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748 of 781 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2002
"Primal Leadership" is the latest best-seller in the "emotional intelligence" business book series that has become a franchise for psychologist and former New York Times writer Daniel Goleman.
It might be accurately subtitled: "Three Ph.D.s Cite Tons of Research to Convince Business Executives (Yet Again) that Feelings Matter to People at Work."
The research underlying the authors' assertions about the importance of improving one's emotional control and quality of interpersonal relationships is chronicled in end notes that run 34 pages in relatively small point type.
If you aren't an end note reader, you may not notice that the otherwise credible trio of Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee often give no credit whatsoever in the book's very readable main narrative to the scientists whose work they unabashedly appropriate or reference only in passing. This is especially surprising and disappointing given Dr. Boyatzis's own substantial and distinguished history of contributions to the academic and practical literature.
The "Primal Leadership" authors' well-documented case boils down to this: 1) People respond to their leaders either positively or negatively. And therefore, 2) Leaders need to work on developing an effective leadership style by A. Knowing themselves, B. Controlling their emotional impulses, C. Relating better to others, D. Influencing others to further the organization's work.
Hard to argue with that, even without a truckload of citations.
Now the critical question: Will reading this book give you the tools to improve your own "emotional intelligence"?
In a word, an emphatic and disappointing, no.
You may find yourself jumping up and down screaming, "Yes! Yes! Yes!," to the book's persuasive demand for better leaders, but you're inevitably left whimpering, "Now what?"
For example, the authors tell us we need to "reconfigure" our brains but offer scant help in defining a useful process for accomplishing that. In fact, that is the recurring fatal flaw for this occasionally impressive work--calling for action but specifying little but tired, overly-familiar generalities.
Its recommendations should be familiar to anyone who has ever taken the most basic leadership course (or heard even a mediocre professional speaker at a conference in the past 30 years):
1. Picture your ideal self.
2. Assess your current self.
3. Develop a learning agenda.
4. Experiment with new practices.
5. Develop supportive relationships.
To flesh out these familiar themes, "Primal Leadership" offers vague approaches such as "stealth learning"--code, apparently, for accidental learning by, uh, living.
And it points to old standbys such as using mental rehearsal and actual practice to break old habits. On what should you focus your mental and physical rehearsals?
Well, the authors advise paying attention to your 360-degree feedback, and perhaps finding a mentor or hiring a coach to find out.
Hardly the stuff that one needs reams of doctorate-level research to conclude.
The same is true of the advice offered for "building emotionally intelligent organizations." The authors suggest creating "process norms" and ground rules for teams, and holding honest conversations about the culture that people work in.
Does any of that strike you as new or even particularly insightful? Okay, how about this one. The authors urge: Have a vision.
A busy executive simply won't find much here for undertaking the self-improvement for which Dr. Goleman and his colleagues incessantly lobby. In fact, you could capture all the book's useful advice in a one-page outline. But it will take you many hours to tease it out of the lengthy prose. And once you have, it won't impress you as new or novel.
In the final analysis, this sizeable and serious-sounding book is neither scholarly nor practical. It is a resounding success in making a compelling case for action but then fails just as miserably in offering nothing but the vaguest and most uninspired plan for action.
Strip away the research citations and Daniel Goleman and his erstwhile colleagues have delivered the same old plea for better leaders with the same old solutions for creating them--all dressed up in a new best-seller.
So, unfortunately, for the intended business manager reader this well-documented work amounts to intellectual cherries jubilee: tantalizing, sophisticated, carefully prepared, but devoid of useful nutrients.
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105 of 117 people found the following review helpful
Daniel Goleman has written two previous books on Emotional Intelligence and why it is more important than IQ over a person's lifetime. This book takes those concepts of Emotional Intelligence (EI) and applies them to successful leadership roles. In doing so it moves leadership from an art form to science.
While it is not difficult to follow this book even if you are not familiar with his prior works, familiarity with the concepts would make the reading flow much smoother. For this text he is joined by EI experts and co-authors Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee as they unravel the use of EI in the workplace.
The bottom line of Primal Leadership is that one of the most important tasks of a leader is to create good feelings in the people they lead. They do this by maintaining those same positive feelings in themselves. In addition they have to create change, sustain change, and build an EI competent organization.
The book introduces the concept of "resonant leadership". This is the tendency of employees to perceive the business environment in the same manner that their leaders do. The moods, opinions, and actions of the leaders resonate to their employees and create the same feelings in them.
The top leaders develop four leadership styles and have the ability to easily change between them as needed. The book not only defines primal leadership but details how to develop and use these leadership qualities to make your business excel when others flounder. A great read with a thought-provoking analysis, this book is required reading for those seeking to excel as leaders in their organization.
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77 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2002
TITLE: Forest or The Trees?
REVIEW: I agreed with a lot of what Goleman has to say in Primal Leadership and I'm fairly sympathetic to his general theme that much existing management theory and teachings lie too much on the analytical/reasoning side and do not put enough emphasis on the "softer"/psychological issues. However, while many of Goleman's statements and cited research make sense (the "trees") they often don't seem to fit well within his model/theory (the "forest"), which is overly one-dimensional in stating basically that "emotional intelligence" (EI) competencies are the be all and end all of leadership.
Goleman's theory, which seems to be based on his statement that "the emotional task is the original and most important", swings the pendulum too far in the anti-analytical direction. He makes the same mistake as many of his analytical colleagues do/did in assuming that there is one ideal leadership mold to which everyone should be shaped into. The purpose of the book is to get the reader to understand Goleman's emotional intelligence (EI) mold for the ideal leader and how to fit this mold.
Goleman lists 19 EI competencies that the ideal leader should have. First, note that many of the competencies are not simply emotional, but require reasoning skills/abilities. Second, while it is true that these competencies are good to have, it is folly to expect one individual to try to obtain all of these. This is a throwback to the myth of the well-rounded organizational man of the 1950s IBM which has been discredited. One should focus on their strengths and manage their weaknesses, not become a well rounded person in all these competencies.
The other major disappointment I have with Primal Leadership is the same that I have with most books on "leadership". As Peter Drucker has taught, the only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. This definition includes Hitler, Jim Jones, David Koresh and all con artists who all knew/know how to appeal to human emotions to get people to do what they want. Books on "leadership" assume that leadership equates to management. While this difference may seem trivial and harmless it isn't upon deeper reflection. The primary goal of managers isn't simply to be a leader, that is to have followers, but rather to do the right things, make the organization effective/produce results, and assist employees in being productive. Goleman does succeed to some extent in identifying what is helpful in creating followers, but it's the wrong focus.
STRENGTHS: The book is fairly well written, well organized, and easy to read as one would expect of a mass market Harvard Business School Press book. Also, I especially enjoyed the discussion of the importance of organizational vision and the importance of the culture of groups.
WEAKNESSES: One-sided focus on emotional tasks. Tries to teach the reader how to be the ideal leader (i.e. the Tiger Woods of Leadership) instead of giving the tools and information needed to help average people (which most of us are) become more effective. Most example come from dysfunctional, rather than typical, situations.
ALSO CONSIDER: Peter Drucker for effective management teachings. Marcus Buckingham for the opposite of the "one-size-fits-all" management theory.
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83 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2002
Primal Leadership is an excellent book for anyone in a leadership role. I also recommend Guerilla PR: Wired by Levine and Develping the Leader in You by Maxwell.
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60 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2003
In this interesting book, the authors discuss the concept of resonance, where leaders bring out the best in people by being positive about their emotions. Four aspects of emotional intelligence are discussed with reference to various types of leadership. Essential and specific steps are recommended to become a more positive leader and create a better organization. But as an Optimal Thinker who has incorporated Optimal Thinking into my corporation, I understand that seeking to improve an organization with suboptimal positive action will not bring out the best in leaders or others. This valuable book can be most easily optimized with an infusion of Optimal Thinking. Recognized by leaders like myself as the mental resource to be our best, Optimal Thinking is now being employed in top corporations to deal with all situations, including those resulting from emotional incompetencies. Employees are asking the best questions to elicit optimal solutions. Read this book along with Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self and you will optimize results.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2003
This book is unique because it recognizes the value of feeling good about ourselves in the workplace. The author is a courageous pioneer in this field. I also believe that personal leadership is the foundation for leading others, so I suggest that Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self to learn how to make the most of oneself and then bring out the best from others.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2004
Emotionally intelligent leaders connect with their people. This leadership quality speaks for itself, unites employees behind the leader's mission, encouraging them to be more productive. This book is uniquely valuable in that it explains the value of different types of repertoire -- visionary, coaching, affiliative, and democratic -- and when to apply them. Daniel Goleman should be applauded for restoring humanity into the workplace with his concept of Emotional Intelligence. Personally, I achieved emotional intelligence with a practical how-to book called "Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self." Optimal Thinking explains the message behind each emotion and provides the best questions to ask ourselves and others to obtain emotional resolution and optimal results.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2002
"Primal Leadership" by Daniel Goleman is intellectually well done, from its presentation to its supporting examples. Though I agree with everything in the book, one important thing is missing that anyone really serious about all of this will absolutely need. That is, a basic philosophical understanding of the morals, ethics, and character required for GOOD leadership. I recommend the book "West Point: Character, Leadership,..." by Norman Thomas Remick for that.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2002
I think Daniel Goleman's "Primal Leadership" hits the nail on the head when it talks about Emotional Intelligence and making those you are leading feel good. It sounds like a modern way of saying what philosophers throughout the ages have said, as even I as a professor learned from Norman Thomas Remick in "West Point: Character Leadership...", about "good-leaders" giving followers the "will" to follow. Goleman goes on in his book to talk about the practical, how-to, ways of imparting the emotional "will" to follow, as did Remick talk about the practical philosophy behind this important subject. I recommend first reading Goleman's "Primal Leadership", then going on to read the Remick book to build your knowledge.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2004
This book is excellent for anyone who is in or wants to be in a leadership role.
2 others are Guerrilla PR: Wired and The Leader in You.
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