Emotional Leadership According to Daniel Goleman

Knowing how to lead is one of the most important skills for people who work with teams.

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Knowing how to lead is one of the most important skills for people who work with teams. Whether it is a manager of a company, or someone who needs to motivate others, having the ability to inspire and direct is essential to achieve all kinds of objectives. And although there are many ways to achieve this, one of the most effective is emotional leadership.

This concept was introduced by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee in their book Primal Leadership. In it, they talked about six types of emotional leadership. Each of them is useful in a certain situation, but the good news is that everyone can develop with effort and involvement.

However, emotional leadership is not the only way to lead a team or group. In this article we will see what exactly it consists of and what its main advantages and disadvantages are compared to a more rational approach.

What is emotional leadership?

The leadership styles described by Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee differ from those described by other authors in their marked effects on the emotions of the people they are used on. Thus, each of the six will have a different impact on the way of feeling of a team or group; so, therefore, depending on the results you want to achieve, it will be more efficient to use one or the other.

One of the most important concepts of the Primal Leadership book is that there is no emotional leadership style better than the others. Each of them has a series of advantages and points that do not fit well on all occasions; It is necessary to know them when deciding which one to use at each moment. A good leader must be able to master them all and choose the most appropriate for each situation.

The five types of emotional leadership are the following:

  • Authoritative
  • Coach
  • Affiliative
  • Democratic.
  • Coercive

Although each of them has quite different characteristics, they are all based on the understanding of other people’s emotions. That’s where the name “emotional leadership” comes from. However, is it always appropriate to use one of these six styles to lead a group? The answer depends on the circumstances that we face.

Advantages and disadvantages of emotional leadership

The reality is that, like practically any other skill or approach, this way of seeing leadership has both negative and positive parts. Next we will see some of the most important ones. This will help us to decide in each situation whether appealing to emotions is the most appropriate, or if on the contrary it is necessary to use a more logical approach and less empathy.


It is undeniable that leading a team based on good emotional intelligence will provide us with all kinds of benefits. One of the most important is that doing so will help us achieve a balance between meeting our goals and creating good relationships at work. This probably implies sacrificing to a certain extent the efficiency of the company, but in return it will provide greater welfare and happiness to all workers.

On the other hand, a good emotional leader will be able to enhance the positive characteristics of your entire team. Using the teachings of this style of group management, you can help others discover their talents and fully develop. In addition, it will make employees more motivated, which is essential for the good management of a company.


However, employing an emotional leadership style may not be optimal in all circumstances. Sometimes, doing so can have a series of negative repercussions, such as those listed below:

  • It can lead the leader to act impulsively. This could be harmful to the company and its objectives, because in general the management of a business requires a more rational approach.
  • It causes self-control problems. Sometimes, a leader has to make complicated decisions, which can be hard on an emotional level. If you have an excess of empathy, the execution can be complicated, turning against the process itself.
  • Slow down or worsen the results. At certain times, it is necessary for a leader to focus exclusively on what he has to achieve. However, for someone who cares excessively for the emotions of others, this will be tremendously difficult.
  • It can cause emotional fluctuationss. Finally, an excess of empathy and connection with one’s own emotions can cause them to influence their mood too much. In general, a leader has to be an example of solidity and stability; However, achieving this can be very complicated when you are under the siege of uncontrolled feelings.

Usually adopting one of the six emotional leadership styles will be very beneficial for a company or work team. However, sometimes it is necessary to examine whether really doing so is the best for the workers and for the objectives set. As in almost all areas of life, the answer is not so simple.


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