Emotional Intelligence and Transformational Leadership: Meta-Analysis and Explanatory Model of Female Leadership Advantage

Ning Hsu, Daniel A. Newman, Katie L. Badura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emotional intelligence is a second-stratum factor of general intelligence (MacCann et al. 2014) that: (a) has been popularly touted as an essential individual difference for effective leadership (Goleman 1998), but also (b) exhibits large gender group differences favoring women (Joseph and Newman 2010). Combining these insights, we propose that emotional intelligence is a key mechanism in the so-called female leadership advantage (Eagly and Carli 2003—which emphasizes the finding that women are rated slightly higher in transformational leadership compared to men). The current study seeks to explain this gender leadership gap by specifying three personality-based theoretical mechanisms that enhance transformational leadership: (a) emotional intelligence (favoring women), (b) communion (stereotypical femininity; favoring women; Hsu et al. 2021), as well as an offsetting effect of (c) agency (stereotypical masculinity; favoring men). Meta-analytic data (including original meta-analyses among the leader’s ability-based emotional intelligence, transformational leadership, communion, and agency) are used to test our theorized model. Results confirm the full mediation model of female leadership advantage. Because the three unique mechanisms operate in different directions, their individual indirect effects are notable, but their cumulative indirect effect is small and near-zero. In conclusion, we emphasize incorporating emotional intelligence with other personality-based explanations of gender effects in leadership perceptions.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104
JournalJournal of Intelligence
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • emotional intelligence
  • female leadership advantage
  • transformational leadership
  • gender
  • agency
  • communion
  • meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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