Emotional Undercurrents

Have you ever been in a situation where something outrageous happened yet no one said a word because everyone knew what you were thinking?  This happens all the time in environments with strong emotional undercurrents.

It seems like the tide creating the undercurrent is usually one or two emotionally unintelligent and socially unaware individuals.  These people don’t realize the undercurrent is there because they lack the ability to recognize it.

If left unmanaged, emotional undercurrents can create big rifts between groups of people.  It can also breed a culture of gossip, frustration and sarcasm.

I’m reading a book right now called ‘Primal Leadership’ by Daniel Goleman.

Goleman talks about two kinds of leadership; resonant and dissonant.

Resonant leaders know how to make their teams “resonate” by getting people on the same wavelength emotionally. Synchronous vibration.  When the team is in synch with each other and in synch with their leader, “people feel a mutual comfort level.  They share ideas, learn from one another, make decisions collaboratively, and get things done.  They form an emotional bond that helps them stay focused even amid profound change and uncertainty.”

Dissonant leaders on the other hand lack the ability to create harmony among the team.  They often create a toxic environment where people feel afraid and apathetic.  All of us know people like this.  What Goleman found is that most of these leaders don’t mean to be this way; they simply lack the critical emotional intelligence abilities to be a resonant leader.  Goleman refers to some dissonant leaders as “clueless,” as they “try to resonate in a positive tone but are out of touch with the unpleasant fact that their subordinates are stuck in a negative emotional register.  In other words, the organizational reality makes people angry or anxious or otherwise unhappy, but the leader remains oblivious and so sends an upbeat message that resonates with no one.”

I think one of the best ways to be a resonant leader is to listen, really listen, to what people say and especially what they don’t say.  This is hard because we like to be heard more than we like to hear.  We like to have the right answers.  We like to be the hero.  We like attention.  But if you want to resonate with people, you have to know what they think and how they feel.  If you don’t know what tune they’re in, you can’t haromonize.

For simplicity’s sake, just listen at least twice as much as you talk.