The book Primal leadership: Unleashing the power of emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee explores the role of emotions in leadership practices and suggests a framework for applying the obtained knowledge in the field of professional use.
According to the authors, leadership is based mostly on influencing the emotional state of peers and, therefore, the use of rational analysis, critical thinking, and reliance on data should be assigned secondary priority. On the other hand, the emotional intelligence – the ability to detect, understand, and make use of the emotions of others – should be used to form a centerpiece of leaders’ practices. To further elaborate on the subject, the authors introduce the concept of primal leadership – a variety based on communicating feelings, rather than concrete messages, across the environment.
Since most of the existing practices are based on enthusiasm and passion, it would be logical to expect from leaders emotional rather than intellectual proficiency. As an expansion of the idea, the book introduces the concept of attunement to contrast to the definition of alignment, which is better recognized as part of the established leadership practices. Unlike the latter, which is commonly associated with communicating goals and sharing a vision in a clear and comprehensive manner, attunement is used to safeguard the health of workplace relationships and maintain teamwork capacity as well as a commitment to mutually driven effort. Such approach visibly de-emphasizes the role of individual leaders and distributes the responsibility across the team. Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee take it one step further and suggest that leadership itself can not reside at the top of the organizational hierarchy and is present to some degree in all of its members and manifests both vertically and horizontally.
In addition to the theoretical background, the book provides a framework to assess and implement primal leadership in everyday practices. The evaluation consists of four areas of competencies – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management, with at least one required for successful primal leadership practice. The six styles of leadership suggested with regard to emotional intelligence are visionary, affiliative, democratic, coaching, commanding, and pacesetting, with the latter two being the most nuanced and, therefore, the least recommended. However, it should be noted that despite presenting all of the data in a systematic and methodical way, the authors caution against rigid implementation of their findings and suggest dynamic and adaptive approach instead.
The information from the book is thoroughly backed by the research from the field of neuroanatomy and psychology and displays consistency in supplying its notions with arguments. Despite this, the ideas are laid out in approachable, simple terms which do not require specific knowledge to understand. All of the theses are supplied by relevant examples. Overall, the information from the book is easy to pick up and apply. Interestingly, many of its ideas do not constitute as significant a departure from the established canon as implied by the authors.
Most notably, the flexible, non-rigid, and emotion-based nature of leadership is considered a norm in the literature for more than a decade. However, the book challenges several traditional concepts in leadership and offers a meaningful and valuable substitute which can be used to develop new approaches and highlight previously unseen barriers. In addition, the qualification of authors allows them to speak authoritatively on the subjects which rest within speculative domain when it comes to leadership practices. Therefore, the book can be recommended as an important update of the current understanding of the field of leadership and should be used both as a source of instructions and as inspiration to adjust the existing practices.