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Updated on October 12, 2010

Times are tough right now - we've all read the headlines and articles about businesses going bust, massive layoffs, greedy business deals gone bad, and if that's not bad enough, we learn that many of the leaders in some of these organizations are the culprits of unethical business practices. What is the problem with many of today's leaders? There are many reasons and excuses. One theory I'd like to present is that our bad leaders are inept when it comes to emotional intelligence. The reason these people became leaders is most likely due to a high business IQ but when it comes to running a business successfully it takes a high EQ.

A competently skilled EQ leader retains top talent, has lower turnover, engages employees positively, and lowers the risk of unlawful harassment litigation, to name just a few benefits. Think of the thousands if not millions of dollars the EQ leader potentially saves an organization! But wait, there's more! The EQ leader is capable of successfully navigating a business through tough economic times. However, the best news of all is that every organization has the potential to develop their leaders into a highly skilled and highly competent EQ leader otherwise know as a resonant leader.

How is this possible? It simple, you develop them. What is not so simple is that it takes time, especially if the goal is to produce a genuine resonant EQ leader. More good news, implementing an EQ developmental program for your leaders is easier than you think. But before I explain how it can be done, let me tell you exactly what resonant EQ leadership is all about.

The Resonant Leader

In the book, Primal Leadership - Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman et al., contrasts resonant with dissonant leadership for an intuitive comprehension of what an emotional intelligent leader is all about.

Goleman provides a classic example of dissonant leadership, "Dissonant leaders may seem effective in the short run...but the toxicity they leave behind belies their apparent success." How many times have we observed or experienced this scenario? In an effort to achieve immediate results, primarily to look good, dissonant leaders tend to focus on the short-term by employing tactics that range from manipulative to abusive. One, of many, side effect is that dissonant leaders eventually become "clueless" in that they become out of touch not only with employees but customers as well.

In contrast, resonant leadership is created by developing personal and social competencies. Resonant leader's personal competencies focus on self-awareness and self-management. Thus enabling the leader to know their strengths and limitations, keep emotions under control, continuously striving to improve performance, all the while displaying a "catchy" optimism.

The social competencies of a resonant leader include social awareness and relationship management. These competencies allow the leader to display empathy when needed and to recognize the need for developing employee and customer engagement. The leader is skilled at providing inspirational leadership, resolve disagreements, lead change, and foster cooperation and teamwork.

Goleman's research identifies six leadership styles that when skillfully utilized appropriately produces resonant leadership, misusing these styles may lead to dissonant leadership. The six styles are visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding.

Typically, a developing leader believes or becomes comfortable with one particular style, which eventually becomes their dominant leadership style. The visionary style tends to be the classic textbook style advocated in business classes, while the commanding style tends to be the most overly misused style from the industrial revolution. The key to becoming a resonant leader is to known when to use which style appropriately.

Developing a Resonant Leader

The question you might be asking now is how do I become a resonant leader? The answer is by participating in a process that Goleman introduces as the 5 Discoveries.

This process begins by addressing the "ideal self." This first step is what Stephen Covey describes in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, to "begin with the end in mind." The ideal self guides a leader to developing their personal leadership vision.

The second discovery is to identify the "real self." In other words, what is the gap between the leader I am today and the leader I want to be in the future. This gap analysis sets the foundation for the third discovery, "my learning agenda."

The learning agenda creates a developmental plan for closing the gaps, building on one's strengths, and setting the script for practicing the new behaviors or skills. This practicing phase is the "experimenting" fourth step of the five discoveries.

The final step of the five discoveries is "developing." This phase provides the support and feedback needed to continuously develop resonant leadership skills.

As I write this article, many of us are following the Olympics in Beijing and we are in awe of the athletic accomplishments of the world's athletes. A quote in Goleman's book brings to mind the difference between athletes and executives (leaders):

"Great athletes spend a lot of time practicing and a little time performing, while executives spend no time practicing and all their time performing."

If more leaders spent time practicing resonant leadership based on emotional intelligent competencies then our organizations would have the leaders to guide us through the good and bad times. The EQ resonant leader is just what we need to survive and thrive.


Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2002) Primal Leadership - Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence. Harvard Business School Press. Boston, MA


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      very nice

    • Arna Baartz profile image

      Arna Baartz 

      7 years ago from Australia

      it is so important that we realise that taking the time now to develop our children's EI will make all the difference to our future!

      seem like common sense

      thanks for your words we need MORE just like them!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      7 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Do you think President Obama's been following your hubs? I get this uncanny feeling in my bones reading through this. I think Osama bin Laden might have been following it as well, but he read it the wrong way round and took the wrong interpretation.

    • L.I.N.C profile image


      7 years ago from Montreal, Canada

      It is ALL about relationship. That is really to what you are speaking to INFjay. You can take some pretty lazy, low IQ people and set them up with a boss who they adore and you have the potential to create some hard working & crafty employees. If the leader understands the most powerful tool they hold in their hands is the precious relationship with their subordinates, they potentially will have the most loyal, dedicated and honest staff. It is similar to raising kids. The notion of dependent & alpha. It is the theory of LEADERSHIP.You have read some interesting books, try the one on my hub. You'll "get it" right away. Thanks for putting this out there !

    • profile image

      Ahmad Misron Yusof 

      7 years ago

      Great abstract of a classic work on leadership competencies. The emotionally intelligent or "resonant" leaders have strong communication and relational skills with their constituents.

      They have successfully overcome the fear of engaging with people and the sense of vulnerability of their humanness.

    • jbullet profile image


      9 years ago

      Double post.

    • jbullet profile image


      9 years ago

      A fantastic read. Leaders have often tried to get by through ignoring their employees emotions in the past but in the modern world it needs to be part of the great leader's skillset.


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