6th March 2017

Learn from the Best Example of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

Heard of Emotional Intelligence (EI)?  Done the course?  Ever seen a great example of all six EI Leadership styles illustrated in five minutes?  In the course of my work I have looked high and low for a clear, non-theoretical example of EI leadership from literature, plays, films, TV – and I found one that shows not only the six leadership styles, but the fundamental principles that lie behind them as well – all in 5 minutes or so!


Daniel Goleman and his co-authors looked at Emotional Intelligence and Leadership in his book “The New Leaders”.  Their research identified six emotionally intelligent styles of leadership and they look at these from the most positive, by which they mean the most liberating, energising motivating, creative, engaging - down to the least positive, or if you like the most dangerous leadership styles that are clearly important in some instances but if overused can be very demotivating, very disengaging and really stifle creativity.  Listed from the most to the least positive, these are:


  • Visionary
  • Coaching
  • Affiliative
  • Democratic
  • Pace-setting
  • Commanding


So, here’s the leadership situation …

  • You’re King.  You’ve led an army into a nearby foreign land because you think you should be king of that, too – you have a “good” claim, but they won’t give it back!
  • You have an early but hard-won victory at the beginning, but the enemy refused to gather their army and fight it out – whether through strategy or incompetence is not clear.
  • Your army has marched around for weeks to demonstrate your strength and provoke the enemy, but you lost more men than expected in the battle, and …
  • Summer has passed to autumn – it rains.  Your men are wet, exhausted, tired, demoralised and sick – many die from illness and they have no “reward” for their pains.
  • You turn to go home, but the enemy get their act together and block your way.
  • Your army stands at the bottom of a slope between two woods – you have 6000 men, all that’s left from around 12,000, mostly archers and other foot soldiers.  They are tired and sick. 
  • At the top of the slope are 30,000 of the enemy troops.  Most of these are knights in armour on horseback.
  • What do your troops think as they look up at the enemy?  And what do they think of you?  Not only have you gotten them into this mess, but they know that the enemy won’t kill you and your aristocratic mates – they will capture you for ransom … but they will be slaughtered as useless!  Not good for your credibility in their eyes especially after the wasted time, effort and life you’ve led them into …
  • What do you say to your troops to motivate them before the battle?


I’m talking, of course, of the battle of Agincourt in 1415, and the shining example of EI leadership is Shakespeare’s Henry V Crispin’s Day speech.  Here’s what to look for:


One of his generals, Westmoreland, voices his understandable wish that they had “but one ten thousand of those men in England who do no work today!”


In response, Henry addresses his men’s concerns head on:



“If we are mark'd to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.”


In one sentence he lets everyone know that he will die with his men and also establishes his own personal reason for doing so – honour.  Thus, in his first sentence, he demonstrates two major pillars of EI: Awareness of Others and Relationship Management.  It is worth remembering that the evening before the battle Henry went around the campfires of his men in disguise and talked with them in order to understand their world.  This enables him to speak to their reality, not his – an ability that lies at the root of all great leadership as well as EI!  Also here, Henry’s sharing of his own personal reasons for being willing to die – honour – is an example of personal vulnerability that only helps to reinforce the relationship he goes on to build with his men.


Henry then goes on to lift his men and his relationship to them to another level through the use of Democratic Leadership:


“Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man's company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.”


In essence, the king (and remember, this is 1415 when the king, appointed by God, is the nearest entity next to God that can be imagined, especially by the yeomen, peasants and artisans that make up most of the army) is saying “I don’t want to die with you if you are not prepared to die with me – if you want to leave this fight we will give you money and safe passage.”  By giving his men the choice to stay or go he is engaging and empowering them – it is their choice and their fight if they stay.  Not only this, he is beginning to raise them up to his level through treating them as equals in choice and action.  He is also triggering in them the sense of honour that he has just primed – will you desert your comrades and your king?


Now, Henry moves to Visionary Leadership, painting a powerful and emotive vision of what it could mean for “He that outlives this day, and comes safe home …”:


This day is called the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he'll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day …”


Next, comes perhaps the most famous example of Affiliative Leadership in the English language, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”:

“And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.”


Here is the divine-appointed king telling his people that they have a chance to rise to his level, to be his “brother” through their participation in this battle – that they who fight with him will be transformed to the highest level of humanity possible in their world.  From being a band of doomed soldiers they are now the “happy few”, a “band of brothers” who will be the envy of all other men.


Next, one of the lords comes in and announces that the French are getting ready to attack.  Henry responds with the fundamental truth of EI, neurolinguistics programming, sports psychology and all modern positive psychology:


“All is ready if our minds be so!”


– a great example of Coaching Leadership.


In comes the French herald, their messenger, to ask for the final time if Henry is ready to surrender the field and give himself up for ransom.  Henry answers him and through his answers talks to his men using Commanding and Pace-setting Leadership.  


He gives the herald direct orders


… bear my former answer back:

Bid them achieve me and then sell my bones.

Good God! why should they mock poor fellows thus?”


 He sets the expectations and the standard for the day through his own example, saying that the only ransom they will have will be his bones and “joints”, worth “little”:


“Come thou no more for ransom, gentle herald:

They shall have none, I swear, but these my joints;

Which if they have as I will leave 'em them,

Shall yield them little, tell the constable.”


And he defines the true value and valour of his men – not how they look, but what is in their “hearts”:


“Let me speak proudly: tell the constable

We are but warriors for the working-day;

Our gayness and our gilt are all besmirch'd

With rainy marching in the painful field;

But, by the mass, our hearts are in the trim;”


Finally, Henry displays an understanding that he and his enterprise are not all about him nor totally under his control.  They must all do all they can, but at the same time recognize that the final outcome is subject to forces/circumstances/dimensions beyond their control.  He demonstrates one aspect of the true humility that Jim Collins says is the hallmark of the “Level 5”, the truly “Great” leader:


“… Now, soldiers, march away:

And how thou pleasest, God, dispose the day!”


Shakespeare wrote the speech around 400 years ago about an event that happened 600 years ago …  It just goes to show that the essence of great leadership is always the same – to connect deeply with those you lead, to speak to their world, to their level of understanding and in their language.  As a leader, what you want to say might sound great to you and may make you feel fantastic, but it can be largely irrelevant!  It is what your people can hear, and what they need to hear, that is the important thing, just as Shakespeare’s Henry V shows.


For a great rendition of the speech, have a look at Kenneth Branagh’s version at

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

Posted by Jefferson Cann

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