Female leaders outperform men in social and soft skills

08 March 2016 Consultancy.uk

New research by Korn Ferry Hay Group reveals that women score higher than men on nearly all emotional intelligence competencies, except emotional self-control, where no gender differences are observed. Building on the changing role of leadership, with social factors growing up the ranks, the case for gender parity in boardrooms is according to the authors becoming increasingly evident.

In the run up to International Women's Day, Korn Ferry Hay Group conducted an analysis on data from 55,000 professionals across 90 countries and all levels of management, collected between 2011-2015. Applying its Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) – a tool that measures 12 emotional and social intelligence competencies proven to impact business performance* – the firm was able to extract difference between genders.

The researchers found that women more effectively employ the emotional and social competencies correlated with effective leadership and management than men. 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 in addition 45% more likely than men to be seen as demonstrating empathy consistently. Other competencies in which women outperform men are coaching & mentoring, influence, inspirational leadership, conflict management, organizational awareness, adaptability, teamwork and achievement orientation.

Emotional intelligence competencies

Social and emotional intelligence are key aspects of leadership, says Korn Ferry Hay Group, as it helps leaders adapt to the changing expectations the business environment as well as employees have of their superiors. Previous research from the authors found that the most effective leaders within organisations 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 organisation,” comments Stephen Lams, Talent Product Manager at Korn Ferry Hay Group.

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

Building on the two observations, the researchers conclude that the the data builds a strong case for gender equity. “If more men acted like women in employing their emotional and social competencies, they would be substantially and distinctly more effective in their work,” state the authors. They add: “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. Organisations must find ways to identify women who score highly on these competencies and empower them.”

According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, gender parity could add a staggering $28 trillion extra to world GDP by 2025, with a more achievable ‘best-in-region’ practice likely to add $12 trillion. 

* The 12 factors are achievement orientation, adaptability, coaching and mentoring, conflict management, empathy, emotional self-awareness, inspirational leadership, influence, organizational awareness, positive outlook, teamwork and emotional self-control.

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.