Resonant Vs. Dissonant Leadership Styles

Resonant and dissonant leadership are discussed in the 2002 book "Primal Leadership," by Daniel Goleman. Goleman connected concepts from his previous book, "Emotional Intelligence," to leadership and indicated that resonant leaders tend to manage with more emotional intelligence, while dissonant leaders are less influencing in times of stress.

Resonant Basics

  1. Resonant leaders have a higher degree of emotional intelligence and a greater ability to connect personally with followers. They show empathy for employees struggling with life challenges. They are more likely to create harmony in a group and motivate workers to follow direction, even in tense company situations. Employees typically believe that a resonant leader cares as much about them as people as he does about their work performance.


  1. Goleman identified which common leadership styles are associated with resonant and dissonant leaders. Visionaries, coaches, affiliators and democratic leaders were noted as types of resonant leaders. Visionaries are often known as charismatic or transformational leaders. They use personal qualities to inspire employees toward a common goal. Coaches use a close, mentoring approach with employees. Affiliators want group harmony above all else. This is beneficial in developing a team environment, though it may lead to inefficiency and poor discipline at the extreme. Democratic leaders use various forms of participative leadership and actively seek employee input or feedback.

Dissonant Basics

  1. Dissonant leaders tend to operate more on the authoritative side of leadership. They maintain a greater social and emotional distance from employees. This can aid in times when orders must be delivered and executed urgently. However, dissonant leaders can cause emotional frustration, stress, burnout and disengagement among employees. While a dissonant leader often intends to remain objective and logical in decision-making, his approach is commonly viewed by employees as cold and distant.


  1. The two styles Goleman linked to dissonant leadership were pacesetting and commanding. A pacesetter focuses heavily on getting employees to constantly ramp up efficiency and performance in meeting deadlines. While this approach may work in crunch time, it can wear on employees as a constant leadership style. A commander simply operates with a highly authoritative style. He expects employees to complete tasks quickly and without questioning. This conflicts with contemporary leadership approaches emphasizing empowerment and employee involvement.