Emotional Leadership According to Daniel Goleman

If you want to inspire and guide your workers or team members toward success, then you need to apply emotional leadership. Read all about it here!
Emotional Leadership According to Daniel Goleman

Last update: 14 July, 2020

Leadership is one of the most important skills that those who work with teams must have. People who want to motivate others need to have the ability to inspire and guide because that’s the key to reaching any goal. And although there are many ways of doing this, the most effective one is emotional leadership.

This concept was coined by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee in their book Primal Leadership.  They mentioned six styles of emotional leadership. Each one of them is useful in a specific situation, but the good news is that you can develop all of them with enough effort and commitment.

However, emotional leadership isn’t the only way to guide a team. In this article, we explain what emotional leadership really is and its main advantages and disadvantages in a more rational setting.

What is emotional leadership?

The leadership styles described by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee are different from those described by other authors: they have a huge impact on the emotions of those who apply them.

Each one of the six styles affects the way a team feels and behaves. Therefore, according to the results the team wants to achieve, a certain style will be more effective than another.

One of the most important concepts in Primal Leadership is that there isn’t a best option when it comes to choosing an emotional leadership style. Each one has several advantages and also different characteristics that may not fit all situations. Thus, the leader must know these characteristics to choose which style to implement and must also be capable of mastering all of them in order to choose the best one for each situation.

Daniel Goleman.

The six styles are:

  • Authoritative
  • Coaching
  • Affiliative
  • Democratic
  • Coercive
  • Pacesetting

Although each one of them has very different characteristics, they’re all based on the comprehension of other people’s emotions. That’s precisely 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 you, as a leader, are facing.

Advantages and disadvantages of emotional leadership

Just like with any other skill or approach, this type of leadership has both a negative and a positive side to it. Let’s see some of the most important ones. They’ll help us decide whether it’s wise to resort to emotions or if it’s best to use a more logical and less empathetic approach in any given situation.


You can’t deny that leading a group with emotional intelligence has many benefits. Leading that way will, for instance, help find a balance between achieving the company’s goals and creating solid work relationships.

This may involve sacrificing efficiency to a certain degree, but the employees’ well-being and happiness will definitely increase.

On the other hand, a good leader will be capable of enhancing the team’s good qualities. Using these styles to lead will help others discover their talents and develop themselves professionally. Plus, it’ll allow you to get your workers more motivated, which is essential for any company.

Emotional leadership in a team.


However, applying an emotional leadership style may not be the best choice in all situations. Sometimes, doing it may have negative consequences such as:

  • It can make the leader act impulsively: This could hinder the company’s advancement because, in general, managing a business requires a more rational approach.
  • It causes self-control problems: On certain occasions, a leader must make tough decisions that can be difficult at an emotional level. If a leader is too empathetic, the whole company project could be affected.
  • Slows down or affects results: A leader must focus solely on the company’s goals. However, someone who worries too much about others’ emotions will find this extremely hard to do.
  • It can cause emotional fluctuations: Finally, an excess of empathy and connection with one’s own emotions may affect mood too much. In general, a leader must be an example of strength and stability.

Usually, implementing one of the six emotional leadership styles will benefit a company or a team. But sometimes it’s necessary to evaluate whether doing it is in the workers and company goals’ best interest. Just like most things in life, the answer isn’t that simple. 

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.