James McNerney, CEO Boeing Inc., – An Assessment of Emotional Intelligence

W. James McNerney, the current CEO of Boeing Co. is noted for his relationship building leadership style. He embraced the people and culture of the companies he had led and strived to win the hearts and minds of employees with a clear vision of future success. On careful examination of Mr. McNerney’s leadership success, we understand how the emotional dimension of leadership, Primal leadership plays a vital role in articulating positive messages that resonate with follower’s emotional reality which is then used to move people in a positive direction to achieve desired business results. His command and connect leadership style owes a lot in common with the four domains of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-mastery of emotion, social awareness and relationship management. These domains have inter-dependence – self-awareness is fundamental for both self-management and social awareness. And social awareness and self-management in tandem are the building blocks of relationship management.


A highly accomplished executive, McNerney has great self-confidence, works intuitively to address problems and challenges himself to difficult tasks. McNerney understands his limitations when he starts working in industries in which he has no prior exposure. He would first talk to employees, understand the business, processes and people.  He has great work ethics and well aware of his personal emotions and its impact on behavior and performance. McNerney is open about constructive criticism and always willing to learn and seek help from others.


Being achievement oriented, McNerney recognizes the importance of intellectual and emotional capital of people and solicits product ideas consensually and harnesses positive behaviors to boost productivity, employee morale and corporate profits. Employees at 3M and Boeing had sound trust and faith in him because of his transparency – honesty, integrity and respect for everyone irrespective of their role in the organization. Even during crisis situations especially at Boeing, McNerney focused on Boeing as a world-class competitor, did not lose his temperament and made judgment calls ethically. As a keen initiator, he would seize opportunities, fix problems instantly and adapts to changing situations. To meet inner standards of excellence, McNerney adopted lean operations, quality processes such as six sigma, trained employees and created opportunities for professional advancement. By defining leadership attributes and delegating attribute ownership to individuals, expectations are raised and in consequence, people deliver results acting with integrity.

Social awareness

As a networker, McNerney built relationships with leaders and inside the organization to get insights into business problems. With deep rooted values, McNerney created a culture that values ethics and compliance. People are empowered to openly discuss ethical matters at all levels and violations are addressed immediately. Corporate social responsibility is regarded highly at Boeing and policies and procedures are implemented which protect the environment. He understands the competitive landscape and accordingly crafts strategies to overcome competition.

Relationship management

As a change catalyst, he would tap into the innate desire of employees to improve and remove barriers that inhibit their growth. He realized that business success cannot be realized without the cooperation from motivated employees. He is instrumental in defining positive behaviors, team-building and co-operation, nurturing and mentoring potential high performing employees and removes barriers that inhibit cooperation. Linking pay to performance, people exercise cost control and eliminate manipulative spending behaviors. By fostering collaboration and expressing the need for customer focus, McNerney is able to build efficient products for the company. He would always convey the business mission and goals and make employees feel valuable in the whole process. He built long-lasting productive relationships with suppliers to eliminate disruptions in production. Any organizational change is introduced with buy-in from all concerned employees and there is no autocratic enforcement. Feedback and guidance are part of employee evaluation that reinforces management’s commitment to further employee growth. Communication is from bottom up and all levels of employees are encouraged to participate in this process.

McNerney is passionate, inspiring, highly motivating and draws strength from strong values to lead emotionally. He is a change agent, honest, trustworthy and respectful of people’s emotions, highly flexible, frank, open and informal. It is these personal and social competencies that made Mr.McNerney a great inspirational leader.