Emotional Leadership
Primal Leadership

Emotional Leadership

Leadership scholars and authors Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee present a detailed breakdown of what makes up sound emotional leadership – the only leadership, they argue, that really works.


Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee draw on deep research, knowledge, and studies in psychology and neurology to demonstrate that great leadership boils down to emotional intelligence.

Goleman is co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University and the author of Emotional Intelligence. Boyatzis chairs the Department of Organizational Behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. And McKee is a Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education,

In this intelligent, lucid and accessible guide, they contend that, with practice, you can develop the critical leadership competencies of self-awareness, self-management and social/relationship skills. Although the authors may understate the difficulty of developing these abilities, their arguments are reasonable, persuasive and useful.


The authors break down every facet of leadership to its foundational character traits as they explain their belief that leadership is primal and emotional. “Resonance” is a leader’s positive emotional impact: a leader’s followers resonate in harmony with his or her emotions. “Dissonance” is a leader’s negative emotional impact; those who are led break away emotionally from the leader.

To begin – or sustain – real development and emotional intelligence…first engage the power of your ideal self.Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee

Because emotions are contagious, emotional leadership remains the fundamental task of great leaders. When leaders transmit positive emotions, their employees relay positivity to their customers and fellow employees. Morale rises. Customer satisfaction rises. Productivity and profits rise.

Self-Management Competence

Self-management ability manifests in several dimensions of leadership, which the authors catalog as self-government, transparency, adaptability, achievement orientation, initiative and optimism. Self-governed leaders stay calm under fire and convey their sense of calm to others. Transparent leaders do as they say they will and admit when they are at fault. Adaptable leaders adjust to change without panic. Achievement-oriented leaders stretch to attain more difficult objectives, calculate risk and return, and pragmatically set do-able targets. Leaders with initiative see opportunities and seize them. Optimistic, positive leaders focus on the upside.

Self-awareness Competence

Your degree of self-awareness comes out in your use of leadership behaviors that are more emotionally attuned and confident. The authors explain that self-aware leaders are also perceptive about their organizations, and they practice servant leadership. These leaders understand how their feelings affect their judgment, behavior and performance. They know their own strengths and weaknesses and welcome constructive criticism. Self-confident leaders embrace difficult assignments.

When a leader triggers resonance, you can read it in people’s eyes: They’re engaged, and they light up.Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee

Attuned leaders can read people’s emotional signals, listen to others and understand them. Organizational leaders can read the power landscape and the social lay of the land. Servant leaders genuinely seek to serve their colleagues, and they nurture a climate of collaboration.

Relationship Management Competences

Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee stress the importance of building relationships. Leaders with that special ability, the authors explain, can motivate, influence and develop other people and strong teams. They can lead through conflict and change. Motivational leaders inspire resonance by helping to shape a vision and mission that everyone shares. Influential leaders convince others to follow them; they persuade, engage, gain necessary buy-in and build networks. Developmental leaders cultivate their employee’s abilities by being good coaches and mentors. Catalytic leaders understand when change is necessary. Conflict managers acknowledge disagreements, hear all parties and emphasize common interests. Team players foster cooperation and collegiality.

Leadership Styles

Leaders take on various styles, including positive, affiliative and democratic; they are oriented toward coaching people and working with them consistently. Positive leaders are visionary, with a sense of the future that inspires people to collaborate. This positive style works best when circumstances demand a clear, new direction. Coaching leaders align individual and organizational goals and help employees improve their performance. Affiliative leaders build coalitions and bring people together, even when stress frays the bonds that connect employees. Democratic leaders value participation and feedback, and they build consensus.

Leaders execute a vision by motivating, guiding, inspiring, listening, persuading – and, most crucially, through creating resonance.Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee

Negative leaders have a deleterious impact. They demand ever-higher standards, causing anxiety and uneasiness. They may achieve temporary improvement in staff performance, but the departure of good people will soon follow. Commanding leaders brook no disagreement; their autocratic style is hazardous to your organizational health.

Self-Directed Learning

As a leader, you must understand who you want to become. Determine whether your values define your genuine drive. Don’t be like the consultant who lists “family” as a dominant value, but works so much he or she never sees them. Determine who you are now. Develop relationships of trust and mutual support to make change possible. Leaders have great difficulties getting accurate information about themselves, so ask those you trust to help you. You can make it less lonely at the top.

In any human group the leader has maximal power to sway everyone’s emotions. If people’s emotions are pushed toward the range of enthusiasm, performance can soar. Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee

Your passion for learning will depend on how avidly you want to become your ideal self, so try to understand the ideal you set for yourself. Examine how you would like to be able to act in situations in which your present leadership style is ineffective. Mentally rehearse your behavior.

Emotional Intelligence and Organizations

Becoming an emotionally intelligent leader alone isn’t sufficient; you must help your organization become emotionally intelligent as well. Respect other people’s autonomy. Go slowly and listen to others, so you can build a culture that can thrive under intense change. Look within to discover your organization’s vision.

Be aware that the difference between alignment and attunement is that attunement is heartfelt. People align with abstractions; they attune with vision. Pay close attention to systems because rules, regulations and organizational practices must support the change you hope to achieve. Understand the organization’s legends, stories and symbols.

Worthwhile, Comprehensive Manual

The authors bring a unique combination of experience, expertise, strategies and sheer brainpower to the question of emotional intelligence and leadership. Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee offer a practical manual you can use as a self-help book or a guide to seminars on leadership. Their determination to create the standard, commercial work on this subject may have led them to undue optimism about human nature, but they never veer into leadership-book jargon or superficiality. As they turn what might have been an academic treatise into a mass-market guidebook, they bring compassion and wit to bear on the problems they cite.

Daniel Goleman also wrote Emotional Intelligence: For a Better Life, success at work, and happier relationships. Improve Your Social Skills, Emotional Agility and Discover Why It Can Matter More than IQFocus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence; Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships; and The Emotionally Intelligent Leader. With Richard J. Davidson, he co-wrote Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body. Annie McKee also wrote How To Be Happy At Work, and she and Richard Boyatzis co-wrote Resonant Leadership.

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