October 13, 2005
Excerpts: Resonant Leadership Part II
**Annotated Excerpt from Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope and Compassion by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee; Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2005, pp 1-10.**
Never before has change happened so quickly, so completely, or so globally. For those bold enough to lead in this age of uncertainty, the challenges are immense. Our world is a new world, and it requires a new kind of leadership. The men and women we call resonant leaders are stepping up, charting paths through unfamiliar territory, and inspiring people in their organizations, institutions, and communities.
Of course, to be great, a leader needs to understand the market, the technology, the people, and a multitude of other factors affecting the organization. While this knowledge is necessary, it is not sufficient to produce sustainable, effective leadership. This is where resonance comes into play.
Leaders who can create resonance are people who either intuitively understand or have worked hard to develop emotional intelligencenamely, the competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. In addition to knowing and managing themselves well, emotionally intelligent leaders manage others emotions and build strong, trusting relationships. They know that emotions are contagious and that their own emotions are powerful drivers of their peoples moods and, ultimately, performance. They understand that while fear and anger may mobilize people in the short term, these emotions backfire quickly, leaving people distracted, anxious, and ineffective. They inspire through demonstrating passion, commitment, and deep concern for people and the organizational vision. They give us courage and hope, and help us to become the best that we can be.
The problem is that being resonant is not so easy, and sustaining it is even harder. Why is resonance so difficult? We think it has something to do with the nature of the job and how we manage it. Even the best leadersthose who can create resonancemust give of themselves constantly. For many people, especially the busy executives we work with, little value is placed on renewal, or developing practiceshabits of mind, body, and behaviorthat enable us to create and sustain resonance in the face of unending challenges, year in and year out. In fact, it is often just the opposite. Many organizations overvalue certain kinds of destructive behavior and tolerate discord and mediocre leadership for a very long time, especially if a person appears to produce results. Not much timeor encouragementis given for cultivating skills and practices that will counter the effects of our stressful roles.
The Cycle of Sacrifice and Renewal
But when leaders sacrifice too much for too longand reap too littlethey can become trapped in what we call the Sacrifice Syndrome. Leaders are often cut off from support and relationships with people. Our bodies are just not equipped to deal with this kind of pressure day after day. Over time, we become exhaustedwe burn out or burn up. The constant small crises, heavy responsibilities, and perpetual need to influence people can be a heavy burden, so much so that we find ourselves trapped in the Sacrifice Syndrome and slip into internal disquiet, unrest, and distress. In other words, dissonance becomes the default, even for leaders who can create resonance. And, because our emotions are contagious, dissonance spreads quickly to those around us and eventually permeates our organizations. Dissonant leaders wreak havoc. They are at the mercy of volatile emotions and reactivity. They drive people too hard, for the wrong reasons, and in the wrong directions. They leave frustration, fear, and antagonism in their wake. And they are often completely unaware of the damage they have done.
Stress has always been part of the leaders reality and always will be. The problem is too little recovery time. Many leaders fail to manage the Cycle of Sacrifice and Renewal that must be regulated in order to maintain resonance. What can we do? To sustain effectiveness once it has been achieved, we need to manage the syndrome of sacrifice, stress, and dissonancenot be its victims. Using renewal to return to resonance again and again is the key.
Renewal relies on three key elements that might at first sound too soft to support the hard work of being a resonant leader. But they are absolutely essential; without them, leaders cannot sustain resonance in themselves or with others. The first element is mindfulness, or living in a state of full, conscious awareness of ones whole self, other people, and the context in which we live and work. The second element, hope, enables us to believe that the future we envision is attainable, and to move toward our visions and goals while inspiring others toward those goals as well. When we experience the third critical element for renewal, compassion, we understand peoples wants and needs and feel motivated to act on our feelings.
Leaders today face unprecedented challenges that can result in a vicious cycle of stress, pressure, sacrifice, and dissonance. To counter the inevitable challenges of leadership roles, we need to engage in a conscious process of renewal both on a daily basis and over time. To do so, most of us need to intentionally transform our approach to managing ourselves, and we need to learn new behaviorspractices that enable us to maintain internal resonance and attunement with those we lead. We need to cultivate mindfulness and learn to engage the experiences of hope and compassion. We need to focus deliberately on creating resonance within ourselvesmind, body, heart, and spiritand then channel our resonance to the people and groups around us.
In their new book, Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others through Mindfulness, Hope and Compassion, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee explore how leaders can sustain resonance over time. In addition to stories of real leaders and new research, the authors offer a number of exercises to help readers explore their own capacity for resonance and excellent leadership. Below are three of these exercisesyou may find they spark your interest in creating and sustaining resonance in yourself and with others.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.