Link to podcast episode: EL 42: 3 Ways to Become a Resonant Leader | with Richard Boyatzis

JESSE LAHEY: Welcome to the show leaders! Today we will be discussing how leaders inspire people through emotional intelligence, and specifically how we can become what have been called a Resonant Leader. To help us address those issues, our guest today is Doctor Richard Boyatzis, he is a professor in the department of organizational behavior, psychology, and cognitive science at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of more than 150 articles on leadership competences, emotional intelligences, coaching and management education. His books include “Becoming a Resonant leader”, and the international best seller “Primal Leadership”. In addition to teaching at Case Western Reserve, Richard also teaches a class through the company Corsara, which is a massive open online course, also called a mook. The title of that class is “Inspiring leadership through emotional intelligence”.,. and these classes are rather amazing there is 10’s of thousands people participating in this class as well as others. It could say something about the future of higher education. So I am sure that trend will pop up a few times in our conversation today.  Richard Boyatzis welcome to “Engaging Leader”.

RICHARD BOYATZIS: Thank you Jesse.

JESSE: Can you tell us from your research, what is the one thing that most influences a company’s bottom line performance?

RICHARD: Leadership. Effective leadership will activate all 5 sources of capital at a leader’s disposal to get performance, and if it is effective leadership they will have greater forms of capitol at the end of a year or any performance period and not just spending the capitol. And we see this all the time where it’s not just an issue of making money because it really is easy to make money in this world. What is hard to do is to continue to make money of time, adapting to changing market places and conditions and technology. And most organizations are under lead or poorly lead and as a result they are under performing giving the resources that they have. The difference is the quality of the leadership and I don’t just mean the CEO, this is leadership all the way down to the foreman on the production line, or a sales branch manager. I mean it is anybody that is in a position of influence, sets the atmosphere such that people are able to engage and bring their juice to work, you know and give it their all.

JESSE: A lot of your research has pointed to emotional leadership as the major lack, I guess among leaders. Does that just mean putting on a game face every day?

RICHARD:Laughs” No because actually putting on a game face is uh baloney. People are neurologically hardwired to pick up both the actions of others and emotions of others. And the research has shown that unless you have sort of autism spectrum disorder, or even psychopath’s pick it up, they don’t pay attention to it but they pick it up.  But most of the people on earth are tuned into the people around them, and that’s hardwired. And what that means is…and by the way, the picking up these messages from each other, from our brains happens in milliseconds, this is way below consciousness. So even if you try to put on a game face, people actual sense what you are really feeling.

What very often confuses them is if you have a face that is different than the feeling that they are picking up from you, and unless they well skilled in this they don’t know whether to attribute that to you or if there’s something wrong with them. So it does not have to do with the game face. Matter of fact, the central issue that we talk about is, you can’t have effective leadership without really good relationships cause otherwise who would want to follow you. And you can’t be an effective leader unless the relationships are tuning in to the people around you visa-versa. So it does have to do with emotions in the sense that there are some very deep, very needed neurological connections. But it also has to do with your relationships, so it is what we often call “combination of a person’s talent”. Yes, you need some cognitive ability to be an effective leader, and you need some emotional intelligence, and you need some social intelligence. Without those things, you are not activating the capitol of the people around you.

JESSE: So can you give us an overview of what you mean by emotional intelligence?

RICHARD: I just did (HaHa), you know emotional intelligence is the intelligent use of your emotions. You start with the observation that you are going through all sorts of feelings at a very fast speed below your consciousness level. So in fact more effective leaders are often tuned in, the jargon phrase that people are using today is um, “mindful” which means tuned in or self-aware. Because you can’t intelligently use your emotions or manage them unless you know they’re there. And people who are more mindless, who don’t pay attention to what they’re feeling, are just idiots. I mean there is no two ways around it. And it’s one of the reasons why we see so all sorts of television characters; from “Doc Martin” on the series of the same name through the BBC, or the character in “Bones” that Emily Deschanel plays that Kathy Reichs created, or commander data in “Star Trek”. People, who can’t establish emotional bonds well, end up coming across as distant and although they may be bright or nice or care, they have difficulty keeping relationships going.

The magic of organizations, of family’s, of teams, are our relationships. So emotional intelligence is managing some of being aware of and managing your emotions effectively towards some social good, toward some shared object whether it is in the family or in a work organization. And then the extension of that which moves into what we call the social intelligence realm. Which involves some different neural networks, some different hormones, but these are the places where people are tuning in to and dealing with the emotions of others effectively. And all of that conspires to, if it works well, to a more kind of in sync set of relationships, in which you feel like you are in tune with the people around you, and that really is at the heart of it. And you are not aware of all of these things, then you are going through life like “duh, well why did that happened?”

Look, emotions are contagious, and that is just what I have been saying.  And it is contagious below your consciousness, and it is contagious unless you have some neurological disorder, it is contagious. You are hard wired, humans are hard wired. So if somebody says, “I am not going to pay attention to emotions”, I figured I am listening to an idiot, because that means that a person wants to cut off, in a sense half of their brain functioning, half of the information coming into them, and most of the information that is key in their relationships. I mean look, 60 years of research in social psychology keep showing us that people don’t make decisions or get influenced by rational arguments, they make decisions and get influenced by emotional arguments, and they make rational arguments afterwards to make yourself feel better.

A person in a leadership role, or a influence role, is more contagious. WHY? Because you know kids do turn to their parents to find out how they are reaching. You know people in an organization turn to the boss often to see what’s going on, how do I interpret this. So as a result, the people in the higher position of responsibility; parents, teachers, clerics of any sort, helpers, managers and executives. We are more contagious then others. So that’s why it’s even more important that we understand our emotions, and are somehow on top of our relationships. And what we find is in those organizations that don’t seem to be able to handle that, they are under performing. And eventually they lose touch with their market, lose touch with their customers, and competitors take over their business.

JESSE: But there is this problem, I think you can it “CEO disease”, but it seems like it affects every level of leadership, whether you are the CEO or maybe to lesser extend if you’re a line supervisor, but also for parents, where you don’t get as much feedback and intelligence about other people’s feelings. It’s harder to have that empathy, because people are not as forth coming. So what can someone in a leadership position do?

RICHARD: Well Jesse there are a number of reasons which I’m sure you experience all the time. One is, look things that don’t go well are not things that we gravitate toward.  Because on the whole, we would like to feel positive than negative, and unless you’re into whips and chains as a hobby, you are not going to look for things that hurt. So given that, that pulls us away from conflict. On the other hand, there is a deep ecological need for us as organisms to stay alive. I mean in my intentional change theory, I talk about how people are pulled toward either positive or negative emotional attractor. And the positive emotional attractor is really being in the parasympathetic nervous system, that part of your neurociencias that allow you to rebuild the body, including the brain, create new neuro tissue and all that, help your immune system VS. the sympathetic nervous system, that is the stress response. And one helps you to focus on possibilities and other problems, one on hope and the other on fear, one on optimism and one on pessimism, one on strengths and one on weaknesses, But the key is we need both.

Unless we spend time in the negative emotional attractor, in the stress response we want survive, because we will be fodder for threats out there.  We want notice when someone out there is about to bite us, eat us, fire us, divorce us. So we need the negative emotional attractor, we need these negative experiences to protect the organism, but because negative emotions have been shown in much research over the past 15-20 years to be much stronger then positive emotions. If we are to truly help a person balance their different neurological and hormonal states we have to sample more of the positive emotional attractor.

So some researchers have talked about 3-to-1 ratio, or 5-to-1 ratio, I don’t know exactly it is, and some of our neurological researcher are suggesting 3-to-1 works pretty powerfully in coaching and helping and advising in the studies that we been doing, but the fact that you need the negative. So while it’s uncomfortable, and unless you’re a pessimist, you are not going to want to go there, and if you’re a pessimist you are going to expect it. We need it. And a study came out in 1991 showing that effective managers, spend more time soliciting negative feedback. Finding out what went wrong. I think that’s because on the whole people around someone don’t want to make them feel bad. Or it could be what I call the tony soprano syndrome, who wants to give tony soprano bad news? It could also be out of respect, you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

So all of those things conspire to have most of us give bias information to the people that are above us. And that results in them have a juntas view of what is going on, and very often not helping them understand the various complexities and dimensions of what’s going on. In “Primal Leadership” the book, we talked about that as that is what happens when people believe there reviews. And very often that leads to a demigod, someone that thinks there are phenomenal because the people around them keep stroke them and waving pom-poms and singing hosannas to their brilliance, but they don’t realize that a lot of people out there, other stake holders, don’t like them or don’t respect them.

JESSE: So it’s a matter of widening the net in terms of the feedback that you solicit, and also getting the people closer to you to feel that it is ok to tell you bad news.

RICHARD: Yea and that’s not going to happen if you are uptight, if you are a punishing person and if people think that you are going to bite their head off if they say something conflicting or conflict full to you. Then guess what, people are not stupid they won’t say anything that way. So part of it is that you have to, we say in these resident leader relationships, people create a more inviting environment, which there’s more of an open exchange of information across levels, between people.

Dissonant leaders, people that are on the negative, and push people around or threaten them, they end up turning people off. I mean there is an exercise that I do in the first video of this mook, but I often do it in my lectures speeches around the world. In which I ask somebody to think about a leader in their life that they work with or for, anytime in their life, not just work, that brought the best in them, and think of a specific person who did not, who you thought was a lump, whatever they were paid it was to much. But you have to think of specific people for this exercise to work. And then underneath each of their names, you know write down what it was like to be around them. What did they typically say or do, how did they make you or other people around them feel. And one of the things you will discover right away, and I have done this exercise on 7 continents, over 60 something countries, well I guess now with over 80,000 students given the mook.

One of things that become clear is the effective leaders; the ones that activate your potential and bring out the best in you are the ones who build a relationship with you. What people say is they empowered me, or they challenged me, or they question me, but they believed in me. They gave me opportunities, they trusted me, they asked for my views on things. They were passionate, they had fun, they were playful, they trusted me to do my job, and they didn’t hover.

All these things are things that have to do with the quality of relationships. The ineffective leaders were the ones who were negative, nasty, egocentric, only talked about the tasks, you know didn’t care about the people, and micro-managers, and all these types of things. So you see this basic notation of is a leader inspiring others, are they lifting them up, are they engaging them in challenging them. It may not always be in a positive way, sometimes its negative but if it is with an underlying trust and belief in the other person, if it’s toward a shared vision that embodied the more noble aspects of the human sprite and hope. And really that’s what a number of our articles and 2005 book “resident leadership” was all about. Is that most effective leaders somehow engage hope through sense of purpose and vision, and the experience of it, engage in compassion, not just understanding but caring. Are mindful, they have a certain degree of genuineness, authenticity and integrity, and often their playful.

These experiences, turn out to be the ones that help us build better not only relationships, but help the human body go into parasympathetic nervous system, which allows us to rebuild. You know our immune system clicks in gear, and helps. We experience the growth of new neuro tissue through neurogenesis and such like that. So it is pretty important, and the contrast is stark. Mia Angelo gave a commencement address here at Case Western Reserve University, a few years back and I loved this one line she said, and I was so moved at the time that I quickly reached all through academic files to find a pen and a piece of paper. She said “It is my observation that in the future they will not remember what you did, they will not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”


RICHARD: So the appeal that we have it not that emotions are important than what you might think of as intellectual or cognitive processes. First of all as a neuroscientist, as somebody who spends a certain amount of time every few months doing studies of brain functioning, I can assure you there is no event that happens in your mind that does not involve emotions. So this artificial differences between something cognitive and something affective, is actually foolish. The brain works through networks and doesn’t work through particular neurons or just some region of the brain. And these networks are complex; they involve a lot of the parts of the brain. So when start to think about it that way, you realize that what we need to do is get on top of this whole emotional relational thing.  Because for too long we let ourselves in last 100-150 years be seduced by the notion that somehow it’s all an abstract thinking exercise. When of coarse that’s important but it’s more than that.

JESSE: When I first learned of your research and the research by Daniel Goodman and others, on emotional leadership, my first thought was oh that’s wonderful, they are finally saying that nice people make better leaders, that good business results comes from being a nicer person. Which intuitively related back to everything that I had always felt and perhaps learned all the ways to Sunday school? But I guess also having experienced business in the 80’s and 90’s and you saw a lot of examples of CEO’s who often acted like jerks but seemed to achieve great business results, It made me, I was a little skeptical. And I wonder, how do you explain some of those examples?

RICHARD: No I understand Jesse, I get that question a lot, but first let me reassure you that what we are talking about is probability. We are not talking about universalities. We are saying that somebody can be horrible and never make money at it. So, on the whole it’s not as sustainable as the issue. Steve Jobs failed in the first time he was at apple. He failed in a number of his other adventures before he returned in what one of my EMVA’s student groups call Steve jobs 1, Steve jobs 2, and Steve jobs 3, the three eras of Steve jobs. And their contention was the first two were dissonant, and he wasn’t succeeding. And the third was after he was back at apple, and he started to change his style. Even in his biography he talks about that.

You know, he got married, he had a daughter, he got cancer, not necessarily in the order, but any rate. But they were things that all of a sudden made him appreciate the humans around him. And I’m not saying he still wasn’t a fanatic about brand and customer friendliness, he was thank god, I mean enjoy all the products of apple and all the rest of it but it was different. People who reported to him, in these different eras talked about it as if it was a different person. I contend we saw the same thing with jack welsh in the 80’s and 90’s. At first he took over at General Electric, and it was neutron jack, dissonant leader, 1 or 2 in the industry or we sell you, rank of the people of lope of the bottom 10 %. And then he had a transformative experience, and started spend a day a week at their management training facilities, writing personal notes to people and he became a different kind of leader, endorsed work out In a very active way.

I think that second Jack Welch was the one that helped General Electric become the power house it is today, not the first one. Now we might have needed the first to get ready for the second and I’m not denying that that sometimes happens, but I sometimes raise this question about some of high-tech firms. We look at John Chambers of Cisco Systems, as a very resonant leader, powerful. I know one the senior HR people who is one of my doctorate students right now, and we was talking about this and they keep a huge percentage, I think it averages like 75 percent or something like that or 80 percent of the key players, of executives and key professionals of companies that they acquired stayed beyond the buyout period, that is unheard of in that industry.

I mean you know his kind of opposite number in the sense of the bad boy of high tech, Larry Ellison of oracle, I mean they don’t even stay for the beginning of the buyout period, they just run for the hills whenever he announces an acquisition, even before it’s done. So, guess what, you know I mean oracles making money, kind of but I think they are destine to spend more time wasting human capital and ideas and eventually markets, people will take their market.

JESSE: What guidelines do you suggest for us who would like to be resonant leaders?

RICHARD: Yea I think it behooves you to say ok, I have got to focus on the people and the relationships and not just on the numbers. One of my colleagues that I work with here at Case who is in the cognitive science department, Tony Jack had an article that was published just last year in Neuro image, in which he showed when you give people antalgic problems you active what is called the task positive network in the brain, it is a subset of the executive function. And when you give them social issues, social problems, people asking for help, people feeling bad and crying, you active a different network called he calls the social network part of the default, a subset of the default mode part of the brain. What he showed is that these two networks have almost no overlap that was known before.

What he showed that was really important was, and that is getting a huge amount of press is that these two networks suppress each other. So yes numbers and financials are important for people in position of responsibility, but if that’s all you think about you’ve lost the juice. You know, you’ve lost the resources that you need to make it keep happening. So I say with complete confidence, show me a leader or a manager who starts their meetings with financials and I will show you an ineffective leader.

JESSE: hum

Richard: They are boring, and it’s not because they weren’t once effective but they lost it. And the reason I say is because they are confusing everyone around them with the measure of effectiveness. Are we making money, are we making as much money as we thought, what is the purpose of the organization why do we exists, who are we trying to serve, what are we trying to create.

JESSE: what can we do to get started to be more resonate as leaders?

RICHARD: I could be cheeky and say buy my books but (haha) that is self-serving. But no the mook, the corsair course is free, so there is that. But no, I think part of it is think about these things, reflect on them. You can do it by reading. You can do it by going to classes. In most universities around the world there are executive education short courses, 1 day, 3 day that you could do. Pick these things, and now with online learning there are more and more of these free opportunities. Two, spend time thinking about it and then reflecting. Because when all is said and done, you are never going to get very far just by thinking about it.

You need to be talking to other people, I mean I joke with, well its not so much of a joke but pretty serious these days is that the biggest lost that we’ve had in the 20, or 30, or 40 years is that we don’t have friends. I mean you have people that you text. And you have people you email but how often do you just get together to catch up, you know in a relaxed way. The power of Sex in the City, the T.V. show, wasn’t that it was about sex, or that it was about New York City. It was that it was about 4 friends that did something that a lot of us wish we had more time for. Well what I am saying is make time for it. You know because having these chats, whether it’s over a longer lunch or coffee or just spending an evening talking with people just over dinner.

That is what really life is about, and that is what helps us turns out, helps us build these better relationships. It’s that kind of interactions with others that is the starting point. So whether you start with self-reflection, or you start by chatting with others about reflective topics, either way begins the process of exploration. And when you do, the thing that is amazing is as you start to have some of your relationships catch fire, as they start to rekindle this excitement. What happens is you become emotionally contagious, but in a very positive way. And you start to find these relationships igniting all sorts of energy and hope in your family and communities and at work. People start to do things together that you never thought was possible before, so I think that that is what you should be doing.

JESSE: Well that’s interesting, so reading and learning is the first step, reflecting especially self-reflecting, and then actually just making some time to relate and enjoy the relationships that you have and engage in some group reflection type activities.

RICHARD: That sequence works for someone who is abstract in their learning style. If you are more concrete or active in your learning style it’s the reverse; talk to people about this stuff, then reflect, and then read about it. So depending upon your learning style, it could go one direction or the other, but either way could work immensely.

JESSE: It’s interesting that those are fairly easy everyday things that we can do, wasn’t that you gave us five steps that we had to go do, say In the work place for example.

RICHARD: you don’t have to go on a silent retreat for one month in the Himalayas, no you don’t. I mean of the things that I say about this stuff is that it is common sense; it’s just not common practice.

JESSE: That’s right.

Richard: and we let all sorts of business and stresses seduce us from doing what we know in our hearts is right.

JESSE: Richard, where can people find out more about you and your work?

RICHARD: well of course there is the inevitable internet, but the easiest way to probably is to access some of, if you’re a practitioner, some of the practitioner books, like primal leadership or resonate leadership or becoming a resonate leader. Which are eminently available on Amazon as well as your local book store. I have been doing this free online course for corsair and my universities, Case Western Reserve are in a partnership called inspiring leadership through emotional intelligence, people can sign on to that. And I don’t know if we do another cycle of it next fall or winter, but we may.

Then there is of coarse things here at Case Western University; masters programs, you know in od that a lot of people learn about this detail and the average age of our students is in their 40’s. Same thing we have an executive doctorate, where the average age is closer to 48. Or people fly in for a few days every 6 weeks or 3 months and go through hybrid learning. And then are you know, shorter courses, things like executive education. A lot of my colleagues, a lot of the folks that I do a lot of this researching and writing with, teach these courses throughout of executive education center. And people can access that online, they go into Case Western Reserve University, with in the letter head school of management, and if they go onto executive education they will find out more details about emotional intelligence, leadership, the coaching, change courses and so forth.

Link to podcast episode: EL 42: 3 Ways to Become a Resonant Leader | with Richard Boyatzis