Leadership Styles in Change Management – The Leader’s Mood Drives a Staggering 30% of Performance

How do you provide a change management leadership style that connects with people and motivates them when they are stressed out by the current economic climate?

How do you lead your people through change and identify the most effective strategies for managing change that are appropriate to these difficult conditions?

A new focus on leadership has been defined and articulated by Daniel Goleman – and he calls it “Primal Leadership”. This refers to the emotional dimension of leadership – the leader’s ability to articulate a message that resonates with their followers’ emotional reality and their sense of purpose, and thus motivate them to move in a specific direction.

To my mind this is of considerable interest and relevance to those of us working with companies who are going through change.

Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee in 2002, first introduced the concept in a book of that name. Their work draws extensively on research into Emotional Intelligence or “EI”.

Here are the key themes:

The importance of Primal Leadership

In the current climate of uncertainty people need leadership that offers a measure of re-assurance and certainty of conviction about the direction in which they are being led.

This is important because people cannot work effectively if they are experiencing emotional turbulence. Their ability to get work done depends on their emotions being under control. A leader has to address those often unconscious and unexpressed fears along the way in order to help people keep them under control.

A study of 3,871 executives and their direct reports shows that HOW a leader leads in terms of the emotional resonance they do or don’t generate matters for 2 reasons:

(1) A big part of the culture and “general feel” or “emotional tone” of what it is like to work in an organisation is determined to a very large extent by the leader.

(2) The leader’s style determines about 70% of the emotional climate which in turns drives 20-30% of business performance.

The leaders emotions infect the organisation – the importance of resonance.

The central finding of EI research is that emotions are essentially contagious, and thus a leader’s attitude and energy can “infect” a workplace either for better or for worse.

With this in mind the authors stress the importance of resonance, which is the ability of leaders to perceive and influence the flow of emotions (including motivational states) between themselves and others they work with.

One of the keys to achieving resonance is empathic listening. [See “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey]

Self awareness and the 4 building blocks of primal leadership

The 4 building blocks of primal leadership are:

(1) Self-awareness

(2) Self-mastery [or self-management of emotion]

(3) Empathy or social awareness

(4) Relationship management

“Self-awareness is actually the fundamental ability of emotional intelligence, and probably the most ignored in a business setting.” Goleman

Emotions are contagious – from the top down

In an interview [with Stephen Bernhut in “Leaders Edge”, Ivey Business Journal May/June 2002] Daniel Goleman said:

“First, you have to reach within yourself to find out your own truth, because you can’t be resonant if you’re clueless, if you’re pretending, or if you’re just trying to manipulate people.”

You have to speak from your heart, and you have to do it in a way that speaks to other people’s hearts. So it takes authenticity. And if you can articulate a positive goal, that is, stay optimistic, enthusiastic and motivated in delivering that message, then what you’re doing is spreading that message and those moods and predisposition to the people you’re talking to. Emotions are contagious, and they are most contagious from the top down, from leader to followers.

Acting as a leader in a way that primes positive emotions in people

In the same interview, Goleman suggests that first of all, you need self-awareness, to know what’s happening with your own emotions. You also need to use your self-awareness to sense what’s right and what’s wrong in a situation, to use your deep values to guide you in what you do from moment to moment.

You need to be able to manage your emotions… and to keep yourself in a positive state, to have a good time with people as well, along with getting the job done. Of course, you also need empathy.

And then finally, you need to put that all into practice by acting as a leader in a way that primes positive emotions in people, because that’s the state in which they’re going to work best.

In my view this is inspiring stuff and offers deep insight and fresh perspective on key aspects of the leadership of change management.

Properly applied in a change management context, this emphasis on primal leadership is exactly what a people-oriented leadership style needs to deliver when employing the holistic and wide view perspective of a programme based approach to change management.