Resonant Leadership: How Great Leaders Create and Sustain Resonance in Turbulent Times
by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee
In their new book, Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others through Mindfulness, Hope and Compassion, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee unashamedly 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.
The trend in professional development books has certainly shifted toward the “touchy-feely” end of the spectrum. Is this simply a case of savvy book editors jumping on the heartfelt bandwagon, or does this reflect our society’s yearning for a more humane workplace? A quieter, gentler revolution?
For example, in The Business Case for Compassion, we learn how reducing stress increases productivity.
For those of you addicted to personal assessments and inventories, you’ll enjoy the Philosophical Orientation Questionnaire. Whether or not you invest the time and energy to complete the exercises in the back of the book, the first half is worth the read. After all, how you can say no to Hope, Optimism and Compassion?
An Annotated Excerpt: The Cycle of Sacrifice and Renewal
When leaders sacrifice too much for too long—and reap too little—they 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 exhausted—we 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 leader’s 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 dissonance—not 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 one’s 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 people’s 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 behaviors—practices 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 ourselves—mind, body, heart, and spirit—and then channel our resonance to the people and groups around us.