When it comes to leadership, being a high-performer just isn’t good enough anymore. Just because you’re the company’s number one sales rep, doesn’t mean you’re going to be a successful sales manager. Being a brilliant engineer doesn’t equate to being a magnetic CEO. Being the most productive line worker doesn’t automatically make you a great shift leader. Effective leadership is learned. Effective leadership is intentional. Effective leaders build meaningful relationships with their staff - cultivating a culture of resonance. Many “star players” find themselves promoted into management or supervisory roles with little to no leadership development support. Being an effective, skillful leader takes compassion, competence and intentionality - traits we must all learn and develop. As leaders it’s easy to fall into the traps that consume our time, get in the way of our sensibilities and hijack our best intentions.
Think of an inspiring leader with or for whom you’ve worked; someone who really motivated you to perform at your highest, someone with whom or beside you couldn’t wait to collaborate or work. Someone who brought out the best in you. Now think about the qualities, characteristics and attitudes which made that person a great leader. Resonant Leaders- those who evoke positive images, are supportive, empowering, listening, caring, compassionate, trustworthy and safe. Resonant leaders are those leaders who have meaningful connections to the people they lead. Meaningful relationships and emotional intelligence are at the crux of these connections. Conversely those bosses who evoke negative images (Dissonant Leaders) were micromanagers, egocentric, narcissistic, power-hungry, distrustful, dishonest, and/or demeaning. While these traits may push us into action in the short-term, they eventually lead to avoidance behaviors (doing as little as necessary to “get by”) and attitudes of apathy or disengagement because of whom we’d rather not follow.
Discoveries in neuroscience are helping us understand how it takes both our hearts, and our minds to be more effective, inspirational and resonant leaders. In a recent article by Richard Boyatzis, published in the Ivey Business Journal, Neuroscience and the Link Between Inspirational Leadership and Resonant Relationships, the author shares some recent research about the impact of emotionally relevant situations on our responses to others. The study found that when executives recalled critical moments with resonant leaders, neural circuits were activated in the brain. These circuits have been shown to be connected to empathy and compassion, and promote openness to new ideas and new emotions. “It was as if recalling key moments with resonant leaders put a person back into a positive state, one in which they could build relationships, think creatively, remain open, and approach people. Meanwhile, moments with dissonant leaders, though they aroused a few of the same areas, had mostly the opposite effect and drove people to avoid such leaders.” (Boyatzis, Ivey Business Journal, January/February 2012).
Can you think of examples of those supervisors or colleagues who lacked integrity, compassion and emotional connection? People who created a culture of fear, distrust, defensiveness, and the need for self-preservation? I have personally witnessed behaviors by supervisors who created a significant rift between teammates so strong, the previously high-performing team nearly crumbled under its own divisiveness and infighting. The supervisor used techniques that misused his power and created feelings of shame, lack of value, persecution, fear of retribution, and distrust.
As I look back on my own career, I have also been fortunate to work with a number of inspirational and resonant leaders-both my own supervisors and co-workers. The trust and compassion these people exude have helped me to be more creative, collaborative, daring and empathic. By their example, I have learned to be a more mindful leader myself-working with integrity and a sense of accountability to those to whom and for whom I’m responsible. By grounding decision-making in our organization’s articulated core purpose and core values, leaning into the unique abilities of our staff and students, and practicing a mindful, appreciative stance, I feel more competent and secure in the meaningful relationships I’ve developed with the staff with whom I have the pleasure of working.
As I explore the tenants of Boyatzis’s Resonant Leadership, I am reminded of the need to remain present in the moment, and lead from a place of integrity and authenticity. I am challenged to push back from the seemingly never-ending barrage of “urgent” needs pecking at my intentions, and swallowing my time. To instead lean into the intentions I set for myself, and stay grounded in the core values and core purpose from which we have agreed to work. Being a resonant, effective and compassionate leader takes intention, practice, reflection and...more practice.. In the wise words of John Quincy Adams, ”If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I look forward to my continued leadership development journey, and aspire to become the leader that Mr. Adams describes.