Clear vision: University-wide
leadership development program takes shape © Jan. 25, 2008 Norwich University Office of Communications

Photo of Dr. Richard Boyatzis

photo by Jay EricsonDr. Richard Boyatzis speaking before the Norwich crowd.

Norwich University has been creating leaders through its military training program for more than 180 years.

But for some time now, one of the institution’s primary goals has been to establish a dynamic leadership development experience that is more inclusive of the different members of the University community.

“We don’t have a common language and a clear vision for a leadership development program for all students,” said University President Richard Schneider, “or for our faculty and staff for that matter.”

So Dr. Polly Young-Eisendrath, a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Vermont, was approached to serve as a consultant and work with a cross section of students, staff and faculty members to do just that.

After several years of research and careful study, a University-wide Leadership Development Program is now taking shape. Its goal is to give all members of the Norwich community a significant opportunity to learn more about leadership and themselves, as well as their roles in families and communities.

One of the tools the group has been using is the New York Times bestseller, Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence. Many of the concepts that form the foundation for the program come from the book. To help kick off this movement, Dr. Richard Boyatzis, an expert in leadership development and one of the book’s authors came to campus recently.

A widely sought after lecturer, Boyatzis introduced many to a new way of looking at what effective leadership is, and what it means to an organization and the people in it. Inspiration and resonance were the two central themes that were woven throughout his presentation.

No stranger to military culture, his decades of research include a 17-year study of US Navy and Marine Corps enlisted members and officers in leadership roles. In the study, Boyatzis said he found that, “command and control leadership, for lack of a better term, doesn’t work. Ask and inspire does.

“I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. The more you think about this, the more you may realize that this is common sense,” Boyatzis said, “but it is not common practice.”

He told the crowd that a commanding, do-it-because-I-say-so, leadership style will get that leader compliance to orders, “but you won’t get buy-in. Great leaders inspire people through hope and vision. They spread compassion,” he said. “They inspire others by creating and maintaining resonance.”

Boyatzis went on to explain that the term resonance has to do with the emotional climate that leaders have the ability to create in their organizations. He used a series of exercises throughout his talk to illustrate the major points he was making. Leaders, he said, either resonate energy and enthusiasm, or they spread negativity or dissonance. The impact of their actions consequently affect either negatively or positively earnings and productivity.

“In any group there is one person who has the most power to affect everyone else’s emotions and that person is the leader,” he said. “What we’re talking about is simply the intelligent use of these emotions.”

Boyatzis explained that when a leader cares about an individual enough to initiate some action that contributes to their well being, this simple act actually engages the parasympathetic nervous system and arouses compassion in the individual. “That’s resonance,” he said.

The University’s Intelligent Leadership Development Program will be implemented and assessed over the next five years starting next semester. During the fall semester all incoming freshmen will be introduced to the concept of resonant leadership, take a basic self-assessment and go through a problem-solving exercise.