leaders, women who score highly in these emotional and social intelligence competencies will rise to the top. Further, as these competencies underpin highly effective performance, men have a great opportunity to learn from women in the workplace how to best leverage these emotional and social competencies to become more effective leaders. Through greater emotional intelligence, both men and women are able to boost performance within their organizations, accomplishing their goals through both internal and external stakeholders.

In addition, according to Korn Ferry research, levels of emotional intelligence displayed by a leader are strongly related with how long their team members plan to stay with the organization. Leaders with strong emotional intelligence create conditions that inspire team members to stay and contribute to the organization long-term. Conversely, leaders with low emotional intelligence have greater potential to drive team members away from the organization.

Stephen Lams, Talent Product Manager at Korn Ferry added, “Throughout our work with clients, Korn Ferry has seen that the most effective leaders within organizations are those who have the greatest scores on emotional and social intelligence. Whether remaining calm during times of turbulence, inspiring and building team consensus or serving as an empathetic mentor and coach to nurture the next generation of professionals, leaders who tap into their social and emotional intelligence competencies positively impact their teams and drive greater performance throughout the organization.”

Notes to Editors

About the data

The ESCI tool measures 12 emotional and social intelligence competencies proven to impact business performance: achievement orientation, adaptability, coaching and mentoring, conflict management, empathy, emotional self-awareness, inspirational leadership, influence, organizational awareness, positive outlook, teamwork and emotional self-control.

Data on how long team members planned to stay with their organization is based on answers from individuals that assessed their leaders on EI competencies, and also separately completed Korn Ferry’s Employee Effectiveness survey which includes a question related to their planned tenure:

  • Typically, team members planning to stay for more than 5 years or until retirement report that their manager displays an average of eight EI competencies consistently.
  • Conversely, team members planning to stay for less than 12 months report that their manager displays an average of just three competencies consistently.
  • Leaders who are perceived as not demonstrating any EI competency consistently have twice as many employees planning to leave within 12 months versus those who have one or more strengths (13.7% versus 6.0%).

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is the preeminent global people and organizational advisory firm. We help leaders, organizations, and societies succeed by releasing the full power and potential of people. Our nearly 7,000 colleagues deliver services through our Executive Search, Korn Ferry and Korn Ferry divisions.

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