The world of corporate and business leadership is a global dynamic landscape that demands finesse, resilience, and strategic thinking. For women executives, the journey to the C-suite has been marked by both triumphs and challenges. One topic that requires thoughtful exploration is the balance between emotions and decision-making. Women being perceived to be more emotional has often cast a shadow on their leadership abilities. While emotions are a universal human experience, women in leadership positions often grapple with the expectation to suppress or manage their emotions more effectively than their male counterparts. Leading with unchecked emotions can perpetuate gender stereotypes and undermine the credibility of women executives.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is an essential skill for leaders of all genders, but it holds particular significance for women navigating male-dominated boardrooms, organisations, industries, and homes. Women leaders often find themselves caught in a double bind—striving to demonstrate authority and assertiveness while avoiding being labeled as “too emotional.” EI involves understanding one’s own emotions and those of others, thereby fostering stronger relationships, effective communication, and empathetic decision-making. Women who master EI can communicate with confidence navigating the complexities of leadership with grace and poise versus being unfairly scrutinized.
However, when emotions are left unchecked, it can lead to hasty decisions driven by momentary feelings. For women, such decisions can inadvertently reinforce steBreotypes and hinder progress. You must discern between impulsive reactions and thoughtful responses striking a balance between suppressing emotions and embracing authenticity. Displaying vulnerability and acknowledging emotions can foster genuine connections with team members and stakeholders. However, doing so requires a level of self-awareness and emotional regulation. This allows for productive and objective conversations rather than conversations based solely on your emotions. This helps to avoid conflict and turmoil.
The corporate and business worlds are evolving, and the value of diversity and inclusion is becoming increasingly recognised. Women leaders who excel in emotional intelligence can use this skill to challenge and disrupt stereotypes, proving that leadership is not determined by gender but by the ability to lead with both heart and mind. Organisations have a role to play in supporting women executives in their journey towards emotional balance in leadership. Establishing mentorship programmes, providing opportunities for professional development, and promoting inclusive leadership styles can create an environment where women can thrive without the constant pressure to mask their emotions.
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Ibukun Awosika, first female Chairperson at First Bank in Nigeria, was given the leadership advice “to be herself” down to the lowest common denominator. A small example with big impact was when she demanded the photo with her in a dark dress be taken down. She demanded the formal photo shows her in a bright pink dress. It is next to the photos of all 100 former bank Chairmen wearing the dark suit. Another example is Kiko Davis, the only black woman in the US who owns a bank. She says, “As a female minority leader in business, I believe that women have an innate warrior spirit that makes them effective leaders and winners. Strength, courage, intelligence, and analytical ability are hallmarks of any great leader; however, a warrior spirit goes beyond just that. We possess a level of empathy for people in general with a higher level of sensitivity towards women and minorities.”
Examining case studies of successful women executives like Ibukun and Kiko, who have mastered emotional intelligence, offers valuable insights. These stories showcase how emotional balance has contributed to their leadership effectiveness, fostering innovation, collaboration, and long-term success. As the corporate landscape continues to evolve, women are poised to make even greater strides in leadership positions. Recognising the significance of emotional intelligence and its role in breaking down gender barriers can pave the way for a future where women lead with both strength and emotional acumen.
The journey of women leaders and executives is a testament to resilience, perseverance, and a commitment to shatter glass ceilings. As women ascend to leadership roles, emotional intelligence becomes a cornerstone of their success. The unique perspective on why women should not lead with their emotions underscores the need for emotional balance, not just for individual advancement, but to challenge stereotypes, drive organisational change, and redefine leadership for the better. By embracing emotional intelligence, women leaders can forge a path that showcases their multifaceted abilities, enrich corporate cultures, and leaves an indestructible mark on the world of business.
“Emotional intelligence is when you finally realize that it is not all about you!” Peter Stark