I have been inspired by the ‘mindfulness’ work done by Michael Chaskalson. Here are his thoughts on resonant leadership….
If you’ve ever worked under a good partner you’ll know how satisfying that can be. Good partners make work enjoyable, however demanding it is. They inspire their teams to give of their best, skilfully drawing on the talents and temperaments of the associates. In other words, they create “resonance”, drawing out and amplifying the qualities of those around them. Dissonant partners, by contrast, drain the enthusiasm of teams and organizations, lowering morale and making those around them unhappy. What are the qualities that separate resonant from dissonant leaders, and are people simply born with these qualities or can they be learned?
Richard Boyatzis, professor of organizational behaviour, specialises in the study of leadership and coaching leaders. In his book, Resonant Leadership, Boyatzis and his co-author Annie McKee investigate what the attributes of effective leadership are and how they may be developed and maintained.
Good leaders, they believe, attain resonance with those around them by using the skills of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. But the demands of leadership produce power stress, a side-effect of being in a position of power and influence that can leave even the best leaders physically and emotionally drained. This leads to what they call the sacrifice syndrome: time, relationships, outside of work interests – all of these must at times be sacrificed in the cause of effective leadership.
From the neuroscientific perspective, the sympathetic nervous system that governs the flight-or-flight response can be over-stimulated by the demands of power stress and so resonance easily turns into dissonance, with the leader shutting down emotionally and losing touch with his or her team, colleagues, clients or customers. This occurs so often that for most leaders dissonance is their most frequent state of mind.
The good news however is that leaders can maintain resonance by actively engaging in a process of renewal. This involves undertaking activities that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system that institutes a process of mental and emotional renewal. There are three key elements to this:
- Mindfulness, or living in a state of full awareness of oneself, others and the environment
- Hope, or the belief in an attainable future
- Compassion, the understanding of people’s needs and desires and the motivation to act on that.
The interaction among these qualities sparks positive emotions, enabling leaders to maintain resonant relationships even in times of great stress.
“The logic of Resonant Leadership can be summed up in four statements,” says Boyatzis.
“First, great leaders are those who move us through forming resonant relationships with the people around them.
Second, people who establish resonant relationships do it through the experiences of mindfulness, hope and compassion.
Third, leadership is stressful, with all the negative effects of stress of diminishing learning ability and lowering your immune system, and threatening the effectiveness of everyone around you.
Fourth, the way leaders renew themselves through the same three things that enable them to form resonant relationships, namely, the experiences of mindfulness, hope and compassion.”
Boyatzis suggests that the pressures to pull managers into dissonance are increasing. This is fed by a number of issues. Firstly, time compression – we’re all moving faster than before. Then there is multitasking. People go to a personal event, like a dinner, and keep checking their e-mail or their phone messages. Then there is the post 9/11 feeling that the world is increasingly unsafe. Now there is the credit crunch and recession. These are huge pulls toward dissonant experiences.
“To be effective with other people,” says Boyatzis, “you need to intentionally work towards resonant relationships. That means working towards having mindfulness, hope and compassion as part of those relationships. If you do that, you’ll find emotionally and physiologically a degree of self-renewal that will lead you to greater effectiveness and satisfaction.”
Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Michael and his practice: