Emotional Intelligence Research: Start-Up Founders

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Emotional Intelligence Research: Start-Up Founders

In general, various facets of emotional intelligence has already been linked to important qualities in business and startups. This link can be extended to resilience, as much of the research points to having a positive mindset and one that is not focused on losses but rather on growth.

1. We Ask Men to Win and Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding (2018)

  • Published in the Academy of Management Journal, based on a study done of startups in New York.
  • While ostensibly targeted at women/men gender bias, the findings show that founders that can answer "prevention-based" questions with "growth-focused" answers (in other words, refocusing the discussion from how to avoid losses to how to fuel growth) raise more funds. This is because venture capitalists are far more focused on growing the fund's money, rather than preventing losses, the faster one can get to that topic (and avoid dwelling on what might go wrong) the better. Firms that manage to answer more growth-focused questions rather than prevention-based ones can get up to seven times more funding.
  • This ability to be aware of what is happening and refocus on growth is a key part of emotional intelligence, as defined by the article in the very first conversation of the project. In order to refocus the conversation, a leader would need to have inspirational leadership and very strong self-management (giving them an achievement mindset and a positive outlook).

2. Leadership, creativity and innovation: a meta-analytic review (2019)

  • Published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology in 2019.
  • Three of the authors are Australian OR work in Australian universities (their nationalities are not spelled out): Amy Wei Tan (Curtin University, Perth), Alexander Newman (Deakin University, Geelong), and Caroline Knight (Curtin University, Perth).
  • The study is a meta-analysis of 266 studies that analyzes 13 different leadership variables (such as transformational, transactional, ethical, humble, leader-member exchange, benevolent, authoritarian, entrepreneurial, authentic, servant, empowering, supportive, and destructive) and point out what combinations most contribute to creativity and innovation- main needs for any startup.
  • When it comes to driving creativity, leaders have to be authentic, empowering and entrepreneurial. This correlates to the emotional intelligence dimensions of adaptability and having a positive outlook, the role of coach and mentor, and the ability to empathize and manage conflict authentically.
  • When it comes to driving innovation, transactional and supportive leadership can be catalysts for change. While transactional leadership involves clarity about goals and providing clear rewards for performance, which can fall under organizational self-awareness (knowing what will drive the team forward), as well as having an achievement orientation, supportive leadership focuses on building empathy.

3. Beyond social capital: the role of entrepreneurs' social competence in their financial success (2003)

  • Published in the Journal of Business Venturing.
  • This study attempted to directly link an entrepreneur's social skills (in this case, defined as their ability to "read" others, their ability to make a good impression, and their persuasiveness) with their financial success.
  • Results showed that there was a correlation, with the ability to "read" others being important across industries. When it came to technological industries, the ability of an entrepreneur to be persuasive was also correlated with more financial success.
  • These link directly to the emotional intelligence dimensions, specifically social awareness and influence.
  • While their methodology is unavailable without emailing the authors directly, both authors are from the US and it is logical to presume their research was meant to be either US-focused or global.

4. Emotional Intelligence and Venture Performance (2017)

  • Published in the Journal of Small Business Management. The authors are Canadian, so the scope is presumably global or Canadian.
  • This study examines the link between the two aspects mentioned above. Interestingly, their findings show that while intrapersonal skills like recognizing and managing others' emotions is positively correlated to venture performance, interpersonal skills (such as being able to manage own emotions) do not.
  • However, both intrapersonal and interpersonal skills affect firm performance indirectly, since there are interpersonal activities that are important to perform activities within a company.
  • While the full article is behind a paywall, the substance of the paper as presented in an earlier talk can be found here.

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