About Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. As a science journalist Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half, with more than 5,000,000 copies in print worldwide in 40 languages, and has been a best seller in many countries. Apart from his books on emotional intelligence, Goleman has written books on  topics including self-deception, creativity, transparency, meditation, social and emotional learning, ecoliteracy and the ecological crisis.

The Harvard Business Review called emotional intelligence— which discounts IQ as the sole measure of one’s abilities — “a revolutionary, paradigm-shattering idea” and chose his article “What Makes a Leader” as one of ten “must-read” articles from its pages. Emotional Intelligence was named one of the 25 “Most Influential Business Management Books” by TIME Magazine. The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and Accenture Insititute for Strategic Change have listed Goleman among the most influential business thinkers.

Goleman is a co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (www.casel.org), originally at the Yale Child Studies Center and now at the University of Illinois at Chicago. CASEL’s mission centers on bringing evidence-based programs in emotional literacy to schools worldwide.

He currently co-directs the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations (www.eiconsortium.org) at Rutgers University. The consortium fosters research partnerships between academic scholars and practitioners on the role emotional intelligence plays in excellence.

Goleman is a board member of the Mind & Life Institute, which fosters dialogues and research collaborations among contemplative practitioners and scientists. Goleman has organized a series of intensive conversations between the Dalai Lama and scientists, which resulted in the books Healthy Emotions, and Destructive Emotions. He is currently editing a book from the most recent dialogue on ecology, interdependence, and ethics.

Goleman’s work as a science journalist has been recognized with many awards, including the Washburn Award for science journalism, a Lifetime Career Award from the American Psychological Association, and he was made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of his communicating science to the general public.

In His Own Words

I was born in Stockton, California, on March 7, 1946, the leading tip of the tidal wave of post-war baby boomers (I must have been conceived just around the time of V-E day, the end of World War II in Europe, June 6, 1945). My parents were college professors, my father taught in the humanities—including Latin and a course on world literature—at what became San Joaquin Delta Community College (the library there is named after him); my mother was a social worker who taught in the sociology department of what is now the University of the Pacific.

Perhaps because I was president of my high school, I received a scholarship for leadership from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to attend Amherst College, a place I had never seen in faraway New England. In part due to culture shock (and taking advantage of the then-new Amherst Independent Scholar program), I transferred to the University of California at Berkeley for my junior year and part of my senior year, returning to Amherst to graduate. At Berkeley, where I was an anthropology major, I was lucky enough to have several remarkable professors, including a graduate seminar with the brilliant sociologist Erving Goffman on rituals of social interaction. When I returned to Amherst, I wrote my honors paper on mental health in historical, anthropological and social perspectives, graduating magna cum laude—a miracle given my disastrous academic performance there my freshman year.

The Ford Foundation was generous enough to give me a scholarship to Harvard, where I enrolled in the program in clinical psychology in what was then the Department of Social Relations. I was drawn to the idea of studying the human mind from an interdisciplinary perspective; the department included anthropology and sociology together with psychology. My main mentor there was David C. McClelland, best-known for his theory of the drive to achieve. Just at this time McClelland was developing and championing methods for assessing the competencies that distinguished star performers from average—a body of research I was to return to later in my career.

With McClelland’s help and a Harvard pre-doctoral traveling fellowship, I was able to study in India, where my focus was on the ancient systems of psychology and accompanying meditation practices of Asian religions. I had been a meditator since my junior year in Berkeley, and was intrigued by finding theories of the mind and its development that were still in active use after two thousand years or more (and which had never been mentioned in any psychology course I had taken). When I returned to Harvard, my doctoral research was on meditation as an intervention in stress arousal.

I then received a post-doctoral grant from the Social Science Research Council to return to Asia and continue my studies of these ancient psychologies, spending time both in India and Sri Lanka. I wrote what became my first book, now called The Meditative Mind, summarizing my research on meditation.
I returned to Harvard as a visiting lecturer, teaching a course on the psychology of consciousness—a topic of intense interest back then in the 1970s. Because it was so heavily enrolled, the class was moved from a small room to one of the largest lecture halls on campus.

Then, on McClelland’s recommendation, I was offered a job at Psychology Today, then a major magazine, by T. George Harris, the editor. This was an unexpected jog in my career path—I had always thought I would be a college professor like my parents. But writing appealed to me, and at the magazine I went through a tutorial in journalism that was to set the course of the rest of my career.

Recruited by the New York Times to cover psychology and related fields, in 1984 I began a twelve-year sojourn. I learned much about science journalism from my editors and colleagues, a talented crew on the science desk, and the Times offered remarkable access and visibility. But I found that my urge to write about ideas with impact sent me in directions that did not always fit what the Times saw as news. This was especially so with the rich trove of research on emotions and the brain, which I had covered in small bits and pieces over the years for the times. I felt the topic deserved to be a book, and so Emotional Intelligence came to be. To my surprise, the book ended up being hugely successful. I got so many requests to lecture that I had less and less time for writing in the Times. I finally left the paper to devote my efforts to the message of the book.

Foremost among these was the idea that schools should teach emotional literacy along with regular academic subjects. While I was writing Emotional Intelligence, I pursued this idea with a group including Eileen Growald and Tim Shriver. In 1993 we co-founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, headed by Roger Weissberg, which began at the Yale Child Studies Center, and then moved to the University of Illinois at Chicago with Roger. The Collaborative has catalyzed the SEL movement, so that programs in these life skills are now commonplace in thousands of schools around the world. Just as important, careful research evaluations are showing that SEL not only improves children’s social and emotional abilities, but also lowers risks like violence, substance abuse, and unwanted teen pregnancies, while making kids better behaved and more positive about learning. Most impressively, academic achievement scores improve by an average 12 to 15%.

To my surprise, there was also great interest in emotional intelligence among the business community. This prompted me to write Working With Emotional Intelligence (published in 1998), and I went back to the research tradition spawned by David McClelland, which by then had become commonplace in most large organizations. This allowed me to survey studies of the competencies that distinguished outstanding performers done independently in a large range of organizations, from PepsiCo to the U.S. Federal Government. This work in turn led to my writing an article in the Harvard Business Review called “What Makes a Leader?” The article became the Review’s most-requested reprint to that point, a gauge of the enthusiasm for the concept among those in the organizational world.

My immersion in research on work performance led me realize that all too often the quality of data on which business people based people decisions left much to be desired. At about this time I co-founded the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, which I direct with Cary Cherniss of the Graduate Program in Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers. The Consortium, has a parallel mission to the SEL collaborative, catalyzing research on the contribution of emotional intelligence abilities to workplace effectiveness.

I found the role of emotional intelligence in leadership particularly compelling. With Richard Boyatzis—who had been a fellow graduate student with McClelland, and now teaches in the business school at Case Western—and his former student Annie McKee, who heads the consulting firm Teleos Institute, I wrote Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence.
Since my long sojourn in Asia as a grad student, I have been an on-and-off meditator. Through my friends Adam Angle and Francisco Varela, who had founded the Mind and Life Institute to foster dialogues between the Dalai Lama and scientists, in 1990 I organized a round on the topic of health and emotions, which became the edited book Healthy Emotions. A decade later, I organized a second dialogue on the question of what makes an emotion destructive, which I narrated in the book Destructive Emotions.

I’m continuing to write in the home where my wife Tara and I live in New York. My two sons from an earlier marriage both are nearby, as are my grand-children.

While a bio like this focuses on one’s public life, I find that over the years my private life has grown increasingly important to me, particularly as the years allow me to spend less time running around and more time just being. I find more and more that what satisfies me has little to do with how well one or another book does—though the good works I participate in continue to matter much.

My wife Tara and I try to spend a good deal of our free time in meditation retreats or traveling together to places we enjoy that nourish this side of our lives. Life’s simple pleasures—a walk on a beach, playing with grand-children, a good conversation with a friend—have more appeal to me than professional honors or ambitions.

As I wrote in Social Intelligence: “Vitality arises from sheer human contact, especially from loving connections. This makes the people we care about most an elixir of sorts, an ever-renewing source of energy. The neural exchange between a grandparent and a toddler, between lovers or a satisfied couple, or among good friends, has palpable virtues… the practical lesson for us all comes down to, Nourish your social connections.”

Irving Goleman (1898-1961)

The recent re-dedication of the Irving Goleman Library at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton California prompted me to write this in his memory.

My father Irving Goleman was born in 1898, in Kansas City, Missouri, to immigrant parents. He was 48 when I was born, and I was just 15 when he passed away in 1961. When I was asked to speak at the rededication of the newly remodeled Irving Goleman Library at San Joaquin Delta community college in Stockton, I welcomed the chance to delve into his papers and revitalize my sense of my father. One of my earliest memories of my father is his getting up at 4 a.m. to read, prepare lectures, and grade papers (I would wake up, ask him for a glass of water, and go back to sleep). He was an enormously dedicated teacher, and – I’m told by his former students – a riveting lecturer.

His signature course was “World Literature: Autobiography of Civilization,” an overview of literature from earliest to modern times, from around the world. His survey went beyond the standard canon of ancient epics and literary classics to include oral traditions, myth, fairy tales and folk ballads. But going through his papers in an ancient filing cabinet, I came across what was truly unique about the class: his assignments for each student, each preserved in a set of 3X5 cards.

The first paper he would assign was an autobiography, “Who Am I?” On the basis of that he would assign each student a unique set of readings tailored to the issues they faced in life. So, for instance, a student named Emilie was assigned “A Study of Conflicts in the Soul of Womanhood.” She was to read Shakespeare’s “Othello” and “Anthony and Cleopatra,” Racine’s “Phaedra,” Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabbler,” and O’Neill’s “Strange Interlude.”

Another student’s topic was “Business Ethics and Literature as Social Critique”—Sinclair Lewis’ “Babbit,” Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” And for someone named “Blondell” the topic was: “Six Plays and Three Playwrights in Search of Blondell.”

I’ve run into former students attending their 50th reunions at the University of the Pacific (where he taught for years) who told me his was the only class they remember after all these years. Dave Brubeck and his wife Iola were students; years later Dave wrote “Light in the Wilderness,” an oratorio he dedicated to my father, along with two musical mentors.

Irving’s wide-ranging reading went hand in hand with his field, philology – a combination of literature, history, and linguistics. His studies included Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Sanskrit. While studying at the University of California at Berkeley, he became friends with a fellow student, Peter Boodberg, a brilliant Russian immigrant who eventually learned more than 30 Asian languages, wrote a Chinese-English dictionary, and founded the Asian Studies department at Berkeley. Peter and Irving were lifelong best friends.
As a graduate student at Yale in the 1930s, Irving was the first Hillel adviser at a time when prejudice was the norm at exclusive universities, with explicit quotas. He had a lifelong sensitivity to the unfairness of stereotypes and prejudice. One of his mottos was, from the Latin: “I am a human, and therefore nothing human is alien to me.” By chance, our family learned long after he passed away that in the 1940s, when all the Japanese families were rounded up to be sent off to “relocation camps,” he came to give a talk to them the night before they were shipped off, to let them know there were Americans who knew they were not the enemy.
In 1935, Irving was recruited from Yale to come to what started as the lower division of the College of the Pacific, and later spun off as Stockton Junior College. He felt called to a mission: to bring high quality education to show who could not afford elite schools; he saw the emerging community college movement as a way to share intellectual riches.

Irving did this with passion. Here’s a comment he made on the paper of one of his students, urging her to do her share “to counter-act the cynical materialism of our age – afraid to dream of peace and love and compassionate understanding. We who believe in mankind must keep our feet on the ground – i.e., learn all we can about the total human being, good and bad – but ever persist and act in our faith there are things of the spirit greater and more ennobling than cold reason, timid commonsense, safety first, and my and mine.”

Fay Goleman (1910-2010)

My mother witnessed remarkable social changes in her 99 years of life and, in her own small way, contributed to them. She was born in 1910 in Chicago to immigrant parents. Her father was from a part of Russia now called Belarus; once in the U.S. he became a labor organizer in the textile industry and later a factory manager. Fay’s mother, Emma Levinson Weinberg, was orphaned as a child and raised by cousins. Emma, who had been taught to read by her father before he died, was just a teenager when she risked her life by gathering groups of Russian peasants in secluded spots to read tracts urging a peasant’s revolt against he Czar, a capital crime. Emma fled Russia and came to America.

Fay grew up in an atmosphere of intellectual and political debate, in a Chicago neighborhood brimming with Russian émigré “intelligentsia.” As a girl one of her role models was Jane Addams, who had co-founded Hull House, a social welfare center in Chicago that was an early model for what became a movement of “settlement houses” that offered social services to destitute immigrant families.

After completing her undergraduate education at the University of Chicago, Fay earned a Masters in Social Work from Smith College. In 1932 she married my father Irving, who was an impoverished graduate student at Yale. While he pursued his graduate work in philology, Fay was the social secretary to the wife of Yale president James Rowland Angell.

During those years, Fay also worked with the movement founded by Margaret Sanger (which later became Planned Parenthood). In a move that echoed her own mother’s clandestine meetings in the Russian forests, Fay was the social worker in groups that held secret classes for women in family planning, which were illegal at the time.

In 1935 my parents drove in a model A Ford with another couple to California, a trip that took several weeks in those days. They both joined the faculty at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Fay taught at UOP for four decades in the Sociology and Education departments, and founded the clinical services program.
I can remember as a child in the 1950s that I was the only kid I knew who had not just a working Dad, but also a Mom who worked full time (hard to believe in a day when it’s now a minority of couples where both parent don’t work). With her childhood memories of the suffragette movement successfully winning women the right to vote in 1919, Fay was a lifelong pioneer in the struggle for equal rights for women. Throughout her career she very often was the “first woman to…” starting with being the editor of her high school yearbook. In 1972 she became the first Chair of the Affirmative Action Committee at UOP, and received the University’s Susan B. Anthony Award in 1989.

In the years when I was going to Sunday School in a dilapidated building next to the temple we attended, Fay saw that it was a fire trap. So she wrote a stinging letter to the board members, and hand-delivered a copy to all 18 at their homes. That sparked a building campaign that resulted in a new temple and Sunday school—a copy of her letter is on display in its lobby to this day.

Always active in community concerns, I have endless childhood memories of Fay trotting off to this meeting or that: As a board member of the Stockton Community council, she helped initiate the founding of the Visiting Nurse Association, a senior citizens center, a center for the handicapped, services to the developmentally disabled, and the building of the Stockton Public Library. At one time or another she was president of the San Joaquin County Community Council, and on the boards of the San Joaquin County Public Welfare association, the Parent-Teacher Association Foundation, and our temple. Then there were her trips to Sacramento as a member of the governor’s Advisory Committees on Mental Health and on Children and Youth. When there was a riot in a girl’s prison, Fay was on the committee that investigated and wrote the report that recommended reforms. My Mom was always on the go; she took her civic responsibility very seriously.

Every Sunday Fay had a phone call with her brother, Alvin Weinberg, a physicist. He was the Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory for 25 years. An early advocate of alternative energy, Alvin eventually was fired by a large corporation that took over the lab with plans to go into the nuclear energy business. Alvin lost his position because he vocally and continually warned the industry against letting nuclear power plants be run by private companies who might trade off safety for profits, and that the industry must find a safe way to store nuclear waste. Fay and Alvin spoke weekly for more than half a century, until his death at 91 in 2006.

Fay passed away a few months short of her 100th birthday, in the same bedroom where my father had died from cancer almost a half century before.  When my sisters and I closed up the house, we went through Fay and Irving’s papers, and sorted out their large, eclectic library.  As we remembered moments from our childhood, I felt a deep gratitude to both my parents for having raised us in a stew of love, social conscience, a spirit of service, and endless intellectual curiosity.