My sister gave me an audiobook of Resonant Leadership. It’s funny that I was glad to have it as an audiobook so I didn’t have to spend time sitting and reading it, feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing real work, which is just the sort of thing the book says I needn’t feel. Anyway, I got to listen while I did laundry and the dishes, so it felt doubly productive.
I wanted to write about the book before I write about emotional intelligence on Multiple Intelligence Monday, so that I can refer back to this information.
For those of you without time even to listen to the audiobook version, here’s a bit of summary:
Leading is inherently stressful. Good leadership requires the kind of giving of self that may not seem physically demanding the way manual labor does, but actually costs us physiological harm through wear and tear on the endocrine and nervous systems.
I’ll say that again.
Good leadership is hard on your body. It physically, literally, bodily wears you out. And that leaves you incapable of giving of yourself–leaves you incapable of being a good leader. Yes, good leadership can cause bad leadership.
They call it “power stress” in the book, and it leads to what they call the “sacrifice syndrome,” which is the set of symptoms that result from the on-going, long term stress of giving of yourself which builds on itself; and, not only will in make you incapable of leading well, it will kill you. Not just feel bad, but kill you.
Arright, I’m being more dramatic than the book is, but the fact is high blood pressure, as one example, isn’t likely to kill you right away, but it will shorten your life.
Therefore, to be a good leader you must give of yourself, but in order to sustain good leadership you must allow yourself to be renewed through mindfulness, hope, and compassion.
I’ll let you go read the book for it’s real-life examples, exercises, and explanations of the physiology. I’ll also confess now that mindfulness and hope are part of why I write this blog. I remind myself with every post what my responsibilities are–the big picture responsibilities, as well as the straight-up fun ones. And I remind myself of the fun there is to be had. Writing about conducting makes me look forward to my next rehearsal. And anytime you guys e-mail me or post comments here or on Facebook, I get a little charge out of the connection with musicians and amateurs. So, thanks! My choirs thank you, too.
So, Resonant Leadership is a book I think every conductor should read.
And now for some of my conductor-flavored insight.
They call good leadership “resonant.” I particularly like this term for its musical quality. In singing, resonance takes place when the vibration produced by the vocal folds moves up the vocal tract, pharynx, mouth, and sinuses, causing sympathetic vibrations that shape the tone into the sound everyone hears. Resonance is the creation of efficient, effective sympathetic vibrations. A singer controls resonance through minute adjustments to the anatomy–lift the soft palate, round the lips–and also the imagination. The control of acoustical sensations, like sending tone forward focusing it, is purely a result of imagination. Resonant leadership is the creation of sympathetic actions that lead to a common goal, both by arranging the physical necessities and by imaging the possibilities.
As a matter of fact, in the production of tone there are four parts: initiator (breath), vibrator (vocal folds), resonator (vocal tract), articulator (lips, teeth, tongue, palate, etc.). I posit that if a good leader is like a good singer, he can create resonance with action and imagination, but it all begins with breath. The quality of the breath–warm and open, deep and intense–colors the tone that results. It’s called “inspiration” for a reason, folks.