Who Am I? Leadership Resonance

September 18, 2020

By Allison Iantosca

I wonder if you can imagine yourself sitting alone in a concert hall—a venue created for listening to classical music. It may be gilded and ornate; pillars surging up to a ceiling bedecked with painted angels? Or perhaps it is spare and cool, with wood paneled walls and a small stage like that of a conservatory or a college.

In either case, you are early and luck upon a seat halfway back, center, perfect, and the rest of the audience is not even yet in the lobby. The violin soloist headlining the evening just walked onto the empty stage to warm up. Spectacular in form, already one with the space, she sits, back erect, deep breath in and draws her bow across the bridge of her instrument; slowly, assuredly, linking one note to the next with grace and tenor and storytelling.

And it’s as if your heart strings vibrate right along with her notes, almost as if you become the instrument itself, hollow and reverberating, experiencing the story and sharing it back with her up there on the stage. In this moment? You are empty and you are full. You are of no use and you are critical. You are nothing and you are everything. You are resonant.

My past studies introduced me to the concept of Resonant Leadership. In their book Becoming a Resonant Leader, Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, and Fran Johnston outline the fundamental concept that “the best leaders use their emotional intelligence to create resonance with others. Resonant leaders are attuned to the needs and dreams of the people they lead. They create conditions in which people can excel. They listen to life’s wake-up calls and enhance their capacity for excellence.” (Back Cover, HBS Press 2008.) Conceptually, this honors the odd-shaped, mixed-up paradigm I have created as a company CEO and now as a coach.

Despite the deeply embedded notions of hierarchy that, at times, demand my attention, I know change eschews directive power, preferring connection and understanding. In studying “Resonant Leadership”, I began to unpack my personal beliefs, values, and rhythms making a path for myself that was personally meaningful. “By helping us connect with our sense of optimism and hope and our personal vision for ourselves—our Ideal Self—we become highly motivated and energized to learn, change, and develop” (p 6.) In my study of resonance, I became highly motivated to use myself as the very instrument for my team’s and my client’s continued development.

Two days ago I sit, perfectly arranged, in front of the Zoom camera. A colleague animated and verbose on the other side. I am in my head. Locked in judgement. Paralyzed by outcome. Panicking and far from resonant.

My mind wanders to a paper plate exercise I did with a leadership cohort a couple of months back. On the outside of the plate I ask everyone to write their name in the middle and then write words that describe who they are in an outward or obvious way; what people could quickly learn about you at a cocktail party.

I then ask them to flip the plate over and on the inside of the plate write more about who they are but that is less obvious and may, actually, conflict with what is on the outside of the plate. I recall noting that each plate represented such a unique leadership experience; that each leader is unique and so therefore each leader’s presence and resonance is unique.

As my colleague prattled on over Zoom — as I became more focused on what I thought he might be asking me to be– I lost my resonance. I lost the ability to hold my beautiful full plate and therefore the gift of holding myself and my colleague at the same time. I couldn’t accept the “notes” of his magical instrument as I was too busy comparing and combatting my own. I couldn’t be everything and nothing when I was so focused on wanting to be just about anything! An arresting notion.

Back to the roots of my resonant leadership study: the more “me” I am the better leader I am. I slip into sweet Zoom awareness. I let go. I return to that perfect concert hall seat and I listen, hollow now and reverberating. I find responses and engagement. I see the path edged by my values. I am resonant. The more “me” I am the better leader I am. And so, may I ask, will you too share your resonance?

Allison Iantosca is a Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) trained coach certified by ICF with extensive leadership and management experience. She is an Executive Coach and is the Owner and President of Boston-based FH Perry Builder.

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