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Emotional Intelligence and Gender in Leadership Report

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Updated: Jul 10th, 2019


Organisations require leadership as a source of competitive advantage as well as a mechanism for steering the company (Roberts 2004). Many authors have done a lot of research on the subject, and have found that gender and emotional intelligence determine the leadership style in an organisation. Consequently, they can have an adverse effect on a firm’s ability to meet its objectives.

The first part of the paper will involve a definition of leadership and summary of is basic models. This will precede emotional intelligence and its models. Afterwards, the relationship between emotional intelligence and leadership will be the main focus. It is crucial to look at criticisms of the relationship, as well.

Thereafter, the paper will focus on gender and leadership with specific emphasis on prejudices and stereotyping, the glass ceiling and the role incongruity theory.

Subsequently, the paper will contain details about the relationship between gender and leadership. This will precede a criticism of the model and an examination of the Asian context in terms of gender. Lastly, the study will link leadership, emotional intelligence and gender.

Definition of leadership

Scholars do not have one universal definition of leadership, so it is advisable to look at the most predominant definitions in the discipline. Burns (1978, p.19) defines leadership as “the process of inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the motivations and values of both leaders and followers”. Burns came up with the transactional-transformational taxonomy of leadership.

He describes it as a mobilisation process in which people driven by values seek to meet particular values. Conversely, Bennis and Nanus (1985) believe that leadership entails creating focus through vision, creating commitment and enthusiasm through communication, trust by positioning people and deployment of oneself through optimism and a positive self perception.

Roberts (2004, p 62) believes that “leadership encapsulates a number of elements needed to create strategic change.” He defined these elements as vision, courage, communication, strategic recognition, and courage.

Kotter (1996, p.26) states that leadership is “establishment of direction, aligning people to a vision, motivating them and producing results.” George (2007) asserts that leadership is getting people to share a common purpose, and empowering those individuals to create value for concerned parties.

Types of leadership

Transformational leadership

Burns (1978) was the first author to talk about this concept. He believed that transformational leaders look beyond short term goals and focus on a higher purpose. Bass (1985) added that a shared mission brings leaders and followers together in transformational leadership. These leaders aim at making their followers self reliant.

Lewis (1996) maintains that a transformational leader brings change by enlarging the vision and understanding of one’s followers. He or she ensures that he clarifies purposes and attunes behaviour to specific values, beliefs and principles. The goal of the transformational leader is to make permanent and self perpetuating changes within his or her organisation.

Categories of transformational leadership

Avolio and Bass (1995) came up with four categories of transformational leadership that they called the four I’s of transformational leadership. The first is known as idealised influence. Leaders that possess this quality garner admiration, trust and appreciation from their followers (Halan 2004).

Consequently, followers aspire to be like them. Idealised influence causes leaders to move beyond their personal interests and commit to a shared agreement with their followers. They read the potential of others and cause them to tap into it.

The second I is inspirational motivation where leaders motivate followers in order to get them to demonstrate certain behaviour. Usually, this behaviour works for the good of the organisation; examples include team spirit, optimism and enthusiasm. These leaders aim at stimulating people’s values and needs. Leaders who use this set of skills can cause individuals to bring about extraordinary results owing to their extra effort (Kotter 2001).

The third I is intellectual stimulation, which involves leading people by stimulating their thinking. These leaders strive to expand and re-evaluate conventional thinking. It is a type of skill that encourages followers to think outside the box and take risks.

Furthermore, leaders who practice these skills often teach their followers to take ownership of problems. Intellectual inspiration cannot coexist with conventional norms. As such, leaders embrace external threats rather than protect their followers from them (Lewis 1996).

The fourth I in transformational leadership represents individualised consideration. A person with this quality can analyse and observe one’s followers in order to determine their desires and needs. The quality is synonymous with empathy and compassion.

It also causes leaders to be honest with their followers. Such transformational leaders will accept personal differences and assign jobs on the basis of these personal inclinations (Tichy and Devanna 1986).

Transactional leadership

Transactional leadership concerns itself with proper resource exchanges. Burns (1978) coined the term when discussing his understanding of leadership. A transactional leader focuses on making exchanges with his or her followers.

The person will offer employees something they want in exchange for something he or she wants. These desires may be intangible or intangible. Transactional leadership occurs more commonly than transformational leadership in most organisations.

Dimensions of transactional leadership

Three dimensions exist in transactional leadership, and they include passive management by exception, active management by exception and contingent reward. Contingent reward is an assessment of the degree to which a leader establishes and clarifies expectations and rewards. It involves setting up useful transactions between leaders and followers.

The second dimension is active management by exception. This aspect analyses the extent to which a leader will take corrective actions when transactions occur. The active subset normally takes place at an earlier time.

The manager does not wait for behaviour to occur before he or she responds to it. Instead, he or she assesses followers’ behaviour in order to predict future behaviour. Active management by exception causes leaders to correct actions before they occur.

Conversely, passive management by exception is reactive in nature. These leaders do not anticipate problems; they instead wait for them to occur then take actions to correct them (Howell and Avolio 1993).

Laissez faire

Laissez fair is a leadership characterised by absence and avoidance. In fact, one may think of it as the absence of leadership. People who adopt such a style will avoid decisions at all costs. They will hesitate to take corrective actions when issues or problems arise. Furthermore, many of them are rarely there when needed. In other words, their offices are characterised by high levels of absenteeism.

It should be noted that although passive management by exception (in transactional leadership) seems somewhat similar to laissez faire, it is still quite distinct from transactional leadership. Passive managers may take long to make decisions but still make them.

Therefore, it is their timing that makes them passive. Laissez fair leaders do not make decisions at all (Bass 1998). They do not attempt to alter behaviour and let followers do as they please (Avolio 1999).

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

Definition of Emotional Intelligence

Mayer et al. (2000, p. 396) define emotional intelligence as “the ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate it into one’s thoughts, understand, reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in others and in the self”. It is believed that a great understanding of emotions leads to superior problem solving.

When Salovey and Mayer (1990) first coined the term, they asserted that one’s success in life largely depends on one’s emotional intelligence. Goleman (1998) added that emotional intelligence differs from academic abilities but also supports it. Not only is this trait important for a person in a managerial or leadership position, but it also applies to persons with technical skills.

In fact, it is a better predictor of excellence and productivity at work. As people move up the corporate ladder, they tend to require more emotional intelligence. Superiors no longer judge people on the basis of technical or analytical work, they eventually get interested in the way people handle themselves and each other.

Emotional intelligence is manifested in four main realms: self awareness, social awareness, social skills and self management. A person with high emotional intelligence will be self aware; he or she will understand the strengths and weaknesses of his emotions. He or she will be socially aware in that he will know how to read other people’s emotions.

Furthermore, emotional intelligence involves social skills; the latter moves beyond merely reading people’s emotions to handling them effectively. Lastly, emotional intelligence encompasses self management, which is the regulation and management of one’s emotions (Goleman 1998).

Types of models

Ability model

Emotional intelligence is divided into two categories: the ability model and the mixed model. The ability model focuses on emotional intelligence as an ability to deal with emotions (Mayer and Salovey 1997). It encompasses the perceptions, assimilation, expression, and understanding of emotions with the self and with others.

Therefore, this model claims that a person with high emotional intelligence will understand and reason well with emotional information. Mayer et al. (2000) explain that reasoning and emotions are not two mutually exclusive phenomena; they can and do complement one another. Shown below is a diagrammatic illustration of the dimensions in the ability model.

The four-branch model of emotional intelligence

The four-branch model of emotional intelligence

Source: Mayer, D & Salovey, P 1997, “What is emotional intelligence?”, in P. Salovey, & D. Sluyter (eds.),

In order to understand the ability model, one ought to look at emotions through four lenses. The first aspect is the perception of emotion. The latter quality is learned in early stages of development. Toddlers often mimic their parent’s facial expression in an attempt to express their emotions. However, in later life, they come to differentiate between insincere and sincere emotions.

The second skill set is assimilation of emotions into one’s thinking. Emotional intelligence allows one to weigh particular emotions against others and decide which aspects warrant attention.

The third dimension in the ability model is reasoning through emotions. Rules govern emotions; therefore, one may get angry when one is unjustly treated, or one may feel ashamed after being unjustly treated after reacting improperly.

The last level of emotional intelligence in this model is the management of emotions. People should regulate emotions or this could lead to the development of certain complications in the future. For instance, when one gets angry, one should know how to calm down. Alternatively, if a colleague is nervous, an emotionally intelligent person ought to know how to relieve that person’s anxiety.

The mental ability model predicts implications of intelligence in one’s life. It also postulates that one can empirically test emotional intelligence as another form of intelligence.

Mayer et al. (2000) explain that the ability to provide wrong or right answers to mental problems makes the latter suggestion possible. They also add that measured skills of emotional intelligence correlate to other mental ability measures. Since one’s emotional intelligence rises with age, then this proves that the phenomenon is empirical.

In the ability model, one can determine whether a person is emotionally intelligent by their ability to select right emotion role models or their ability to discuss feelings. One may also assess EI through one’s emotional reframing. This means that a person should be realistically apprehensive or optimistic.

Furthermore, emotionally intelligent persons are more like to have lived in emotionally sensitive households or environments. Such people ought to be non defensive and should have expert knowledge in a certain dimension of emotions. Some of the dimensions may include leadership, spirituality and ethical feelings.

Mental ability model

The second model is known as the mixed model, which focuses on traits that enable one to effectively manage one’s life. These were non cognitive capabilities that include persistence, self motivation, enthusiasm and self control. The model is called mixed because it mixes personality traits or skills with emotional abilities. In this model, a number of theorists have proposed their own understanding of emotional intelligence.

Some of them focused on the personality traits that come hand in hand with emotional intelligence (Salovey and Mayer 1990). The theorists added that this feature differentiated genuine people from boorish ones. Additionally, one may think of emotional intelligence in terms of one’s attitude to life and persistence in difficult tasks.

Another theorist that came up with a mixed model was Bar-On (1997). He identified five major criteria that determine one’s ability to succeed in life. They were management of stress, flexibility, relational skills with oneself and others and mood.

Goleman (1998) also had his own mixed model of emotional intelligence which encompassed knowing, managing, and recognising emotions. It also included motivating oneself and handling relationships. Shown below is a diagrammatic representation of his model.

Goleman’s mixed model

Goleman’s mixed model

Source: Goleman, D 1998,

Shown below is a summary of the subsystems that make up the emotional intelligence model

Subsystems of the emotional intelligence model

Subsystems of the emotional intelligence model

Source: Mayer, D, Salovey, P, & Caruso, D. 2000, “Models of emotional intelligence”, in R. Sternberg (ed.),


Many researchers in the field of emotional intelligence have done their studies in western nations; therefore, it essential to look at studies from other parts of the world such as Asia. Chandra et al. (2010) carried out a research in Orissa, India. They wanted to assess the level of emotional intelligence within the banking sector in Orissa.

To achieve this objective, they gave participants (bank employees) tentative scenarios from which they were to select a suitable option. The authors amalgamated all their scores and found that the final scores were satisfactory for the group. Consequently, they concluded that emotional intelligence was a crucial element in the lives of the Indian employees.

The study corroborates evidence by other western scholars who state that employees with high emotional intelligence tend to succeed at work. The same thing applies to these employees as their outcomes in the banks were acceptable.

Nguyen (2009) also carried out another research in an Asian country – Vietnam – on emotional intelligence. The author wanted to determine whether emotional intelligence assists instructors perform well at a university. He measured emotional intelligence using the EQ Map. The four levels in the research were: proficient, optimal, cautious and vulnerable.

He found that the participants had high scores of emotional intelligence. Nonetheless, the author explained the source of this performance. He believed that the Confucian culture had a large role to play.

Furthermore, the Vietnamese have high power distance and a collectivist culture. This implies that they must remain sensitive to other people’s feelings. Their long term orientation also explains why few of them focus on negative emotions, which have short term implications.

Therefore, while the above research confirmed what other western theorists had said about emotional intelligence and work performance, it also shaded some insight about the Asian context.

High emotional intelligence scores in Asia stem from the cultural background of the Asian people, which cultivates a sense of cohesiveness amongst them. Individuals manage their emotions for the sake of others. They also avoid confrontations and ignore minor upsets because of their long term orientation and Confucian teachings.

Relationship between emotional intelligence and leadership

Emotional intelligence and transformational leadership

Transformational leadership involves motivating others to achieve a common purpose. Emotional intelligence assists leaders to understand people’s emotions and thus motivate them more effectively. Additionally, since a transformational leader requires a vision to steer his followers, then he must harness his own emotions in order to achieve this (Caruso et al., 2003).

In the four ‘I’s of transformational leadership, intellectual stimulation is one of the skills sets manifested by these leaders. They encourage their followers to think outside the box and to solve complex problems.

However, to achieve this, one must manage one’s emotions during difficult situations. An effective transformational leader channels others’ actions even through complex circumstances. Emotional intelligence can allow an individual to lead in this scenario.

Additionally transformational leaders need to mentor and motivate others in inspirational motivation. They need to understand other people’s emotions in order to stir them. EI also enables individualised consideration through studying emotional roadblocks and resolving them, or by knowing employees’ needs, which are depicted by their emotions.

Emotional Intelligence and relationship oriented leadership

Relationship oriented leadership encapsulated strong consideration behaviour. However, for one to demonstrate this, one must be aware of others and the self through one’s emotions.

Consequently, high emotional intelligence leads to stronger relationship-oriented leadership (Bar-On 1997). Leaders can build effective relationships once their innate and learned behaviour match the perceptions of others in their workplace. Getting to such a state requires high emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence and transactional leadership

As explained earlier, transactional leadership has three major dimensions: continent reward, active management by exception and passive management by exception.

Most studies on this relationship, including one by Harms and Crede (2010), have found a positive correlation between certain types of transactional leadership and emotional intelligence and little or no relationship between emotional intelligence and other types of transactional leadership. The latter authors found that no relationship existed between emotional intelligence and active management by exception.

However, they did find a negative relationship between passive management by exception and emotional intelligence. Their results also showed that a positive relationship exists between emotional intelligence and contingent reward transactional leadership.

Since contingent reward theories require equitable exchanges, then leaders who adopt this style need to know how to read other people’s emotions; that is, they need high EI. In contrast, active management-by-exception is a habitual practice that entails negligible depth hence showing no link to EI.

Passive management by exception had a negative correlation with EI because EI is synonymous with initiative or self-drive, yet these qualities are non existent in passive management by exception (Harms and Crede 2010). The following is a summary of findings concerning EI and leadership style from the latter study.

Contingent reward Active management by exception Passive management by exception Laissez faire
EI (Pearson’s correlation r) 0.38 0.15 0.02 -0,15

EI and leadership style correlations

EI and leadership style correlations

Source: Harms, P & Crede, M 2010, ‘Emotional intelligence and transformational and transactional leadership: A meta-analysis’,

Management of one’s mood is also part of emotional intelligence. If one easily controls one’s mood or makes decisions when in a neutral mood, then the person will be more effective. A transactional leader can make decisions on how to effectively reward employees if one is in control of one’s emotions or when one has high emotional intelligence (Caruso et al. 2003).

Sebastien (2011) explains that Asians in general tend to refrain from expressing their emotions because of their Taoist, Buddhist or Confucian principles. Most of these schools of thought emphasise the importance of harmony and self control. Such teachings assist leaders to manage their emotions. This leads to strong levels of emotional intelligence which can make transactional leadership effective.

Critique and criticisms

Emotional Intelligence models

One of the major criticisms of the mixed models is their broad definitions of emotional intelligence. They focus on personality factors that have little to do with emotional intelligence and more to do with success in life. Using traits as definitions of emotional intelligence are particularly troublesome because they are self reported. Measurement of EI can be inaccurate and unreliable in this EI model (Antonakis et al. 2009).

Mental ability models may be more reliable, but have also solicited their fair share of criticisms. First, emotional intelligence, as measured in the mental ability model, has minimal predictive value on work outcomes. Consequently, organisations that use EI largely to hire, promote and retain employees are misguided. Correlation studies between work performance and EI are as small as 0.19 (Antonakis et al. 2009).

Emotional Intelligence and leadership links

Several studies carried out on the relationship between leadership and emotional intelligence tend to lack validity. A number of them do not control for external factors such as IQ. Others tend to measure people skills rather than leadership skills. Furthermore, some tests only focus on asking respondents questions after which their responses will denote their level of emotional intelligence.

Those who select responses close to the administrator’s answers will be given a higher EI than those who do not. The major challenge with this methodological approach is that it relies on the IQ of the research administrator.

Antonakis et al. (2009) also explain that the very nature of emotions may sometimes impede leadership performance. Being overly sensitive to others’ emotions may cause a leader to avoid confrontation and focus on remaining agreeable.

Furthermore, one can be an effective leader even though one has low EI because one can use one’s learned intelligence. Leaders can learn about patterns of emotions without necessarily being sensitive to them and act in response to them.

Gender and leadership

Gender issues in leadership

Debates exist over women’s leadership capabilities. Some scholars argue that women are less effective as leaders while others believe that they are superior to their male counterparts. Some writers claim that gender has no correlation to leadership success, so it should not be the point of focus in any of these discussions.

Nonetheless, evidence exists to illustrate that women have a different approach to leadership; even though it may not be more or less effective than men’s approach (Northouse 2007).

The nature of their success also depends on a number of variables. In certain circumstances, prejudices may occur to minimise their opportunities. They also have to contend with a glass ceiling that hampers access to top leadership positions at work.

Prejudices and stereotyping

Prejudices or stereotypes refer to the placement of people into separate groups, based on race, age, gender etc in order to associate the group with certain characteristics. Stereotypes lead to discrimination as people who hold those biases will reject information that contradicts their stereotype and remember information that supports their way of thinking (Kanter 1993).

Eagly & Carli (2007) explains that most stereotypes against women occur when the victim is an out-group member. For instance, when only one woman exists in a male-dominated office, such as an engineering firm, then stereotypes are bound to occur.

Tokenism can also arise at the workplace when a woman’s actions are judged through her gender. Therefore, work authorities may punish her for acting assertively, but reward her male colleagues for doing the same.

At work and in leadership, these prejudices are manifested in the firm through diminished opportunities for advancement. Females who possess the same qualifications as men may not get promoted or access leadership positions (Kanter 1993).

Alternatively, workplaces instate double standards of competence for men and women. Women must demonstrate exceptional qualities in order to be taken seriously. Additionally, some workplaces may assign leadership positions to women for projects that are already failing. This puts women at a greater risk for failure.

Glass ceiling

Hymowitz & Schellhardt (1986) first came up with the term ‘glass ceiling’ in a wall street journal. They defined it as a barrier that women face when aspiring leadership positions in corporations, the military, educational institutions and other non profit organisations.

One can see evidence of the glass ceiling when women are generally absent from top leadership positions, when compensation is biased against women, or when no opportunities exist to advance women’s place in corporations.

Male representative Female representatives
Mid level leader 72% 28%
Business unit leader 80% 20%
Senior executive 83% 17%

Female representation in corporate leadership

Female representation in corporate leadership

Source: PDI, 2012, ‘Can women executives break the glass ceiling?’

The glass ceiling may emanate from challenges in work – life balance. Organisations may stereotype women as caregivers and thus bypass them when opportunities arise, or they may provide minimal support for women in these roles. Some companies may not offer opportunities for skill development among women.

Corporate cultures that disfavour women may also bring about this stereotype. Many women lack access to information networks as most of them select activities that exclude women, such as golf. Promotional policies and tokenism also keep women away from those positions (Oakley 2000).

Role Incongruity Theory

Eagly & Karau (2002) define the role incongruity theory as perceived incongruity of leadership and gender roles, which leads to two kinds of prejudices. The first is perceiving women unfavourably as possible occupants of leadership positions.

The second prejudice is treatment of leadership behaviour as masculine. The consequence of this incongruity is creation of a hostile or unreceptive attitude towards female leaders. It also makes it quite difficult for women to be successful in leadership.

Eagly (2003) explains that women are rising in a number of leadership positions because of three major factors that stem from the role incongruity theory of prejudice. First, society is redefining leadership roles to inchoate feminine, androgynous and masculine traits.

Women are also adopting masculine attributes such as agentic qualities. Furthermore, several of them prefer androgynous leadership approaches so as to bring the gap between female gender roles and leadership roles.

Link between gender and leadership

The relationship between gender and leadership is quite complex as leadership styles depend on the circumstances involved. Nonetheless, Eagly and Johnson (1990) found that women tend to adopt more democratic leadership styles than their counterparts. If an organisation requires leaders to fulfil a leadership role in a hierarchical structure, then authorities might object to the legitimacy of women in that position.

Men tend to adopt an autocratic form of leadership. One should note that in assessment of subordinates’ perceptions of leaders, biases may stem from expectations about gender. Members of organisations may judge women more harshly if they are autocratic regardless of seeing the same behaviour in men.

Analyses that compare leadership styles between men and women have found that women tend to exhibit transformational leadership styles. Some stereotypes were confirmed, such as individualised consideration (Eagly & Carli 2007). In all the four subscales of transformational leadership, men only scored higher than women in one dimension. Women are better suited to transformational leadership roles than men.

Conversely, men have higher scores for laissez fair and passive management by exception subscales. Women are also transactional leaders, but they tend to use contingent reward rather than passive approaches.

Research shows that women are better at relationship-oriented styles than their male counterparts. Men tend to be task oriented.

Critiques and criticism

More credit for men than women

Most of the research findings on gender and leadership give more credit to men and women, yet evidence points to the possibility of the female advantage. Some organisations are placing women in positions of authority as a sign of progress (Eagly 2003).

Additionally, the above researches assume that female characteristics are the same, yet more women are adopting masculine characteristics, such as agentic traits in leadership (Schein 2001). Organisations are also changing in response to gender needs. Numerous countries now abide by antidiscrimination laws that respect the right of a female worker to maintain work-life balance.

Antidiscrimination laws and lawsuits against gender discrimination are also likely to neutralise prejudices discussed in the models above. Therefore, an overemphasis on male dominance and the male advantage may not be practical in this regard.

Western context

Most of the research carried out on gender mostly focuses on western culture, yet prejudices and stereotypes may be much more in Asia. Furthermore, the factors that lead to women’s rise in Asia is substantially different from the ones in other parts of the world. Generally, Asian leaders are still predominantly male; this mirrors occurrences in western nations. However, the reason behind the glass ceiling in Asia is different.

Tuminez (2012) found that most female leaders in Asia got to their positions through privilege or social status. This is especially in the political realm where Asia has been at the forefront of selecting female presidents or prime ministers. Shown below is a summary of females in presidential positions in Asia.

Number of years with female head of state

Country Years in power for males Years in power for females Female-male ratio
Sri Lanka 23 27 0.85
Philippines 34 16 0.46
Bangladesh 32 18 0.54
China 4 46 0.08
Japan 50 0 0
India 32 18 0.54
Pakistan 45 5 0.1

Graphical relationship of female-male ratio of female heads of state

Graphical relationship of female-male ratio of female heads of state

Source: Tuminez, A 2012,

Canagarajah (2009) explains that this is a leadership paradox in Sri Lanka. The nation elected two powerful female leaders. One of them was Prime Minister Bandaranaike and President Kumaratunga. These ladies were all elected during times of crises. Both their husbands had been assassinated, so they were elected as a matter of emergency.

Additionally, they sold themselves as matriarchal figures to the public so as to garner votes. If they did not come from elite social backgrounds, it is unlikely that they would have become leaders.

In this regard, Asian female leaders have few leadership opportunities because they are elected on the basis of social status rather than merit. They must also bow to patriarchal expectations of motherhood from females. Therefore, the glass ceiling stems from different factors from the ones outlined in the western context.

Gender representation in Asia is quite divergent among all the countries. Some countries such as China, The Philippines and Sri Lanka have a narrow gender gap while others like India, Nepal, Cambodia and Pakistan have high gender gaps. Additionally, depictions of gender equality in these countries differ substantially depending on the nature of the institution that dominates that country.

For instance, India and Bangladesh have low gender representations in corporate leadership. However, they have some of the highest representations of women in politics as seen through their ministers and parliamentarians.

The dynastic-connections argument can explain this fact. Women in Asian politics are selected on the basis of their lineage rather than progressive gender ideologies. Shown below is a summary of female leaders in company boards.

Percentages of women in corporate boards in Asia

Country China Thailand Singapore India Indonesia Japan S.Korea
Percent 8.9% 8.7% 6.9% 5.3% 4.5% 0.9% 1.9%
Percentages of women in corporate boards in Asia

Source: Fang, A & Teen, M 2010 ‘Bigger representation in business’,

The glass ceiling in several Asian countries, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan, is largely perpetuated by the lack of organisational support structures for work life balance. Canagarajah (2009) affirms that 70.24 % of all female leaders in Japan will drop out of their positions when transitioning from middle to top level management.

The corresponding number is 52.88% in China, 48.83% in Hong Kong and 45.9% in Singapore. These women lack mentoring opportunities, favourable maternity leave, childcare support and many more (Hewlett & Rashid 2011).

Perhaps one of the most unique and persistent factors that impedes Asian female leaders at the workplace is cultural prejudice. Several Asian societies still treasure male children over females. This means that organisations have a small sample space from which to draw female leaders.

Additionally, a number of households still have not embraced women’s role outside their homes. Society perceives women as having fewer abilities than men, and this creates a glass ceiling for them. Shown below is a table of some of the cultural factors that impede success in Asian countries

Social institutions that impede female gender leadership (global rankings)

Country Ownership
Son prefe-
Civil liberties Family code Overall cultural
Sri Lanka 66th 1st 15th 98th 46th 5.9%
Pakistan 79th 118th 47th 103rd 95th 24.4%
India 79th 118th 15th 103rd 100th 31.8%
Philippines 53rd 1st 3rd 1st 8th 0.7%
Singapore 1st 1st 34th 1st 25th 1.5%
China 1st 122nd 48th 1st 1st 21.7%
Indonesia 1st 1st 79th 103rd 59th 12.8%
Thailand 1st 1st 15th 1st 41st 1.068%

1st=least discriminative

122nd=most discriminative

Source: OECD, 2012,

Linkage between Emotional Intelligence, gender and leadership

Studies have shown that emotionally competent leaders perform well. It is not a fact that women have better emotional intelligence than men. Studies only point to the fact that women perform better than men in some areas emotional intelligence.

For example, men have higher scores in impulse control, stress tolerance or capability while women do well in interpersonal relationships and social responsibility. (Bar-On 2000) These differences illustrate that women have their own competencies that make them just as competent as males. Studies that highlight female leaders’ strengths in certain areas of emotional intelligence serve to recognise their capabilities.


An analysis of research on emotional intelligence and leadership reveals that the transformational leadership style has the highest correlation to emotional intelligence. Some aspects of transactional leadership such as continent reward have a positive relationship with emotional intelligence.

Active management by exception has neither a negative or positive correlation with emotional intelligence. However passive management by exception has a negative relationship with emotional intelligence.

In the research, it was found that women experience gender stereotypes and prejudices at work. They must contend with a glass ceiling that prevents them from accessing leadership positions. Leadership styles that favour women include transformational, democratic, and relationship-oriented leaders.

However, these research findings reflect western ideas. In the Asian context, females experience the glass ceiling based on different factors.

Lastly, a correlation between emotional intelligence, gender and leadership illustrates that women and men have their own areas of competence. This is a case against discrimination of women in organisations since they are leaders in their own right.


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IvyPanda. "Emotional Intelligence and Gender in Leadership." July 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/emotional-intelligence-and-gender-in-leadership-report/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Emotional Intelligence and Gender in Leadership." July 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/emotional-intelligence-and-gender-in-leadership-report/.


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