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Sustainable Change - The Journey from Dissonance to Resonance in Leadership

by Margaret Bell | November 6, 2018

When we discussed resonant and dissonant leadership in a recent article, we did so purely in definitive terms. I wanted to define these terms and provide a context for understanding the key differences between the two styles; between the warm, nurturing, and inspiring style of resonance, and the authoritarian, dictatorial, and distant style of dissonance.

Today I'd like to go a little deeper, exploring the practicalities of shifting from a dissonant leadership style to a more positive, resonant style. How do we make this shift? How do we engage with the benefits of resonance within our own leadership endeavours? These are the questions I will seek to answer today.

Resonance Through True Connection

In their 2005 book, Resonant Leadership, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee made an interesting point with regard to leadership. They identified a leadership phenomenon known as 'sacrifice syndrome', in which leaders, when faced with a heavy workload and organisational stress, martyr themselves by taking on far more work than usual.

This might be seen by some as positive; as an example of 'leading from the front' and demonstrating the ethics of hard work and self-sacrifice. However, as Boyatzis and Mckee point out, this very often has the opposite effect. 

In this scenario, the leader puts their head down. They bear the extra weight thrown their way and they soldier on, but what about communication, what about the relationship with their team? In effect, lines of communication are severed, the leader becomes isolated, and, as a result, the team loses its way. 

Leaders cannot lose sight of communication or fail to recognise the importance of a strong relationship with their team.

Building a Strong Relationship with Three Key Attributes

Boyatzis and McKee discuss three key attributes that can help leaders take steps towards resonance, avoiding the pitfalls of 'sacrifice syndrome'. 

The first of these is mindfulness. Before we can apply empathy and understanding to others, we need to first understand ourselves, paying close attention to our mind, body, heart, and spirit. We can achieve this through exercise, self-reflection, and through engagement with others, giving ourselves the broader understanding we need to lead effectively.

Next comes hope. Your team will look to you for hope and guidance in times of difficulty. It is important that they find this hope. Boyatzis and McKee describe this as "an emotional magnet [which] keeps people going even in the midst of challenges."

Finally, but equally as important as the first two attributes, is compassion. As leaders, we do not exist alone at the pinnacle of an organisation. Instead, we are part of the organisation, along with everyone else in the team. We need to understand, empathise, and demonstrate in relation to our working beside other team members both this understanding and empathy.

These are key steps on the way to becoming a resonant leader.

Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.

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