As someone who teaches management and business students every day, I would imagine that some students would find it confusing to think that they must vary their styles of management. We operate upon the belief that each of us has a particular personality and that our style of management is rooted in that particular personality, for example, as we learn about Theory X and Theory Y managers. So Goleman's argument seems to be that we must somehow change something about ourselves that we hold to be immutable.
Additionally, he is arguing that these changes are situation-dependent, and this could be confusing, too. How are we supposed to make these adjustments every time a situation changes? We are expected to monitor so that we are using the correct management style based upon the company's mission, the size of the company, or what kinds of employees we are managing. This seems like a great deal to ask of a manager!
Having said that, I do think that most students can eventually understand that they make adjustments like this all the time without even thinking about it. Students, for example, do not relate to their professors the way they relate to their friends. Nor do they relate to strangers the way they related to people they know well. They understand that some situations call for formality, while others call for informality.
Students who are accustomed to focusing in their courses on managing with only the "bottom line" as a guide may find Goleman's continuing focus on emotional intelligence to be unusual. But in my opinion, he is on the right track. In managing others, if we are not emotionally intelligent enough to motivate and engage them, the bottom line is almost irrelevant. Different situations call for different leadership styles, just as all the situations in our lives call for different styles.
One thing that might be confusing is why research might correlate leadership style with emotional intelligence to start with. The answer is that the unnamed researchers geared their experiment to test for the correlation between leadership style and emotional intelligence competencies. Their findings determined (1) how leadership skills and emotional intelligence correlate with leadership style and (2) how emotional intelligence and leadership style interrelate with each other and (3) how emotional intelligence underpins leadership success (defined as positive business outcomes).
Another thing that might be confusing is how this interrelationship between leadership style and emotional intelligence affects business outcomes. Positive business outcomes are directly correlated with positive leadership styles. Leadership styles have--now, because of this research--predictable positive results in business outcomes consequent to the application of leadership styles correlated to different emotional intelligence competencies.
New research suggests that the most effective executives use a collection of distinct leadership styles – each in the right measure, at just the right time. Such flexibility is tough to put into action, but it pays off in performance. And better yet, it can be learned. (Goleman, "Leadership That Gets Results")
For instance, as an example, since the Authoritative leadership style yields a .54 statistical correlation with (a) an overall improvement in workplace productivity and well-being, in overall workplace climate, it can be predicted that (b) the particular pattern indicative of the interrelationship between leadership style and emotional intelligence that is identified as Authoritative will (c) correlate with positive business outcomes as it is accepted that positive workplace climate results in positive business outcomes.