primal leadership and emotional intelligence - leaders use resonance and listen effectively for emotional intelligence in primal leadership
primal leadership and emotional intelligence - leaders use resonance and listen effectively for emotional intelligence in primal leadership
primal leadership and emotional intelligence - leaders use resonance and listen effectively for emotional intelligence in primal leadership

Primal Leadership and the Role of Listening in Emotional Intelligence, Part I


 

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This is the first of two sections examining a book by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee, Primal Leadership (Harvard Business School Press, 2002), with commentary and analysis by Bruce Wilson.


 

How can you improve your emotional intelligence?

One criticism that has been voiced about Primal Leadership is that the authors don't provide their readers with tools to implement the recommendations set forth in their book. (See, for example, reader reviews on Amazon.com.) Notwithstanding such complaints, the authors do in fact explicitly recommend both 360-degree feedback and executive coaching, in addition to purely self-guided work, as a means to improve leadership skills.

Try learning and/or practicing attentive listening

With the goal of helping people become more effective leaders, Primal Leadership authors Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee identify six styles of leadership, four domains of Emotional Intelligence, and five steps towards learning leadership skills. Listening skills are essential to effectiveness at virtually every stage.

Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee draw extensively from research into Emotional Intelligence or "EI" (which has no relationship to the better known theoretical construct known as the intelligence quotient, or "IQ") and throughout Primal Leadership they use EI as the unifying principle and yardstick with which to evaluate leadership ability.

The central finding of EI research is that emotions are essentially contagious, and thus a leader's attitude and energy can "infect" a workplace either for better or for worse. With this in mind the authors stress the importance of "resonance", which is the ability of leaders to perceive and influence the flow of emotions (including motivational states) between themselves and others they work with. The fundamental importance of resonance, which essentially rests in part upon a leader's ability to put into practice the skill of empathic listening, is explored throughout the book.

Because of the implications for improving resonance, the authors emphasize throughout Primal Leadership the importance to leaders of self-awareness, which includes the ability to perceive and moderate the effect one is having on others.

Six Styles of Leadership.

Based in part on research data from 3,871 executives, the authors distill all leadership roles into six distinct styles--which effective leaders switch between depending upon circumstances--then explain the role of EI resonance within each style.

Skillful listening, the linchpin of resonance, is the crux of the first four styles.

Style 1, Visionary, describes leadership that inspires people by focusing on long-term goals. An effective visionary leader listens to the values held by the individuals within the group, and thus can explain his or her overall goals for the organization in a way that wins their support.

Style 2, Coaching, which is in essence management by delegation, describes leadership that helps people assume responsibility for a stretch of the road that leads to the organization's success. An effective coaching leader listens one-on-one to employees, establishes personal rapport and trust, and helps employees work out for themselves how their performance matters and where they can find additional information and resources. Delegation of decision-making authority to the employee within his or her area of responsibility--including the power to make and learn from mistakes--is crucial to the effectiveness of this leadership style. Coaching leadership not only frees leaders from doing work for others, but fires-up and accelerates innovation and learning at all levels of the organization.

Style 3, Affiliative, describes leadership that creates a warm, people-focused working atmosphere. An affiliative leader listens to discover employees' emotional needs, and strives to honor and accommodate those needs in the workplace. The danger of affiliative leadership, the authors caution, is that it focuses on the emotional climate while ignoring the work itself, and thus should be used in combination with other leadership styles such as the Visionary style.

Style 4, Democratic, describes leadership that obtains input and commitments from everyone in the group. When faced with uncertainty about how to proceed, a leader elicits fresh ideas and renewed participation by faithfully listening to everyone's opinions and information. The listening may be challenging, particularly in a diverse group and when sensitive issues are raised. Dangers include "dithering," as when meetings drag on for weeks without making progress.

The authors describe Styles 1-4 as "resonance builders" and contrast these to Styles 5 and 6, which they call "dissonant" styles because 5 and 6 don't emphasize listening. They caution that while Styles 5 and 6 are essential under some circumstances, effective leaders use them sparingly because of their potential side-effects.

Style 5, Pacesetting, describes leadership that sets ambitious goals and continually monitors progress toward those goals. (This style is sometimes referred to as "management by objective.") Although this is a superior motivator for certain types of employees and under certain situations, the unrelenting pressure it creates over long periods of use can result in burn-out and loss of both creativity and productivity.

Style 6, Commanding, describes leadership that issues instructions without asking for input about what is to be done or how: "do it because I say so." The authors caution that while this style is invaluable during a true crisis, over the long haul it erodes motivation and commitment, leading to massive turnover and a downward spiral of morale and productivity. No listening is required for this style....

Our discussion of Primal Leadership continues in the next section with
> the Four Domains of Emotional Intelligence and Related Leadership Competencies and
> Five Steps Towards Learning Leadership Skills

Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee, Primal Leadership (Harvard Business School Press, 2002) (>Amazon.com).


This section was written by Bruce Wilson, an executive coach, trainer, and facilitator who has helped individual business people and organizations across the U.S. to improve their leadership, customer relationships, and teamwork. For more information about his work, or to get in touch with him, visit WilsonStrategies.com.


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