Skip to content

Book Review: Primal Leadership

November 11, 2014

I wasn’t sure what to expect by Primal Leadership. The title sounds like a description of tribal leadership, or “What we can learn about leadership from primates.” It was written by a group of researchers under the direction of Daniel Goleman, author of the New York Times Bestseller Emotional Intelligence. And that’s really where Primal Leadership picks up from. The subtitle is “Realizing the power of emotional intelligence.”

In their case they are using “Primal” to mean basic, or fundamental. The researchers focus on how a leader’s emotional intelligence affects a team or a company. They go through the various leadership types; the coach, the hard charging sales pacesetter, the visionary and more. Each leadership style has it’s own place and purpose. At times a group needs a visionary. At other times a team needs a pacesetter. The authors spend a lot of time explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each style.

I tried something new with this book review. I listened to the book on CD. I commute about 90 minutes per day, 45 minutes each way. I thought I would hate it. I really like music. I’m the only person in the USA who still buys CDs. In my car right now I have the latest Brad Paisley CD, the latest Miranda Lambert, and the latest Toby Keith.

But, a funny thing happened, I didn’t hate it. I kind of enjoyed it. I found myself lingering in my car in the driveway as the voice actor, Arthur Morey finished up a point. The downside is that a made a trip right in the middle. And it was hard to come back two weeks later and pick up where I left off. Also, I’m a very visual learner, and especially when the text makes a series of points that all relate to each other, it was challenging to hold the entire list in my head going 75 mph.

Anyway, on to what it means for you.

What I Liked
They authors gave practical suggestions. The book unfolded in such a way that it was easy to figure out which of the six styles you identified with. Then, they took you through the process of identifying your strengths and weaknesses. And if you are a particular leadership style and had been frustrated in the past in certain leadership scenarios, you now have the knowledge necessary to both identify the problem and make changes. The book was both validating and an impulse to change.

What I Didn’t
The authors are obviously very educated in their fields. At times I felt like the book was directed at their peers rather than at me. They spent way too much time talking about the portion of the brain that controls different impulses or desires. It was all fine and dandy if I had bought a book on how the brain works. But, in a leadership book, I just wanted the author to get through the medical mumbo jumbo and get back to talking about leadership.

What It Means To You
This is a great book to help you become more aware of your own leadership style. It can help you to recognize these leadership styles in those you work with. And if your manager has a particular style, “Primal Leadership” will help you to better know how to interact with him.

Three out of five stars.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (
LinkedIn (
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

From → Book Reviews

Leave a Reply