GolPrim 03-8-88




Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence


Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee

Harvard Business School Press, 2002, 300 pp. 



Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence created quite a stir.  The word intelligence is attached apparently to elevate the importance of emotions, i.e. “being intelligent about emotions.”  Primal Leadership is about the “hidden, but crucial, dimension in leadership—the emotional impact of what a leader says and does.” (4)  Three authors contributed where perhaps two could have been more concise.  Brain biochemistry is included even though it doesn’t seem to belong, apparently to enhance credibility.  Few leaders care about neural pathways and the basal ganglia.  Nevertheless it is an important book, one of a growing stream of books that feature the ‘soft’ side of leadership.


“The fundamental task of leaders, we argue, is to prime good feeling in those they lead.  That occurs when a leader creates resonance—a reservoir of positivity that frees the best in people.  At its root, then, the primal job of leadership is emotional.”  (Preface)


“Great leaders move us.  They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us.”  “Great leadership works through the emotions.”  They “drive our emotions in the right direction….”  “The leader has maximal power to sway everyone’s emotions.  If people’s emotions are pushed toward the range of enthusiasm, performance can soar; if people are driven toward rancor and anxiety, they will be thrown off stride.”  “Followers also look to a leader for supportive emotional connection—for empathy.  All leadership includes this primal dimension….”  (3,5)


“…the more open leaders are—how well they express their own enthusiasm, for example—the more readily others will feel that same contagious passion.  Leaders with that kind of talent are emotional magnets; people naturally gravitate to them.” (11)


“When people feel good, they work at their best.” (14) “In general, the more emotionally demanding the work, the more empathic and supportive the leader needs to be.” (17)


Dissonant leadership is that which is out of touch with the feelings of the people.  It moves in a downward spiral from frustration to resentment to rancor….”  (19)


“Four domains of emotional intelligence—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management…” (30) (These are described in Appendix B.)


Personal Competence (how we manage ourselves):  (39)

·   Self-Awareness – Understanding your own emotions and their impact; knowing your strengths and weaknesses; and a sound sense of self-worth

·   Self-Management – Keeping emotions under control; being transparent; being flexible; drive for performance; initiative to seize opportunities; being optimistic

Social Competence (how we manage relationships):

·   Social Awareness – Sensing others’ emotions and understanding their perspective; reading the currents of the organization; and recognizing and meeting customer needs

·   Relationship Management – Motivating with vision; using a range of tactics for persuasion; developing others through feedback and guidance; initiating and managing change; resolving disagreements; cultivating relationships; and team building


“Vision requires what looks to others like a leap of faith: the ability to go beyond the data and to make a smart guess.”  “Intuition works best, it seems, when a gut sense can be used to build on other kinds of data.” (43)


“Self-management…frees us from being a prisoner of our feelings.  It’s what allows the mental clarity and concentrated energy that leadership demands….”  “By staying in control of their feelings and impulses, they craft an environment of trust, comfort, and fairness.” (46-7)


“Self-management also enables transparency, which is not only a leadership virtue but also an organizational strength.  Transparency—an authentic openness to others about one’s feelings, beliefs, and actions—allows integrity, or the sense that a leader can be trusted.”  “Integrity also means that a leader lives his values.”  “Effective leadership demands the same sort of capacity for managing one’s own turbulent feelings while allowing the full expression of positive emotions.” (47-8)


Empathy is “taking employees’ feelings into thoughtful consideration and then making intelligent decisions that work those feelings into the response.” (50)


“When leaders are able to grasp other people’s feelings and perspectives, they access a potent emotional guidance system that keeps what they say and do on track.”  “Empathetic people are superb at recognizing and meeting the needs of clients, customers, or subordinates.  They seem approachable, wanting to hear what people have to say.  They listen carefully, picking up on what people are truly concerned about, and they respond on the mark.” (50)


“Relationship management includes persuasion, conflict management, and collaboration.  It is “friendliness with a purpose: moving people in the right direction….” (51)


Six leadership styles (table on p. 55): Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, Commanding.  The first four are highly resonance producing.  The latter two should be used with caution and can easily be dissonance producing.


“Overall the visionary approach is most effective.  By continually reminding people of the larger purpose of their work, the visionary leader lends a grand meaning to otherwise workaday, mundane tasks.”  “Visionary leaders understand that distributing knowledge is the secret to success; as a result, they share it openly and in large doses.” (58-9)


The visionary style does not work when a leader is working with a team of experts or peers who are more experienced than he. (59)


Leaders tend to use the coaching style least often, but it provides an outstandingly positive emotional response. “By making sure they have personal conversations with employees, coaching leaders establish rapport and trust.  They communicate a genuine interest in their people….”  “Getting to know people individually is more important than ever.” (60)


The affiliative leadership style is marked by an open sharing of emotions.  Such leaders value people and their feelings, which has a surprisingly positive impact on a group’s climate.  Affiliative leadership heightens team harmony, improves morale and communication and repairs broken trust.  However, if a leader relies solely on affiliation, work may suffer in deference to feelings.  (64-65)


A democratic approach works best when the leader is uncertain of direction and needs ideas from able employees.  It works well to surface ideas about how to implement the vision. (67-8)


“David Morgan, CEO of Westpac Bank in Australia, spends up to twenty days each year meeting with various groups of his top 800 people, 40 at a time.  ‘It’s a session where they give me feedback,’ Morgan told us. ‘I want to know how it really is.’  ‘The greatest risk is being out of touch with what’s going on.’  For such feedback sessions to be useful, the leader must be open to everything—bad news as well as good.  ‘I have to keep it safe for everyone to speak up.  There’s no problem we can’t solve if we can be open about it.’”  (68)


“The best communicators are superb listeners”  (69)


“The more of the six styles a leader can deploy, then, the better.  Leaders who have mastered four or more, …especially the resonance-building styles—foster the very best climate and business performance.” (85)


“The higher up the ladder a leader climbs, the less accurate his self-assessment is likely to be.  The problem is an acute lack of feedback.  Leaders have more trouble than anybody else when it comes to receiving candid feedback, particularly about how they’re doing as leaders.”  “The paradox, of course, is that the higher a leader’s position in an organization, the more critically the leader needs that very kind of feedback.” (92)


“CEO disease: the information vacuum around a leader created when people withhold important (and usually unpleasant) information.” (93)


“It may take a small act of courage to confront the boss with bad news about the company, but you have to be even braver to let the boss know he’s out of touch with how people are feeling.” (93)  “Seeking honest information on leadership capabilities can be vital to a leader’s self-awareness, and therefore, his growth and effectiveness.”  (95)


“The crux of leadership development that works is self-directed learning: intentionally developing or strengthening an aspect of who you are or who you want to be, or both.  This requires first getting a strong image of your ideal self, as well as an accurate picture of your real self—who you are not.” (109)


Self-directed learning involves five discoveries: my ideal self; my real self (my strengths and gaps); a learning agenda (for building strengths and reducing gaps); practicing new leadership skills; and leveraging trusting relationships to help you do these things.  (109-111)  Then practicing the new behaviors.  “Changing habits is hard work.” (116) 


“Taking stock of your real self starts with an inventory of your talents and passions—the person you actually are as a leader.” (128)  “It requires a great deal of self-awareness, if only to overcome the inertia of …habits.”  “The reality can be painful.” (129-30)


Our “ego-defense mechanisms…protect us emotionally so that we can cope more easily with life.  But in the process, they hide or discard essential information—such as how others are responding to our behavior.” “The most obvious way to correct distortions in self-perception, of course, would be to receive corrective feedback from the people around us.”  “Soliciting negative information may be vital to a person’s continued growth and effectiveness.”  (130-33)


“Perhaps the greatest mistake that people make when setting goals is committing themselves to activities that are difficult to do in their current lives and work style.”  (148)


People learn most often through one of the following modes (per David Kolb):

  • Concrete experience
  • Reflection
  • Model building
  • Trial-and-error learning  (150-51)


“It’s possible to improve if you do three things: Bring bad habits into awareness, consciously practice a better way, and rehearse that new behavior at every opportunity until it becomes automatic—that is, until mastery has occurred at the level of implicit learning.”  “The key to learning new habits for leaders lies in practice to the point of mastery.” (156-57)


“Groups begin to change only when they first have fully grasped the reality of how they function…”  “If the group lacks harmony or the ability to cooperate, decision-making quality and speed suffer.” (172-73)


“One of the biggest mistakes leaders can make: ignoring the realities of team ground rules and the collective emotions in the tribe and assuming that the force of their leadership alone is enough to drive people’s behavior.” (176)


“Members of a self-aware team are attuned to the emotional undercurrents of individuals and the group as a whole.”  “Since emotions are contagious, team members take their emotional cues from each other, for better or for worse.” (178)


“That first step, uncovering the truth and an organization’s reality, is the leader’s primal task.  But too many leaders fail to invite the truth, which can leave them prey to the CEO disease—being a leader who is out of touch and out of tune.  In their most benign form, such leaders seem to have not time for important conversations, and do not build the kind of affiliative or coaching relationships that result in deep dialogue about what’s working and what is not.  They don’t have enough real contact with people in their organizations to get a sense of what is happening, living in a kind of rarefied air that leaves them out of touch with the underlying emotional reality of day-to-day life.” (193)


“Change begins when emotionally intelligent leaders actively question the emotional reality and the cultural norms underlying the group’s daily activities and behavior.  To create resonance—and results—the leader has to pay attention to the hidden dimensions: people’s emotions, the undercurrents of the emotional reality in the organization, and the culture that holds it all together.” (195)