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COJ Nursing & Healthcare

Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence- A Book Review

Paul Andrew Bourne*, Traceloy Solomon, Idamae Hanna, and Heather A Smith Sherwood

Department of Quality Management and Institutional Research, Northern Caribbean University, Mandeville, Jamaica

*Corresponding author: Paul Andrew Bourne, Department of Quality Management and Institutional Research, Northern Caribbean University, Mandeville, Jamaica, Tel: 1876 5663088; Email:

Submission: October 24, 2017; Published: December 13, 2017

DOI: 10.31031/COJNH.2017.01.000510

ISSN: 2577-2007
Volume1 Issue2


The book Primal Leadership was written by Daniel Goleman and his colleagues Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. Together they draw information and experiences from different educational disciplines and backgrounds. The book evolved from responses of people to two articles in Harvard Business Review of the titles “What Makes a Leader' and 'Leadership That Gets Results'. The authors provide totally different perspectives on the leadership discourse that speaks to the importance of emotional intelligence that drives great leaders. The book builds on links to neurology and break through in brain research that shows how as leaders our moods and actions whether good or bad have enormous impact on the people we lead. Good leaders are not just focused on visions, dreams, targets, and performance, but recognize the importance of also being emotionally intelligent. The most important task of a leader is to generate a good feeling among the people he/she leads, which creates resonance and brings out the best in people.

Primal Leadership posits that the ability of a leader to engage and direct the emotions of his followers is a critical component in effective leadership. What makes Primal Leadership unique is that it has a conversation about the emotional component of leadership. Seemingly, referring to emotions in business seems to have been frowned upon. Those who do discuss emotions in business are in Human Resource and are often seen as out of touch with the real hardcore happenings of the organization (as poignantly pointed out by the book.) "The emotional task of the leader is primal-that is, first-in two senses: It is both the original and most important act of leadership" Invariably a leader has the strongest influence on the collective emotions of a group of people, therefore it is primarily his responsibility to move the emotions of the group in a positive direction and mitigate against negative ones. This process of moving collective emotions in a positive direction is termed, resonance, while on the opposite side of the spectrum is dissonance.

Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee draw on a number of studies to show the direct correlation of positive emotions with high performance in organizations. Resonant leadership does not only suggest the use of positive emotions, but more a reliance upon empathy to connect with others at an emotional level in a way that leaves them feeling a sense of care. Resonant interactions help to produce an ongoing, positive feeling that is said to translate into increased productivity. Inversely, dissonance involves feelings such as anger or fear that leave a lasting negative emotion. Examples include leaders who are manipulative, tyrannical, or inauthentic.

The authors provide a totally different perspective on the leadership discourse-emotional intelligence. They argue that 'Primal Leadership' is based on the fundamental perspective that what drives effective leadership is not

    A. vision,

    B. dream,

    C. targets, and

    D. performance;

but is simple emotional intelligence (EI). Hence, Goleman [1] opine that critically leaders are about the "prime good feeling in those they lead, suggesting that the effective leader is one who is able to use emotions to insight, propel, ignite, stimulate positive emotions to those he/she lead. The book is classified into three Parts. Part One comprises of five chapters-Primal Leadership; Resonant Leadership; The Neuroanatomy of Leadership; The Leadership Repertoire; and The Dissanant Style. Part Two constitutes three chapters-Becoming Resonant Leader, The Motivation to Change and Metamorphosesis. Whereas Part Three deals with Building Emotionally Intelligent Organization; The Emotional Reality of Teams; Reality and the Ideal Vision and Creating Sustainable Change.

The authors commence the discourse on leadership with what is the core reason for an effective leader, which they refer to as 'primal leadership'. They postulate that while value, dream, goals, purpose, and mission are critical to leadership, they are not the core reason and in fact they are driven by the emotional intelligence of the leader. The book is NOT simply about a set of theoretical abstractions as the authors delve into psychological, neurological and practice proofs of how emotional leadership primarily influnces performance and attitude of people-Mark Loehr, CEO of Sound View; Friedman & Riggio [2]; Kelly & Barsade [3]; Totterdell [4]; George [5].

In fact, "Common wisdom, of course, holds that employees who feel upbeat will likely go the extrat mile to please customers and therefore improve the bottom line" say the authors indicating the emotions of the leader will influence the emotions of the followers and therefore account for changes in attitude towards work as well as outcome. Goleman [1] provide empirical evidence has been established the correlation between emotional state of workers and revenue that showed a 1% increase in service climate in an organization resulted in a 2% increase in revenue [1,6]. Then, they examine the issue from a medical perspective and provide plethora of studies that support the relationship between emotional state of humans and brain activities, open-loop limbic system Henriques and Davidson [7]; Schneider & Bowen [8]. The open-loop limbic system is the interpersonal limbic regulations among or between people, which is an social external source and Eslinger [9] argues that the left prefrontal-based brain circuits suppresses negative emotions such as frustrations or worry which may seek to continue in the path of negative activities. They, authors, went on to say that this is why leaders who use emotional intelligence (EI) in a good or bad way generate either a positive or negative behaviour from their followers or workers. Having elobarate on the brain activity of emotions and how emotion changes peoples' attibute and behaviour, this was linked to profits and performance in an organization.

Using McClelland's work [10] in Goleman [1], the authors write that "In 75% of the cases, climate done accurately sorted companies into high versus low profits and growth." The issue of positive influence of emotions on behaviour to include performance at work and all other areas of human life is aptly encapsulated at the beginning of chapter one:

Great leadership move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal: Great leadership works through the emotions [1].

Embedded in the aforementioned perspective is the far-reaching tenets of emotions, which explains it being the core characteristic of a leader and not the others, which the author refer to a primal leadership-emotional intelligence of the leader. It is for this reason throughout the book why the authors eloborate on how the emotional intelligence of the leader plays a crucial role in positive attitude of others. It is for this reason why the authors forward studies that have empirically established the correlation between emotional climate in an organization and outbeat behaviour of employees [5,6], and account this to the leader. Hence, they offer the explanation that 'All leaders need enough intellect to grasp the specifics of the tasks and challenges at hand" and continue with "However, intellect alone will not make a leader; leaders execute a vision by motivating, guiding, inspiring, listening, persuading-and, most crucially, through creating resonance".

The resonance is the positive effect of the emotions of the leader that changes the behavior of the follower-the ignition of the positive emotions ofthe leader on the emotions of follower. They provide two contrasting accounts of leaders in an organization relating a 'bad' message to employers and how the results were totally different, with the positive outcome being the emotional intelligence or the lack thereof of the leader. Goleman [1] relate that a manager was told that he had to inform a group of journalists that the company will no longer need their service, and that the manager abruptly informs the workers of this reality. The following day, the workers were disquiet, disruptive and borne placards protesting the decision of the organization. On the other hand, another manager went to different group of journalists, made them aware of the value of their services to the company and by extension journalism. The manager suggests that they are needed in the wider sphere of journalism and that they should continue to make make the sterling contribution they have been accustomed and that while it may not be here, they so offer their service to another media house with the same vision. On the completion of his presentation, the workers applaud and indicated that they will do so and they understand the separation process between this organization and themselve. Goleman [1] explain the athe sole difference was the emotional intelligence of the manager and that it is solely not about relating a message or carrying-out of vision as it is the way the leader goes about it.

The authors suggest that while skills and competencies are taughts in business schools or univerisities, emotional skills are equally required as sometimes matter requires this domain by the leader. Hence, they write "Even if they [leaders] get everything else just right, if leader fail in this primal task of driving emotions in the righ direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should"(Goleman [1] which summarises the case previously stated. It means that the emotional state of the leader can be transmitted to the members in the group, which is supported by studies [3,4]). In the case of the non-emotional manager, his/her lack of emotion was interpreted by the group and the results is dissonance-negative behaviour.

Simply put, "Distress not only erodes mental abilities, but also makes people less emotionally intelligent (Henriques & Davision [1,7] in Goleman [1]) and offers an explanation of the importance of the leader correctly reading the emotional state of the group and understanding his/her emotional state see [7]; because the negative emotional state of the leader will transmit to the followers and the followers will become angry, raged, resentful and rancor. The reality is, leaders who lack empathy will ignite negative emotions from their followers or employees. It is for this reality, why demagogues polorized instead of ignite positive behaviour from their followers. The authors argue that while demogogues (or dictators, manipulative sociopath, abusive tyrants) may in the short-run have people act in accordance with their vision, this changes in the long-run and the result is rebellion. The authors theorize that what those leaders do is spead negative emotions such as anger, fear and threats are used to direct human behaviour into the desired areas.

In the same token Goleman et al. opine that "We are by no means the first to suggest that the main tasks of a leader are to generage excitement, optimism, and passion for job ahead, as well as to cultivate an atmosphere of co-operation and trust" Those words contextualizes the value of emotional intelligence in the leader and offers a broader perspective of EI to human existence and its relationship with resonant or positive drivers for actions, especially in group dynamics [5]. It is for this reason why the authors indicate that Johnson and Johnson, pharmaceutical company, uses emotional intelligence competencies as a part of its job evaluation of managerial employees as the organizations the value of emotional intelligence in its leadership and how this does influence the downline-profits because of employees'performance [1].

The authors, then, forward features of emotional intelligence (or domains or competencies), which we will use a Gantt chart to encapsulate this perspective for easy of read and visual understanding (Figure 1):

Figure 1: Emotional Intelligence Domains.

Personal competencies classified from two perspectives-self- awareness and self-management. Self-awareness deals with one feelings and recognizing their influence; understanding your strengths and weaknesses; and self-condificence-self-woth and capabilities. Self-management looks at self-control-keeping disruptive and impulsive moods under control; transparency- displaying honesty and integrity at all time; adaptability-flexibity to recognize issues and change if needs be; achievement-the meeting of standards; initiative-the willingness to act and seize opportunities; optimism-viewing issues from a positive side or seeing things from the upside. The first half of emotional intelligence is essentially the ability to monitor and manage your feelings and mood. Ultimately, managing feelings and moods results in better management of your attitudes about day-to-day activities. It can be extrapolated that attitude management, the ability to focus how you feel about things that can be immensely powerful. Primal leadership therefore draws upon the Emotional Intelligence of a leader, of the four, self-awareness is the most critical as it lays the foundation for empathy and the remaining three domains. Being self-aware involves possessing an understanding of one's emotions, strengths, limitations, values, and motives. If resonant leadership requires authenticity and the answer is in the affirmative, self-awareness is critical. Self-management is then the competence to manage one's emotions with transparency which then fosters integrity; also vital in resonant leading. "Effective leadership demands ...the capacity for managing one's own turbulent feelings while allowing for full expression of positive emotions [11]."

The other classification of emotional intelligence is social competence, which constitutes social awareness and relationship management. Social awareness deals with empathy-understanding other people’s sitution and organizational awareness-reading the current situation in the organization to include organizaation politics and social environment. While Relationship management looks at inspiration leadership to include motivation and guidance of others in keeping with a vision and influence which is about tactical approach in human relations to include the art of persuasion. Relationship management extends to developing other; change catalyst-be the person who guides and manages new directions; conflice management; building bonds and treatment as well as collaboration-team building approaches. In further condensation, the second half of emotional intelligence is encapsulated by social awareness, knowing how to see emotions in others-and relationship management. The finesse of emotional intelligence is executed when deciding how much of someone else's mood or attitude to allow in. While it's natural for us to synchronize our emotional state with others-particularly when sharing an experience, we need to be able to lay the boundaries between where responsibility begins and ends.

Goleman et al. present their book in an unbiased way by dedicating an entire chapter to negative attitibutes of leadership and how they result in 'bad' outcomes from people which they refer to as dissonant leadership-chapter five. Using the CEO for EMC, Michael Ruettgers, the authors show who a leader was to to effective function at one level with a particular style and on promotion, he was fired because the same approach did not provide the same result. They, however, argue that the leader's style was primarily based on performance targets (profitability) and the new department, R&D, could not have accomodated this style, which accounted for his demise. The leader fails to motivate his staffers because his leadership style was one of doing it yourself if the team members are unable carry out their functions. Such an approach, commanding style, embodies influence, achievement and initiative. Goleman [1] opine that "Initiative, in the commanding style, often takes the form not just of seizing opportunities, but also of employing an unhesitating ‘command’ tone, issuing orders on the spot rather than pausing to ponder a course of action". They provide many illustrations showing that how the emotional tone of the boss creates anger, resentment, and this this commanding style if neccesary must be used with caution.

The other side of the coin was resonant leadership, which was presented in chapter six entitled ' Becoming a Resonant Leader’. In this chapter a section was captioned 'CEO Disease' in which a CEO of an European company wanted employs to provide information, had difficulty understanding employees sought not to speak with him and why they did information from him. So Goleman et al. explain the disease this way: The information vacuum around a leader created when people withhold important (and usually unpleasant) information. Why are leaders denied accurate information about vital matters? Sometimes the people who should provide the fact fear the leader's wrath-particularly when the leader’s main style is commanding or pacesetting.

Humans are not machines, they interpret their social surrounding in order to make sense of how to survive. Hence, in the examine about, it is clearly a case of organizational survival, having understood the type of leader and what the consequences of certain messages. The authors resort to the limbic-brain to explain how the left-loop of the brain, emotions, sends messages to the individual and account for resulting behaviour. To the end of this chapter, Goleman went further to show that emotional intelligence of the leader can be taught to make them effective in their jobs. The change is encapsulated into five stages

    A. The first disvocery-ideal self and by this who do I want to be;

    B. The second discovery-who am I including my strengths;

    C. Third discovery-a learning agenda, which will outline the roadmap ahead as it relates to goal of being the ideal self;

    D. The fourth discovery-executing of the set of behaviours for the ideal self and practice to the point of mastery; and

    E. The fifth discovery-having a gorup of trusted people who will evaluate yours behaviour and honesty state the level of change and strenghts.

Rightfully so this was following by a chapter entitled 'The Motivation to Change’. where the authors explain on the issues previously stated. What was facinating in Chapter seven was a subheading to the end that reads 'The personal Balance Sheet’. The Balance Sheet is an accounting or book-keeping principles that has assets (things owned by the business) and liabilities. Goleman et al. superimpose the concept of the Balance Sheet on human behaviour by looking at strenths which I will called assets (posseses by the individual) and gap, which as the liabilities (things owed). They forward that the individual in order to chart a path of change must take an inventory of his/her assets (or strenghts) and liabilities (gaps or weakness). While the suggestion was forwarded by the authors, they made note that this is refuted by other scholars. Nevertheless, the authors contend that roadmap of change will be developed by the gaps, as a programme will be design to fashion who the gap will be addressed and what the evaluation parameters. The process of becoming a resonant leader is an arduous one that faces a variety of challenges that Primal Leadership offers a variety of techniques in overcoming.

Crucially, authors list six different leadership styles, Whilst they encourage the use of the four resonant styles, they acknowledge the situational effectiveness of the two dissonant styles. The four resonant styles include visionary, coaching, affiliative, and democratic. Visionary leaders inspire others to see a new vision of the future. They have a highly positive effect on group dynamics and allow for innovation by only painting a picture of where the group is going, not how they will get there. The coaching style takes place in a one-on-one interaction where the leader connects with the person and helps him/her to develop in light of persona and organizations goals. The affiliative style builds connections among the group by valuing emotional needs and building strong personal relationships. Democratic leaders develop consensus and assist people to feel valued for their input. The two dissonant styles include pacesetting and command. Pacesetters expect excellence and thrive when they have highly competent, motivated followers with clear objectives. Leading by command, or "do it because I said so," is effective in times of emergency and can help people feel confident in uncertainty. Both of these dissonant styles tend to have toxic effects on group dynamics when used more than in tailor made situations. The authors promulgate that while most people tend to favor particular leadership styles, it is valuable to be au fait with and develop each one to use at the most apt times.

Chapters 9-11 are NOT mere discussions of strategies of resonance leadership by way of the EI leadership; but is a set of practical principles and approaches that can be taken to create an emotional atmosphere in an organization. Goleman et al. recognize the difficult in implement change in an organization, because some fractions within an organization will opose this as they do not want to learn a new way of being or doing things. Hence, the question is asked in Chapter 11 "How does a leader create resonance in an organization that is sustained over time?". The author outline the difficult to change behaviour; but hasten to say it is possible and this the issue must be time and NOT PROGRAMME. They opine that because it creates EI leaders to create an emotional atmosphere in an organization, it means the more such people there are in the more 'powerful’will be the transformation. So, Goleman give an examine of how leaders may communicate to followers in such a way they their personal interest is served by way of the change. They say that:

Top managers of this large company recognized that given the changing nature of their business, unless they encourage people to behave in different ways, the company woul lose its competitive edge. Rather than attempting to change the collective habits of the whole organization, which felt daunting, the leadership decided that if enough individual managers learnt new competencies, the culture would change itself.

Even though such an approach offers a realistic way to chart a path of changing the organization culture, in the same token Goleman and his colleagues note an instance where a manager openly offered his perspective of disagreement with the leader, who then design a scheme to have him dismissed from his job. They offer the perspective that this is clear indication of resistance to change, in a small sector of the organization, and may derail the change process. With this said, the author opine that leadership development may fail not because a programme is not good but because it does not include the whole person-including people’s personal dreams, aspirations and vision for their development, which then thwart change. It is this reason why Goleman [1]. postulate the change like success is a process and merely implementing programmes in isolation of the individual’s goals, dreams, visions and aspiration, they often fail inspire of the good merits of the idea.

It should come as no surprise that leadership should not only intellualize an issue and implement it on people as this will not ignite the followers or workers to commit to it and therefore learning is retarded. Hence, the issue of the training of leaders into the leadership competencies (i.e. personal and social competencies) in order to address change is the way to change organization culture; but that it is a long process which will not bear fruits in a short-time. A part of the rationale for the length of time to create the right atmosphere in a company is because it takes time to cultivate the change. No single leader will be able to single-handed transform all the faucets of the entity, which means that for the company to last in the unforseable future, it must incubate generations of effective leaders throughout the company (Collins & parras [11] in Goleman [1]).

In concluding, Primal Leadership offers insight on the process of developing emotionally intelligent teams and organizations. Doing so requires a slight reversal from personal change in that it begins with identifying the groups ideal vision of itself before taking a hard look at the 'emotional reality’, or group dynamics. The writers argue that operating with resonance among a team is critical to unlocking its potential. While addressing teams is more straightforward than entire organizations, they do have similarities regarding the process of change. In both cases, norms that function against positive growth need to be carefully identified and brought out into the open so that a new climate can be created. Similarly, in both situations, the development of leaders is critical to success. The authors have given 290 pages of insights including notes, with sound practice guidelines for leadership practitioners and scholars alike. The book is a must read for all those in leadership roles, aspiring leaders, scholars in leadership, managers and educational practitioners who are responsible for and care for people.


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© 2017 Paul Andrew Bourne, et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.