There’s No Crying In Business!

08.01.12 | Posted in UnCommon Leadership

I am privileged to be good friends with Dr. George Kohlrieser. George is the professor of leadership at the Institute of Management and Development (IMD). IMD is one of the top business schools in Europe located in Lausanne, Switzerland. He has developed an executive development program called High Performance Leadership, one of the most popular programs at IMD. The program is based on his book Hostage At The Table; How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others and Raise Performance.  I am also privileged to coach in his program. The transformational change that we see in our executives after 6 days is truly remarkable and is one of the reasons the program sells out every session.

The purpose of that introduction is for a discussion on leadership as it relates to influencing others. One key concept of George’s book is the concept of bonding with people which then leads to the potential for becoming a “secure base” for your followers. I would highly encourage you to get the book and read fully about the concepts as this is a very brief discussion about an incredibly powerful concept. If you’ve ever read any of Gallup’s work on leadership or Posner/Kouzes (The Leadership Challenge) there are 4 major characteristics followers expect from their leaders: the creation of an environment of stability, compassion, hope, and ultimately TRUST. If you as a leader don’t learn to “bond” with people, they can never fully trust you, and you will not be a secure base for them.  Secure base leadership is a foundational element for any leader who wants to take their game to the next level. This specific topic will, in fact, be George’s next book, scheduled to be released next year.

The entire concept of bonding as George lays out in his book is very deep. For now, let’s look at one major barrier to a leader being willing and capable of bonding with his/her followers: loss and grief. I know that I possibly just lost some of you, but hold on and stay with me! I am not a psychologist, but George is. He believes (and I do too now that I’ve worked with numerous executives) that loss in our personal life, in our business life and even anticipated loss can greatly affect our ability to be a leader who truly can engage with his followers. If we do not understand this concept, we will miss our chance to lead ourselves effectively, as well as others.

Let me give you an example that is very personal. We just moved to Baton Rouge, LA. Admittedly, I was struggling with leaving our beautiful home and what I consider my hometown, Atlanta. Without going into all of the details, here’s the punch line. I was losing effectiveness and focus in everything that I was doing. When I finally grieved the loss of what was very important to me, there was a cathartic cleansing that allowed me to reestablish my “power zone” and begin to live again. How did I do that? Unashamedly, I will tell you that I cried my eyes out for about an hour with my wife. I am willing to tell you this because I believe it is extremely important for each of us to understand the losses in our lives, understand what the grieving cycle is, and be willing to go to a place that may make us very uncomfortable. I know that just like that famous line uttered by Jimmie Dugan (Tom Hanks) in A League Of Our Own, there is supposed to be no crying in business. I am not suggesting for a minute that you break down in the boardroom! But, I am suggesting you understand a key concept that for being an UnCommon Leaderthat may be completely new to you.

Do you have a leader in your organization that used to be a high performer and suddenly has become someone you don’t know? Have you? Chances are he or you are dealing with major stress due to unresolved loss and grief. One more time; get George’s book; read it and apply it and take your leadership game to a level that you might not know exists!

Onward & Upward!


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3 Responses to “There’s No Crying In Business!”

  1. Terry Small says:

    Hi Ed,
    A thoughtful, intelligent post on a very important life and leadership principal we don’t often hear much about.

    The good news is that change is always good for our brain.


  2. echaffin says:

    Thanks, Terry. Yes, the more we make our brain take on new things the more we grow. S

  3. Being a psychologist myself, I appreciate your blog post. Thanks.

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