We have all, at one time or another in our careers, had to deal with them--their tempers, egos or general cluelessness. Corporate America has long promoted bosses who are just plain jerks. For all their impressive intellects, resumes and business savvy, these Type A personalities often come across as tone-deaf, oblivious to the frustration and resentment of their employees.
Of course, in the hard-nosed world of business--and especially during a recession--sensitivity in a boss might seem beside the point. But to psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of the 1995 best seller Emotional Intelligence and co-author of Primal Leadership (Harvard Business School Press), hitting stores later this month, it couldn't be more important. "Softer" skills such as empathy, intuition, and self- and social awareness, in his view, are what distinguish great leaders--and successful companies.
In addition to plotting strategy, planning budgets and recruiting talent, Goleman argues, providing positive emotional leadership is part of a boss's job; if he or she fails to do that, the bottom line, and not just morale, will suffer. Just as Goleman's first book redefined intelligence--showing that EQ matters as much as IQ--his new treatise, co-written with fellow academics Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, reassesses what makes a great leader.
If Goleman were looking for a textbook example of emotionally intelligent leadership, he couldn't do better than former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City after Sept. 11. As important as what Giuliani said was how he said it. "When people were feeling threatened and anxious, he did everything he could to make you feel that someone was actually in control," Goleman told TIME. "He was in touch with his feelings--and our feelings."
Too often in American business, that isn't the case. At one international hotel chain, workers told Yale researchers that interactions with management generated bad feelings 9 times out of 10. Most leaders have what Goleman calls "CEO disease"--they have no sense of how their moods affect the organization. One CEO of a European firm told Goleman: "I so often feel I'm not getting the truth. I can sense people are hiding information."
To anyone working in business, many of Goleman's observations seem obvious. And his five-step program for making yourself an emotionally intelligent leader sometimes reads as if it were gleaned from the self-help section of Barnes & Noble. Still, he makes a persuasive case that emotional leadership can be learned.
Successful leaders, he maintains, can connect emotionally through a variety of distinct leadership styles--ranging from what he terms "visionary" and "coaching" to "affiliative" and "democratic." CEO Shelly Lazarus, for instance, still recalls that when she was starting out at the Ogilvy & Mather ad agency, she received a surprise visit from boss David Ogilvy. He asked Lazarus, who was eight months pregnant, how she was doing and what her career aspirations were. And when IBM CEO Lou Gerstner--a notorious tough guy--first came aboard to lead a turnaround in 1993, he took a democratic route, relying on "advice from colleagues who knew a heck of a lot more about IBM and this industry than I would ever know," as he put it.