Primal Leadership and the Global Enterprise

Great leaders move people.  They are able to inspire the best of us that we follow them in their direction, to hopefully to do something good.  A majority of the literature deals with techniques and series of methods in order to lead.  Nonetheless, Daniel Goleman describes that there is much more fundamental in leadership.  According to him, great leadership works through the emotions.


The Leader of the Pack

In his book, Primal Leadership, Goleman posits that leaders are able to move people because they are emotionally compelling.  Leaders need to drive the collective emotion of people in organisations (and nations) in a positive direction.  They need to trump over the negativity in a group climate in order to bring about change.

He puts emphasis that the key to leadership is emotional intelligence.  When leaders drive emotions positively, they are able to bring out the best in everyone.  He calls it primal leadership because of its fundamental characteristic; a leader needs to handle oneself and one’s relationships with others.

I think Goleman does not discount the fact that technical competence is also needed in leadership.  He merely highlights how leaders need to be aware of themselves and how they develop meaningful relationships in their circles.  Emotional intelligence suggests that leaders are able to empathise with their group.  The group then is able to resonate with the leader, therefore, conducting a high performing organisation.

For instance, a vision for an organisation is to be shared.  If there is resonant leadership, the organisation members would be able to understand, accept and work on the vision that was set by the leadership.

On the other hand, some leaders do not have the competencies of emotional intelligence.  Like a misplaced chord in an orchestra, the leader produces dissonance among his peers and followers.  This creates a negative energy in the group atmosphere, causing a low morale and ultimately, low productivity.

I personally like Goleman’s emphasis on how leaders are able to be on the same wavelengths with his peers.  Emotional intelligence is as crucial as the technical competencies.  Self-awareness helps a leader locates whether he or she is able to first understand the feelings and concerns of the team members.

A misplaced striking of a chord will yield a distance between the leader and the team.  Worse, it can develop mistrust.  People are impressionable and one has to work his or her way back to gain the trust of people.


The world is getting smaller.

As the world moves into globalisation, resonant leadership is indeed an important leadership framework as ever.  As discussed, global enterprises are now dealing with problems they didn’t face when they were only concentrated in certain regions.  Now, organisations deal with differences in cultures, where norms and values of different nations vary.  Leaders need to be sensitive with these nuances and complexities.

Suppliers, customers and even stakeholders have varying interests in enterprises, either in for-profit, non-profit or public organisations.  Add the fact that they communicate differently, leadership is an even more serious work in this century.

What I want to add to the discussion is that as cultures in organisations change, systems do also change.  The hierarchical and bureaucratic structures are being challenged by cross-functional, mixed team structures and the outsourced, cheaper supply chain points.  In addition, digital platforms have blurred systemic lines and organisations are facing a demand for more flexibility in their decision-making and accountability policies.

Contextualising the leadership environment today made me realise how leaders now have a daunting task to put all in order (or is chaos the new order?).  As the leader deals with demands from its stakeholders, he or she needs to put in work to transcend boundaries, skin colour, religions and conflicting values systems in order to orchestrate a cumbersome symphony.

Daniel Goleman will be able to help the 21st leaders then.  As the world of complex organisations continue to foster, I realise that leadership demands from the leader to be rooted to oneself even more.  Leaders need to get a firm footing of himself and learn to embrace for who he or she is. Then, he is to develop strong bonds with his or her team; and to have resonance with people or groups that may be across the world, as they deal with different challenges in their own lives and in their own contexts.

One cannot understand the plight of the other if one is not able to understand oneself.  I think leadership of the self is the hardest task of the leader.  It is in that level of awareness that leading others and organisations depend on.  Changes and challenges in global enterprises have been on the rise; leaders will only be able to contend if one has a grasp of the self and steering groups through these instabilities.

Students of leadership are invited to reflect further in this regard.  How does one search oneself in the middle of an ever-changing enterprise?  How can one withstand differences in values with team members yet are able to find harmony and balance in the teams?  What values transcend cultures?  What does humanity hold true and can serve as rallying point for global enterprises?

24 November 2013 | Adelaide, South Australia

This essay is part of the requirements for the Transformational Leadership for Global Enterprises class under Ms Linda Chaousis, adjunct faculty at the Carnegie Mellon University – Australia.



Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: