The story is common, and distressing. An ambitious and respected leader takes a team, division, or organization to great heights. The company enjoys superior profits, competitive advantage, and the favor of Wall Street. Then something happens. Sometimes it begins subtly—a few rushed decisions made under fire, or an increasingly abrasive style that alienates the staff. Other times it comes in the form of an undeniable crisis: a major project crashes and burns, or the company falls substantially short of its numbers. Often, everyone can see that the sky is falling but the leader himself—until it’s too late. Why does this happen? Why do leaders fall so hard, so fast, and so frequently today—even when the leader in question has vision, talent, and emotional intelligence?
Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, coauthors (with Daniel Goleman) of the international bestseller Primal Leadership, argue that today’s leaders face unprecedented challenges that result in a vicious cycle of stress and sacrifice, with little or no recovery time built in. Consequently, even the most resonant leaders—whose ability to deftly manage their own and others’ emotions once drove their companies to greatness—end up spiraling into dissonance, often taking their organizations down with them.
In Resonant Leadership (Harvard Business School Press; Publication Date: October 27, 2005; $25.95/hardcover), Boyatzis and McKee convincingly show that, just as stress and sacrifice are an inevitable part of a leader’s role, so too, should be conscious renewal and rejuvenation. Marshalling decades of multidisciplinary research and hands-on consulting work, the authors make a convincing business case for the role that mindfulness, hope, and compassion play in a leader’s effectiveness—and outline a practical framework for how leaders can follow these paths to create and sustain resonance in their relationships, their teams, and their organizations.
To counter the inevitable “power stress” of the leadership role, say the authors, leaders must consciously manage the “Cycle of Sacrifice and Renewal” by stepping out of destructive patterns and renewing themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. Bringing lessons learned on the front lines of businesses and organizations around the world, from school yards in South Africa to corporate board rooms in the United States, Resonant Leadership illustrates how courageous leaders have remade themselves through deliberate practices and experiences that helped them to: remain hopeful in the face of difficulties; truly care about the people they were leading and experience compassion; and mindfully attend to themselves and other people holistically.
Drawing from fascinating research in fields including neuropsychology, psychology, sociology, and management, Boyatzis and McKee show that the seemingly “soft” concepts of mindfulness, hope, and compassion have been proven to invoke physiological and psychological changes that enable leaders to overcome the negative effects of chronic stress and become more effective. To guide leaders on their path to resonance and renewal, the book provides a field-tested Intentional Change Model, based on decades of research, that helps leaders identify their personal vision, candidly assess their current reality, create a learning agenda, and utilize experimentation and the support of resonant relationships to help them reach their goals.
Throughout the book, dozens of practical exercises and vivid examples from the lives of real leaders show how readers can:
- Understand how power stress impacts their mood, feelings, health, and behavior
- Recognize the “wake-up calls” that tell them they are slipping into dissonance Prevent their strengths from becoming blind spots that lead to failure
- Uncover their values, philosophy, and dreams for the future
- Use mindfulness, hope, and compassion to foster and provoke renewal
- Engage in successful, ongoing transformation with excitement and enthusiasm
The greatest challenge today’s and tomorrow’s leaders will face is to manage the relentless stresses of their role, without falling victim to them. Resonant Leadership offers both the inspiration and the practical tools any reader can use to become and remain successful, resonant leaders in their work and in their lives.
Look for Resonant Leadership to be featured in the following publications later this month: BusinessWeek.com, Government Leader, USA Today, PW Booklife, CEO Read, T+D Extra newsletter, Psychology Today, CIO Insight and Small Business Advocate Radio.