Writers and researchers on emotional intelligence and leadership sometimes use the phrase primal leadership to describe their view on the place of emotion in a leader’s role. This seems like a weird word to use. Primal has (at least) two meaning that help us understand why they use it. Something is primal if it is:
- original, early, first in time
- primary, basic, of first importance
They believe that emotions are primal to leadership in both senses. Humanity’s primordial leaders where chieftains or shamans who compelled by emotional leadership. And modern business leaders have the task of both driving collective emotions in a positive direction and clearing away toxic emotions. But how?
Resonant Leadership vs Dissonant Leadership
Resonant leaders drive emotions positively, by pulling others through their vision and example. Dissonant leaders undermine the emotional foundations that let people shine. Daniel Goleman has detected six leadership styles, or different methods of showing leadership in different contexts and to different people. It is possible to move between them, and a good leader will do that, even using the dissonant styles when necessary.
The four resonant leadership styles are:
- visionary – moves people towards shared dreams
- coaching – connects what people want with company goals
- affiliative – creates harmony by connecting people
- democratic – encourages people’s input and participation
Dissonant leadership styles are:
- pace-setting – meets challenging and exciting goals
- commanding – gives clear directions in an emergency
Attunement vs Alignment
Some leaders speak of their task in terms of aligning their people with their strategy or goal. This leaves a mechanical impression of the role of leaders: people are objects to be arranged in straight lines, like so many cogs. But support requires the emotional as well as the rational parts of the brain. The concept of attuning more fully describes a leader’s role, with its suggestion of the harmony of the instruments in an orchestra. Attunement requires a direct connection with people’s emotional centres. It achieves this through involving people deeply in the process and allowing them to make decisions about their place in it.
Threshold Abilities vs Distinguishing Abilities
Many leaders find themselves in a position of leadership simply because they tick several of the correct boxes. The have the basic skills that everyone has to have to do the job. This usually amounts to standard mix of IQ, technical skills and personality traits. They are average rather than outstanding in terms of their performance. Leadership experts suggest it is better to disregard the standard criteria if you want star results. Instead, start with high performers, compare them to average performers, and find out what makes leaders in the field. These are the real leadership abilities, or, as Goleman calls them, the eight ‘distinguishing competencies’.
Process vs Program
Once you realise the need for emotionally intelligent leadership at all levels of an organisation, the questions become a matter of how exactly to roll it out. Traditionally, organisations have answered this question by means of one-time training and educational programs. These are necessary but not sufficient. What is required is an entire process that not only fills minds with information, but permeates every level of the organisation.
Such a process not only educated individuals, but also works with teams and the company culture too. Through coaching, it will apply lessons learned and provide feedback on progress. It will take the form of an emotional as well as intellectual journey. Without all these aspects in place, the leadership produces will simple take the form of theory and certificates.
We believe that you can learn emotional intelligence like any other set of skills. The same goes for leadership. We’ve taught and coached EI for over a decade, at universities and for businesses. Contact us to find out what we can do for your organisation.