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"Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What's a sundial in the shade?" Benjamin Franklin

Sunday evenings are an unwelcome transition for many people. The weekend is winding down, and work pressure is looming. I happen to love Sunday nights, but I haven’t always. At some point, I made a conscious decision to change my thought pattern from “what’s hanging over my head” to "let's go." Now, I look at my calendar for the week and give some focus to what needs to be done and when. As a leader, gearing up for the week is about seeing challenges as opportunities, and bringing that positive influence to my coworkers and organization every day, especially on Mondays.  

As I think ahead to my week, Sunday night is also about coordinating calendars at home, negotiating chores (someone has to register the car, be at home to meet the dishwasher technician, pick something up for dinner) and reminding family members of plans or changes in our regular routines. That's the plan, anyway. It doesn't always work. I may have a thought for how my evening will go, with some time set aside to write, read, or watch Peyton Manning at work, and then someone else’s plan is to have dinner at his parents’ house and he forgets to tell me. What are my options, outside of a meltdown fight, including bringing up some unresolved grievance from the 90's? Adjust to the change and bring a gift. Wine seems to work.  

If you think about it, good leadership is about adjusting to change and bringing our best gifts. The challenge is often in knowing what those gifts are, and knowing when to share. There are times when trying to become a better leader feels like pushing a boulder to the peak of Mount Everest, without oxygen and a Sherpa. Other times, it feels quite natural. 

The work and lessons of leadership are never-ending. The more people see you as a strong leader, the more they want to know how it's done. They want to know how to create the magic that happens when leadership resonance exists. The irony of sharing positive leadership energy, especially for strong introverts, is the challenge of knowing how to renew your own energy and resolve. 

The ability to create and re-create resonance in our lives and workplaces is truly an exceptional gift. It takes focused effort and awareness. Not only do we as leaders have to manage our own emotions and behaviors, but must also learn to interpret and manage those of others. Resonance may occasionally "just happen," but dissonance always seems to be lurking around the corner. Results that are great one month are mediocre the next, and someone wants to know what went wrong. Stress builds when work turns into a race for better, more impressive numbers and nothing more.

Sometimes it can be like trying to find the perfect gift for someone year after year. You start out with great ideas, and they may be big hits, but it gets more and more difficult to find something just right. I love gift giving within my very small circle. I like to surprise friends and family with something I pick up in my travels or as I roam through bookstores or bounce around with them in mind. I'm also a card sender and a note writer. The few minutes that I take to pick out a card that brings a smile or share an appreciative message is often a most unexpected and meaningful gift. 

But what of resonance and dissonance? Resonance, of course, is that feeling of being' in tune' with someone or some place. It is where people feel valued, understood, accepted, and loved. Leaders who know how to develop resonance have figured out the people side of leadership. There is a positive influence coming from resonant leaders that seems to help others overcome frustration, find common ground, and sustain the strong connections that occur when safety and trust exist. 

Dissonance is the destructive, opposite experience of being 'in tune' with those around us. Dissonance is confusing, unsettling, and isolating. Dissonant leaders think of themselves and their own ambition before they think of their employees and their organization. They often try to hide their own shortcomings by pointing out those of others and by trying to keep others off balance. Their behavior and emotions can be unpredictable. They are so focused on results that they forget the value of encouraging learning, personal growth, and building a strong culture. They may be able to drive results by stress and fear over the short term, but without a solid, positive cultural foundation, will fall into dissonance again and again. 

Dissonance is about conflict and being out of harmony with your situation or coworkers. It happens naturally, and it happens to everyone and every organization. The trick is to stay constantly aware and pay attention to emotions and their impact. We all have an emotional reality that ebbs and flows. Some days we feel great, and others we wonder what’s wrong with the rest of the world. Creating and sustaining resonance in our lives takes effort and focus. We have to know ourselves, be highly aware of our behaviors and choices, and make an effort to understand the needs and motivations of others.  

The more I learn about resonance, the more I understand the gifts necessary to sustain it. Without awareness of the need for reflection and renewal, for instance, leaders, including myself, are constantly on the verge of dissonance. The greater the responsibility, the more an individual needs to be aware of their level of stress and what they need to do for themselves in order to purposefully and positively inspire others.

There are a number of gifts that resonant leaders bring to those they interact with and the organizations that they serve. You might be surprised by a few. Here are the ones that "resonate" most strongly with me:

1. Hope-an optimistic view of the future; staying confident and positive when things look especially grim.

2. Energy-constant movement, change, and lift. A force multiplier. 

3. Inspiration-helping others want to move, change, and lift along with you.

4. Humility-someone, somewhere is always smarter and better looking. 

5. Resilience-tough minded and ready for the next challenge, whatever it is.

6. Curiosity-getting to know the 'why' of what drives people and their behaviors.

7. Gratitude- authentic appreciation is never out of place. 

8. Safety-fundamental to trust and taking chances.

9. Humor-there is almost always something to smile about.

10. Compassion-a big heart is the secret. Don't tell anyone I said so. 

There are also gifts that resonant leaders give to themselves which allow them to sustain a level of excitement and drive achievement in their organizations. These have all been challenges for me, so my learning around the concept of resonant leadership has been very valuable. Here are the five that will stick with me:

  • Compassion (allowing for mistakes and occasional stupidity)
  • Time to learn and grow (the learning for leaders should never end)
  • Reflection and renewal (taking stock of what’s going okay, what needs work, and remembering to give yourself a break)
  • Taking care of the body (physical renewal reduces stress and releases endorphins)
  • Having fun (whatever makes you happy and fulfilled…and is still legal)

Think about the gifts that you bring to yourself, your family, and your organization. If you're not sure, ask someone you trust. I hope you are pleasantly surprised by what you learn.

As a leader, if you are interested in learning more, the book that sparked my interest and from which I have discovered some new things about the impact of mindfulness, hope, and compassion in the workplace is Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee.

Thank you very much for reading. Your feedback is welcome.

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Deb Sparrow

Deb Sparrow worked in financial services senior leadership for over 25 years. She is a firm believer that "the universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart" as she explores the fork in the road and writes about it from time to time. She is a graduate of Bowdoin College and Priority Learning's inaugural Executive Leadership series. Follow her on LinkedIn at Deb Sparrow worked in financial services senior leadership for over 25 years. She is a firm believer that "the universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart" as she explores the fork in the road and writes about it from time to time. She is a graduate of Bowdoin College and Priority Learning's inaugural Executive Leadership series. Follow her on LinkedIn at



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