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“It is a fact that some men possess an inbred superiority which gives them a dominating influence over their contemporaries, and marks them out unmistakably for leadership.” (Adair, 1983, p. 7) In relation to the music industry, this could not be truer of Simon Cowell. This essay will evaluate leadership, management, and emotional intelligence theories in relation to the music business and explore how Simon Cowell’s leadership style relates to these theories.


Cowell is one of the most well-known personalities in the music industry and has become a household name, not only in the United Kingdom but also over the Atlantic in the United States. He has achieved this by selling over 150 million records worldwide with 70 chart-topping singles and setting up his own record labels signing the likes of Susan Boyle, Little Mix, Fifth Harmony and Westlife to name a few (Lazarus, 2014). However, what he is probably best known for is being the founder and judge of some of the worlds largest talent competitions such as Pop Idol, the X-factor and Britain’s Got Talent (Editors, 2015). These competitions are watched by millions, have global spin-offs and has gained him fame and notability around the world. Cowell was named in Time magazines Time 100 most influential people in 2004 and 2010 showing he is not only a global leader within the music industry but one of the words most influential people (Cannon, 2010).

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However, what is leadership? “There are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept” (Bass, 1981). A good place to start defining leadership is to look at how it differs from management. In essence “Leadership is about inspiring and management is about planning” (Hargreaves, 2015). Managers exercise power over people, promote stability, order and problem solving within existing organisational structure and systems. Whereas, leaders develop power within people, implement good ideas, show what to do, create heroes of everyone around them and create change within organisational structure and systems (Hargreaves, 2015). But this doesn’t define how one becomes a leader apposed to a manager. Bass and Stogdill proposed the leadership theory (Bass, 1981). This consisted of the trait theory, great event theory and transformational/ process leadership theory. Trait theory proposes that a leader has certain innate traits that enable them to lead. Traits such as assertiveness, dependability, persistence and adaptability. (Leadership-Central, n.d.) This theory is based upon the characteristics of many leaders, both successful and unsuccessful, to identify and predict leadership effectiveness. Leaders are then compared to the resulting list of traits to access their likelihood of success or failure (Management study guide, n.d.). (Northouse, 2015, p. 29-31) suggests that a strength in trait theory is that it adds to leadership knowledge in three valuable ways; it builds upon the premise that leaders are distinctive, unlike other leadership theories it has over a century of research to confirm the approach and trait theory provides a benchmark for identifying leaders. These strengths demonstrate the value that trait theory has provided the study of leadership. However, the theory also has weaknesses. The theory is leader centric only focusing on the leader and not the followers or the situation. The theory’s research also fails to look at how specific traits influence leadership outcomes such as productivity, performance and employee satisfaction. The validity of the theory is also uncertain as research findings are ambiguous and subjective, also since traits are innate it is unusual to use this theory in training and development purposes (Northouse, 2015, p. 30-32).


One of the globally recognised key leadership concepts, first introduced by Goleman (2006), is emotional intelligence, but what is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is the fundamental capability to understand and recognise one’s own emotions and the emotions of others, being able to identify and discriminate between feelings and describe them correctly, use this information to help guide an individuals thinking and behaviour and then being able to adjust one’s emotions to better suit an environment or to achieve a goal (Goleman, 2006).


 Goleman theorises that having a high degree of emotional intelligence is what separates out great leaders from the not so great also suggesting that, having a high IQ is not what makes an effective leader but is more of an entry level requirement for an executive position leading to leadership opportunities (Goleman, 2006).

Emotional Intelligence is measured using the ‘four pillars’; The ability to understand one’s emotions, ability to control one’s emotions, ability to read emotions in other people and the ability to manage relationships. This leads to Goleman’s (1988) five components of emotional intelligence that allow individuals to learn, recognise and connect with their own and other people’s mental states. These components are; self awareness, self regulation, motivation that goes beyond money and status, empathy for others and social skills such as managing personal and work relationships and building networks. These components are major characteristics of world renowned leaders.

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