Resonant Leadership: by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee
Bob Hughes CEO, The Forton Group
The subtitle of this book is "Renewing yourself and connecting with others through mindfulness, hope, and compassion” which instantly drew me in.
Like its predecessor, The New Leaders/Primal Leadership, this book is a great mixture of good, illuminating stories, research, interesting theory, and practical tools and tips and exercises. Their approach fits in so well with our own here at The Forton Group - leadership is about developing and inspiring others as much as it is about getting the job done, and only by knowing yourself can you truly know others.
The result is a book that shows not only why resonant leadership is critical, but how leaders can create resonance.
In Richard’s view, Primal Leadership/New leaders is best for those with little or no reflection on management. Often, this suits novices or those under 35. Once people hit the first mid-life transition point or crisis, from 38+, Resonant Leadership seems to speak to them more profoundly.
The authors start by repeating and developing the argument that the world of work has changed and hence demands a new kind of leadership. The leaders most suited to this new world are emotionally intelligent, optimistic, and show compassion. They call these resonant leaders. A key concept discussed is that emotions are contagious, and we function best in positive atmospheres; this is why we prefer to be around leaders who create a resonant field, rather than those who create dissonance.
Sadly, even the best leaders, with today's pressures find it hard to sustain this productive style. Leaders need time to renew and thus avoid sinking into dissonance. The authors introduce the concept of Sacrifice Syndrome - under stress, our ability to learn is reduced as a result of various chemical and physical changes in the body. We burn out and revert to a more dissonant approach. Denial and pretence come to the fore, resulting in a high psychological and physical toll.
Rest and relaxation are not enough here - renewal is what is needed. Successful renewal invokes a brain patterns and hormones change our mood, while returning our bodies to a healthy state.
The process of renewal, which takes the lead back to resonance, is a process of change. The authors talk about mindfulness, hope and compassion. Mindfulness is about self-awareness and awareness of the world around us. Hope allows us to be excited about the future and, along with compassion, when we are in tune with the people around us, can change the patterns in our brain and the chemical reactions in our body that lead to renewal.
I see a parallel with the Forton group leadership coaching model here; they talk about the need for a compelling vision – part of our ‘purpose’ step; they talk about the need to remain hopeful even in hard times - part of our ‘reality’ step. They also emphasise the need to look after ourselves and our people; in our model, leadership is about being personally successful whilst also enabling success in others.
The chapter on compassion ends with a section that speaks to us as leaders and coaches – they describe the advantage that coaches, and coach like leaders have - coaching another person is exhibiting high form of compassion. Where leaders practice coaching with compassion and encouraging throughout the company, three major benefits result; leaders are less focused on themselves; they are more open and in touch with people; and they experience regular renewal.
The final chapter in the book is devoted to the notion that leaders must "be the change you wish to see in the world" - a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. The authors recognise the difficulty of changing oneself, let alone the difficulty of leadership itself. They suggest that hope simply. Change is possible. Leaders can renew themselves and choice is with them.