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Are you a resonant leader?

July 26, 2013 -  By

Emotional intelligence isn’t just feel-good stuff. It’s about the bottom line.

Think back over your years in business, from the early days when you came into the workplace. Is there someone who inspired you along the way? Someone who helped you dig deep and find the best you had to offer, a boss or manager who helped you see that you could succeed?

I’ll bet you can think of at least one person who did more than just make sure you punched your time card. Was it someone who motivated, even challenged you in a way that helped you find out what you’re really made of?

The way you lead will make a lasting impact on how your people perform and how they remember you years down the road. Your leadership style can make the difference between both personal and professional long-term success or failure. The gap between the resonant “good” boss and the dissonant “bad” boss can be small and easily sutured. Or it can be a divide as gaping as the Grand Canyon, one that’s nearly impossible to bridge.

Resonant leadership makes the difference. But what does “resonant leadership” mean?

A resonant leader inspires others by creating a work environment that supports innovation and change, according to the book Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. This type of environment not only allows for but also encourages creativity, experimentation and risk taking. It doesn’t matter if these risks end with a victory or a constructive mistake; either will uncover better ways to serve customers or achieve goals. Further, these leaders are able to be honest with themselves and others while holding staff accountable to goals and company standards of excellence. They work with individuals to find the sweet spot in their personal set of strengths to benefit both the workers and the company. And they manage their teams in ways that build loyalty and trust, which ultimately leads to better business. This is resonant leadership.

Does resonant leadership really matter? Absolutely. This is more than feel-good stuff. It’s about the bottom line, when you acknowledge how leadership impacts productivity and employee retention. Experienced employees are your No. 1 competitive resource. Great leadership creates the kind of environment that produces a stable, innovative staff that will want to stay the course for the long term and invest in the company’s future to ensure sustainable success.

Evaluate your competition, then look closely at your crews and management staff. Could it be that you’d have a greater opportunity for market dominance if you changed your and your management team’s leadership style?

The leaders who stand apart from the rest drive success through positive emotion. To do so you’ll have to be willing to put some time into learning more about your leadership style. It starts with a decision to take an honest look in the mirror and listen openly to what others (genuinely) share about how your leadership style affects them. Often the one at the top has no clue what those who report to him or her actually think. (Let’s face it: It’s not often that someone will risk his or her job security to be honest with an overbearing boss.)

The good news is much of what you learn will be affirming and show you the strengths you have on which to build. Great leaders are open to reality. After your reality check you’ll become more mindful of who you truly are and more accurately gauge your internal emotions and reactions.

With this new clarity and awareness you’ll be more able to learn to mange your emotions and reactions so others feel safe with you. And, once you’re more aware and able to manage your emotions you’ll begin to look at the people around you differently and understand how their emotions impact the way they work and relate to others.

That awareness allows you to manage your relationships in a way that fosters trust and growth. It’s all about building your emotional intelligence to set you free to become a truly resonant leader.

Years of research prove that change can and does happen through intentional development. That’s your challenge. Are you willing to do the personal work that will move your company to the next level through resonant leadership? (Visit the Web Extra, “How to achieve change.”)

There’s a wealth of information out there to help you determine how best to evaluate and improve your leadership style. The benefits to you, your employees, your coworkers and in the end, your company, will prove well worth the introspection, time and effort you’ll have devoted to such a positive, and at times humbling, process. Are you up for the challenge?

What’s your leadership style?

Recognize your own leadership style, which one you aspire to and which to avoid.

Visionary. This leader lets the team know where they’re going without providing a road map. The visionary helps people feel safe and free to be creative and explore options—even to take risks. The visionary inspires those around him/her and tends to be transparent/authentic. This transparency is important, because when a leader is seen as insincere the team loses trust, which kills creativity. Empathy is critical for a visionary leader—reading and knowing what others think and feel helps this type of leader communicate an inspiring vision.

Coaching. The coaching leader is great one on one, helping to develop strengths in others. With the competencies of emotional awareness and empathy, this leader helps the team identify and accomplish career goals.

Affiliative. The affiliative leader is a collaborator who helps promote the goals of the group. These leaders foster harmony and use empathy to care for the emotional needs of the individual workers. They often combine the affiliative style with a visionary approach—a powerful mixture of style and competency.

Democratic. The democratic leader builds on three emotional intelligence abilities: collaboration, conflict management and influence. This leader knows how to listen, still conflict and create harmony within a team. When unsure of the direction to take, the democratic leader will  get consensus from other team members, benefiting from the group’s past experiences.

Pacesetting. USE WITH CAUTION! This style has the most potential for negative consequences. There are only a few situations in which it’s effective. The pacesetting leader holds others to extremely high standards of performance and is driven to do things better and faster, while pointing out any flaw or poor performance, which may lead to low morale rather than encouraging achievement. In controlled circumstances, pacesetting can help a team reach a short-term goal or get over a challenging hump as long as it doesn’t continue for long periods of time.

Commanding. USE WITH MOST CAUTION! Of the six leadership styles, the commanding leader is the least successful. This style demands compliance without providing any reason for the demand. Commanding leaders are seen as cold and uncaring and quickly cause an organization to lose trust in leadership. They erode the spirit and confidence of the workforce. A commanding style can be effective in an emergency for the short term to help a team get through a crisis. This style draws on three competencies: influence, achievement and initiative. Self-awareness, emotional self-control and empathy are crucial to keep the commanding style from going too far.

Source: Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee

Web Extra
Visit the Web Extras section of Landscape to learn how to change your leadership style.

About the Author:

Leslie Boomer is an organizational health consultant with Pro-Motion Consulting. Reach her at

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