On Church Leadership

Resonate Leadership

John Braland (Blue) 2017.jpg

By Pastor John Braland President of IMF's Board of Directors

“Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal: Great leadership works through the emotions.” (Goleman, Primal Leadership, page 1)

I walked into a local retail giant the other day and noticed that the employees were all busy taking care of the tasks at hand. Most of them looked very satisfied with what they were doing and enjoyed interacting with the customers. Overall, my shopping experience was very pleasant. 

A few days later I went to another retail giant. This environment was different. The employees were busy but they didn’t seem to be very engaged with their surroundings. I walked by several employees and they didn’t even notice me, let alone offer even minimal assistance. After picking up a few things, I went to the checkout. The person behind the counter scanned my items and gave me my total. There was no personal interaction or any outward display of friendliness. 

An “apples to apples” comparison on paper would show that both stores sold basically the same products, had similar pricing, and similar locations, but they felt completely different. Why? I believe the answer can be traced back to leadership. 

The first store I visited had "resonance", which is described in the Oxford English Dictionary as: “the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection” or, more specifically, “by synchronous vibration.” (Primal Leadership, Goleman, Boyatis, McKee, page 18) This store had resonance between its employees and its customers. In other words, everyone was working together for the common good. The leadership team of this franchise understands that when the store employees are happy, when they feel like they are contributing to the company and the company is contributing to them, they will happily perform their jobs and their emotional energy will resonate with the customers, thus making their experience satisfactory. 

The second store I visited reeked of dissonance. Author Goleman writes: “Dissonance, in its original musical sense, describes an unpleasant, harsh sound; in both musical and human terms, dissonance refers to a lack of harmony. Dissonant leadership produces groups that feel emotionally discordant, in which people have a sense of being continually off-key” (Primal Leadership, page 21). After a short visit to the store I could sense that the employees were generally discontent. They did not resonate with each other and certainly did not resonate with the customers. Statistics tell us that if the employees are dissonant, the leadership team is modeling it to them. 

Resonant leaders are proficient in four domains. They understand the importance of each domain and are able to use them to create harmonious vibrations that ring throughout the corporation, company, or team. These are the four domains: 

1. Self-awareness.    
You need to be very aware of your own emotions. What makes you happy? What makes you upset? What keeps you going? What forces you to quit. If you know what drives you, you will be better able to steer your emotions in a healthy direction. 

2. Self-management   
Being self-aware also means that you understand your triggers. Once you know and understand your triggers, you are better able to maximize them or minimize them in a wide variety of settings. Instead of spontaneously lashing out at an employee who isn’t performing up to standards, you can deal with the situation and remain under control. Leaders who do not understand their own emotion are more prone to exploding at the wrong times for the wrong reasons. This creates a feeling of insecurity in the organization that is very toxic and very contagious.    

3. Social awareness
“Social awareness- particularly empathy- supports the next step in the leader’s primal task: driving resonance. By being attuned to how others feel in the moment, a leader can say and do what’s appropriate, whether that means calming fears, assuaging anger, or joining in good spirits. This attunement also lets a leader sense the shared values and priorities that can guide the group.” (Primal Leadership, page 30)    

If a leader is not socially aware, they will ring out of step with the culture and miss the emotions of the moment. Neglecting people’s feelings and perspectives will rarely resonate in a positive fashion. 

4. Relational management
Once leaders grasp how they are wired, are able to harness that energy in as positive force, and understand the culture in which they are plugged into, they can channel that energy into already resonating relationships which has a ripple effect throughout the organization.  

Dissonant leaders rarely have the opportunity to practice relational management because they only know how to lead from a positional perspective. They may be effective in the short run because of their title, but they will eventually crush their subordinates.    

Great leaders are resonant leaders. Now that you understand the difference, apply these principles to your ministry and be the leader God has called you to be.   

Reflection Questions:  

  1. How do resonance and dissonance impact ministry?
  2. Would you describe your team as one that exhibits resonance or dissonance? Explain why.
  3. What factors play into your description?