Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Becoming a Resonant Leader" by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, Frances Johnston

Becoming a Resonant Leader offers a practical answer to the question: “How do you use Daniel Goleman's theory of Emotional Intelligence to become an inspiring leader?”

It is a reading recommendation coming from Barcelona, where Rosalinda Hernández works as Europe Talent Acquisition at PepsiCo. She tweets at @Recruiter_Rosie.

More Than 50 Leadership Exercises

You don't read this book as much as you use it, with a pen in your hand. Offering more than 50 exercises, it is really a practical guide that aims to make you reflect on how to become a better leader by leveraging your emotional intelligence. It is also filled with inspiring examples. 

The exercises reminded me very much of those I have found so profoundly useful when I read Total Leadership, by Steward Friedman

Both books offer a holistic perspective about personal development and leadership: becoming a great leader requires you to know who you are and what you want.
First, McKee, Boyatzis and Johnston make you think about:
  • Important people around you : who do you admire, who do you lead, who can help you...
  • How you work : your defensive routines, your passions, your strengths and challenges, your philosophical orientation, your learning style...
  • What you want : your ideal life, your dreams, your personal vision...
Then, the authors help you use this knowledge to develop a personal learning plan.
And finally, they explain how to ignite resonance in teams, organizations and communities.

Useful Leadership Tools and Concepts
Let me share five tools or concepts developed in the book that seem particularly useful from my HR point of view.
  • Resonance is defined as “a powerful collective energy that reverberates among people and supports higher productivity, creativity, a sense of unity, a sense of purpose, and better results”. It is, in other words, the link between emotional intelligence and organizational success.
  • Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence: when you meet a great leader, you feel that she knows who she is and what is important to her. In particular, good leaders show emotional awareness: they can name and manage their emotions. The way to improve emotional awareness is to practice mindfulness, i.e. to become consciously attuned to oneself, others and the environment. (In a recent post on the HRFishbowl blog, I wrote about the link between meditation, mindfulness, and good HR).
  • The sacrifice syndrome is precisely one of the things that await leaders when they lack mindfulness. As they try to respond to the many demands they face, their stress mounts above the level they can handle. Their tactics for avoiding this stress are part of the problem. They soon feel overdrawn physically, mentally and emotionally.
  • The philosophical orientation questionnaire included in the book lets you determine your preferences regarding three basic operating philosophies:
    • Pragmatic: you appreciate an activity if it helps you achieve your goals. This operating philosophy is linked to utilitarianism and consequentialism.
    • Intellectual: you appreciate an activity if it helps you learn and understand new things. You tend to use abstract variables to understand and describe the world.
    • Human: you appreciate an activity if it has a positive impact on specific other people, and on your relationship with them.
    • The authors explain that if your scores on those variables are close together, you can feel conflicted when making certain types of decisions. This proved relevant in my case: I scored equally high scores on “intellectual” and “human”, and I'm afraid I'm sometimes an indecisive person indeed.
  • Planning Style. Annie McKee found in her research that when it comes to think about the future, people use three different approaches:
    • Goal-oriented planners tend to focus on very specific goals and outcomes.
    • Direction-oriented people know the general path they wish to pursue, but they don't set very specific objectives. They might be less effective than goal-oriented people, but they are also more flexible, which helps them spot opportunities.
    • Being action-oriented means living for the moment, without many thoughts about the future. Action-oriented people are spontaneous.
    • And as the authors say, each of these three styles has wisdom for the other.
The book also provides ideas and a methodology to conduct participative processes that could be used for team-building, vision-building or change initiatives.
If you work in HR, it can thus be useful in a variety of ways: for yourself, for people you coach, or for your organization as a whole.

Book Data
  • Becoming a Resonant Leader - Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness
  • By Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis and Frances Johnston
  • Harvard Business Press
  • 213 pages
  • Available on Becoming a Resonant Leader


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks Stephane, you've convinced me. I'll let you know how it works out. Louise Vidler

  3. @Louise,
    Thanks a lot for your feedback. It's great to receive it from the other end of the world!