Book Reviews

Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee

Reviewed by Rene Townsend
Lecturer, California State University, San Marcos


In an era of increasing emphasis on accountability by test results, the danger of impersonal leadership is growing. This is the exact opposite of what we need for long-term success.

In Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee make the compelling case that the leader’s first and most primal task is an emotional one.

Intellectual focus will not sustain an organization. No amount of external force will create top performers. Drive and motivation come from within each person who believes in the mission and goals and the leader who articulates them with passion and honesty.

Simplifying his ground-breaking work on emotional intelligence, Goleman proposes four domains, including personal competence (self-awareness and self-management) and social competence (social awareness and relationship management). The authors have plenty of evidence to show that what separates average leaders from top leaders is their effectiveness in these emotional intelligence competencies.

The best news is these competencies can be learned. No leader is highly competent in all of them nor is there a fixed formula for success. The best leaders model the behaviors they value and the changes they desire. They continually develop themselves and value the development of others, knowing that creating a critical mass of resonant leaders will move and sustain their organization.

In addition to large concepts, the book offers insightful gems, some almost in passing. Examples include identifying the dangerous “CEO Disease,” the power of changing one word to change the tone (“attunement” rather than “alignment”), creating processes for development that have “stickiness” for lasting impact.

A leadership team intent on individual and organizational success at the highest levels would gain immeasurably by reading and discussing this book together.

(Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Mass., 2002, 336 pp., $26.95 hardcover)