How a Resonant Leadership Style Promotes Harmony

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Primal Leadership" by Daniel Goleman. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is a resonant leadership style? How do resonant leaders affect their teams?

Daniel Goleman, a co-author of Primal Leadership, coined the term “resonant leadership.” This means that an emotionally intelligent leader is able to influence their team’s emotions and lead them to success.

Here’s how the resonant leadership style works and why team harmony is so important.

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

Emotionally intelligent (EI) leaders are critical for group success because they create something the authors of Primal Leadership call resonance—an atmosphere where members of the group are emotionally synchronized. The effect is similar to harmony. When a group has harmony, they’re able to reach their maximum potential for collaboration, productivity, and performance—the vital components for success.

(Shortform note: Psychologists and behavioral scientists have proven time and again that groups that are emotionally in sync always outperform their counterparts who lack interpersonal relationships and open communication.)

A resonant leadership style is able to influence the group’s emotional state because it’s human instinct to take emotional cues from the most authoritative person in the group. So, the leader’s emotions will impact how the group feels and acts; therefore, success hinges on how emotionally intelligent the leader is.

(Shortform note: Experts call this phenomenon “emotional contagion.” Research shows that people’s moods might be as easy to catch as their germs, and this is extremely common in groups because the attitude of the leader is likely to shape the attitudes of team members. For example, when the team captain is positive and motivational, the team is much more likely to win the game. But if the captain is discouraged, team members are more likely to lose hope and perform poorly.)

How EI Skills Create Harmony

The resonant leadership style creates harmony by using the four main skills of EI to set the emotional tone of the group.

If the leader is (1) self-aware and can (2) manage her own emotions, she’ll be able to remain positive in the face of uncertainty, empowering her group to do the same. If the leader is (3) socially aware, she’ll be able to (4) effectively manage her relationship with the collective group and with individual members—she’ll use empathy to read the emotions of the group and choose the most effective response to handle the situation based on their needs.

So when the leader possesses all four EI skills, she’s able to accurately read and respond to any situation, which allows her to create and maintain emotional resonance

Communication Skills Improve Leadership Abilities

Experts argue that effective leadership depends on good communication skills, meaning emotional regulation, emotional and social expressiveness, emotional sensitivity, social sensitivity, and social control. These correspond closely to the skills and microskills the Primal Leadership authors refer to as emotional intelligence

Emotional regulation is the ability to control your emotions and impulses, a microskill of self-management
Emotional and social expressiveness is the ability to emphasize emotions in your communication, allowing you to motivate and influence others. This skill closely aligns with the self-awareness microskill of understanding your emotions, the social awareness microskill of being able to foster an emotional climate, and the relationship management microskill of being able to influence others.
Emotional sensitivity is ultimately what the authors refer to as the social awareness microskill of having empathy—you’re able to accurately read and understand people’s emotions so you can properly respond. 
Social sensitivity refers to the social awareness microskill of being able to read the politics, social networks, and power relationships of a group. 
Social control refers to the social awareness of microskills of understanding when change is necessary and how to start it, the ability to resolve conflict, and being able to bring people together as a team. 

Ultimately, expert opinions and the argument made by the authors of Primal Leadership closely align and support one another. Someone who possesses the communication skills outlined above would be an emotionally intelligent leader, and someone who possesses EI skills would be a good communicator.  
How a Resonant Leadership Style Promotes Harmony

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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