“Societies can be sunk by the weight of buried ugliness.” -Daniel Goleman
Music is one of life’s great gifts. It provides special joy that we each relate to in our own way. We would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have love for some form of music. Music has the ability to touch your heart, spark your spirit, and move your soul. It intertwines with and dashes in and out of our daily life, providing a soundtrack that creates the moods and emotions of the day. Yet, neither does it take a talented musician to appreciate and acknowledge what we consider to be great music. We know it when we hear it. Yes, we know when a musician hits that right note, that single note that moves our whole being.
And neither does it take world-class musician to acknowledge a wrong note. We just know it when we hear it. The note that grates on our ears like fingernails on a chalkboard. And just like the right note, the wrong note has the knack to add friction upon our mood and emotions, and not usually for the positive. It can cause disharmony and outright annoyance.
Leadership moves in our lives in much the same way as music. Leaders have the capability to touch your spirit and move your emotions, as much as they have the aptitude to reek havoc, disharmony and discord within those same lives and organizations.
Think of it like this; a leader is like a reed in a saxophone, serving as the mouthpiece for the organization. The manner in which the pressure and velocity of air is blown through that reed determines the harmony of sound issued from the instrument. In comparison, how a leader deals with the pressure and velocity of issues that confront them on a daily basis is like that same reed, it affects the emotions and runs through the whole of the organization. And like the reed “resonates throughout the player and the instrument” as well. A leaders actions and words “resonate” for better or worse throughout the organization.
Daniel Goleman refers to this as “resonant leadership.” The capability and capacity of leaders and leadership to acquire and utilize sufficient emotional intelligence to attune themselves to the “feelings” of those they lead to “move them in a positive emotional direction.” And it is critical, critical for determining a leader’s ability to engage and influence. Or disengage. Which is especially important to our current times, which indicate record numbers of employees that report feeling disengaged with their work, their leaders, and their organizations.
Goleman provides further emphasis to this in his work Primal Leadership, “When a leader triggers resonance, you can read it in people’s eyes: They’re engaged and they light up.” Much like the saxophone, the reed, and the player; when they are in sync they create a beautiful and harmonious sound, as opposed to the grating, harsh “dissonance” when that harmony does not exist.
More and more we see the necessity of leaders having emotional and social intelligence in their toolbox. If your leadership is incapable of touching those you lead at an emotional level, how can you hope to have any real sense of influence. And yet, very few leaders take stock of the importance of emotional intelligence for equipping and increasing their capacity and effectiveness.
Goleman pushes further adds, “resonance amplifies and prolongs the emotional impact of leadership. The more resonant people are with each other, the less static are their interactions; resonance minimizes the noise in the system.” He continues, “The glue that holds people together in a team, and that commits people to an organization, is the emotions that they feel.”
Just as a world-class musician has the ability to speak to the individual listener, an emotionally intelligent leader has the ability to make those in the organization feel “understood and cared for.” Leaders who are strong in emotional intelligence have the ability to not only reflect upon their own emotions, but to perceive and decipher the emotions of others, allowing empathy and understanding to build and sustain stronger and better relationships.
A “resonant leader” has the ability for their message and their leadership to cut through the noise of the organization. To strike a chord with those they lead on an emotional level. And as Goleman points out, “Perhaps most important, connecting with others at an emotional level makes work more meaningful.” For which, “These feelings drive people to do things together that no individual could or would do. And it is the EI leader who knows how to bring about that kind of bonding.”
As in the opening quote, Goleman purports that our “societies can be sunk by the weight of buried ugliness” and the same could be said for our organizations and institutions. It requires “resonant leadership” to cut through the noise and “ugliness” or as Goleman so eloquently puts forth, we need “more signal, less noise.”