Learn about Resonant Leadership, Emotional Intelligence the six leadership styles and how to practically switch between the styles to become a more effective , flexible and impactful leader!

Resonant Leadership

Updated January 7, 2023 by Carl Lindberg

As a senior leader with CEO experience, I always strive for resonant leadership which boost performance, engagement and many other things in a team. Based on research, Resonant leadership has proven to increase performance of individuals and entire teams, and as a consequence, true resonant leaders often receive higher salaries than their opposites, discordant leaders.

Resonant Leadership can be explained by using a description of a resonant leader from the book Primal Leadership (ad, amazon) by Daniel Goleman et al:

“He was attuned to people’s feelings and moved them in a positive emotional direction.. ..and resonating with the emotions of those around him.. ..leaving people feeling uplifted and inspired..” (My edit, I have quoted only parts of a longer paragraph where some extra strong points are made.)

Here is our video on Resonant Leadership. The article continues below the video if you prefer reading.

What is resonant leadership?

Resonant leadership is the ability of a leader to create a positive emotional impact using Emotional Intelligence. Resonant leadership imprints positive and energetic emotions and puts people in emotional synch. Successful implementation of resonant leadership in a team results in emotional comfort, cooperation, idea sharing, and strong emotional bonds that help the team through difficult times.

An unpleasant feeling, the lack of rapport, worry, and even fear can result from the opposite, i.e. dissonant leadership. This could result in people not speaking their opinions due to fear of tantrums or repercussions from the leader or other members. Team members do not entirely trust their leader or each other. They are concerned with politics to protect themselves, and risk-taking is the last on their minds. You have probably all seen signs of a leader causing dissonance. The Discordant Leader, as Goleman calls it, is very much out of synch. The discordant leader would laugh at the wrong things, shut down discussions when the team feels they are getting to the crucial parts, put a low priority on explaining underlying reasons to the team, and fail to care about their emotional state.

I once worked for a very discordant leader. This man could erupt in complete anger if things did not go his way. He deployed shoot the messenger tactics where the same idea could be great from one team member but a despicable invention if suggested by another. People were afraid of him. He himself seemed to think he was a great leader with few flaws, though. He once tried to find out who had put in negative comments about him in an employee engagement survey so that he would know who to punish or even fire. At the same time, he could tell us that “I`m always here for you if you need support. You can come to me with any concern, and I will help you.” Telling him about a problem, risk or concern is the absolutely last thing anyone would want to do. I dare to say that this leader showed pretty much a complete breakdown in all the areas of Emotional Intelligence described above. Not just in a few situations, but repeatedly. Being emotionally intelligent is a definite prerequisite for establishing resonant leadership, since it is needed to build rapport, comfort, to motivate, persuade, and communicate effectively and many other critical leadership activities driven by emotional intelligence.

Resonant Leadership through the Six Leadership Styles

Goleman and his colleagues defined six leadership styles based on emotional intelligence that should be used as tools for building resonant leadership. The six styles can be divided into two different categories:

Leadership Styles that builds resonant leadership:

  1. 1
     Affiliative leadership, a relationship-oriented leadership style where the leader focuses on creating harmony within the team.
  2. 2
    Coaching leadership, where the resonant leader develops people over time with great involvement and dedication.
  3. 3
    Democratic leadership, where the entire team participates as equals in shaping decisions, suggesting ideas, and execution jointly agreed actions.
  4. 4
    Visionary leadership, where the resonant leader communicates a motivating and unifying long-term vision for the team to pursue together. (Some strong similarities with transformational leadership.)

These four leadership styles have positive impact on team and organizational climate and boosts performance. Resonant Leaders use these styles frequently and in a balanced way, avoiding to focus specifically on just one of the styles.

Leadership Styles that hinders resonant leadership:

  1. 1
     Commanding leadership, a task-oriented leadership style where the leader makes decisions single-handedly and relies on clarity, instructions, reward and punishment. (A Do as I tell you approach, similar to Autocratic Leadership.
  2. 2
    Pacesetting leadership, where the leader leads by example with a strong focus on results rather than people.

Although all the six styles should be used, including the two above, resonant leaders use commanding and pacesetting leadership carefully since they have negative effects on team climate as well as performance if they are overused. Hence, you should use them with great care and only when necessary.

There is much, much more to learn about these styles and the short, one sentence explanations above are not sufficient for actually using them the right way. Please refer to our article on the six leadership styles by Goleman as well as the topic pages on each style for details, examples and deeper understanding.

How do you implement resonant leadership?

You implement resonant leadership by creating emotional resonance in a team. This is achieved through the use of Emotional Intelligence and the Six Leadership styles, and specifically providing the team with:

  • A positive, open and supportive culture enabling innovation and creativity
  • Transparency and strong communication, ensuring the team knows as much as possible
  • Vision and purpose that inspires and unites the team to pursue a common goal together

You should always strive to improve your Emotional Intelligence since resonant leadership depends on it. Enhancing your EI is easier for some than for others, but we can all improve and get better at it. As a leader, you should use your Emotional Intelligence to create resonance with and within your team. Using the four resonant leadership styles will help you achieve this. I teach you how to do this in my leadership styles course, based on scientific material and my practical experience from years as an international CEO. If you do succeed, you will see a high-performing team and better results in the end. I have seen it happen with my own eyes. Here is another valuable tool I created to help you transform into a more high-performing leader using this framework: Pacesetting Leadership - A CEO's Blueprint.


Further reading

Further reading at leadershipahoy.com:

A 116 page E-book with articles on Great Man Theory, Trait Theory, Behavioral Theories (Lewin, Ohio, Michigan, Blake & Mouton), Contingency Theories (Fiedler, Path-Goal, Situational)


Primal Leadership (ad, amazon), by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee

Please also refer to all sources listed on each of the leadership style pages, i.e., visionary, affiliative, directive, democratic, coaching, and pacesetting articles, see links above under further reading.

Examples of references are listed in the deep-dive articles.

Develop yourself with these products from Leadershipahoy.com

Intrapersonal Communication: Your Inner Dialogue

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Leadership Styles
The Classics

- Learn the Lewin Styles:
Autocratic, Democratic,
Laissez-Faire Leadership
- Understand the Experiments And Conclusions

Leadership Origins

116 page E-book with Leadership Theories Over The Years: From Great Man And Trait Theory To Situational Leadership Theories

Pacesetting Leadership:
A CEO's Blueprint

- Master Pacesetting!

- Get results without unnecessary team stress

- Learn How to Push Performance from a CEO