Back in 2012 in a convention held by our primary vendor I had the pleasure of attended a key note address from the American Psychologist George Kohlrieser. He was speaking about his life as a hostage negotiator and his book, Hostage at the Table: How leaders can overcome conflict, influence others, and raise performance.
The speech started with a story on the first time he entered a room as a negotiator and how he became a hostage himself in the situation. The way out was through communication and bonding with the hostage taker. A link to a similar speech is here: https://youtu.be/k9Z9z_Fd3Bw The Key concepts that I got from his book as it relates to transformational leadership are: how to be a secure base to establish trust and “put that fish on the table” to resolve conflict (Kohlrieser, 2006).
Being a secure Base
After listening to his speech, I attended a half day seminar where he took the concepts to a more detailed level. We talked through what becoming someone’s secure base and what that meant. In terms of a father daughter relationship, I am my daughters secure base where she learns from me the things that help her feel secure and will help her grow into a good woman with a “healthy sense of men” (Kohlrieser, 2006) based on our relationship as she grows. This same concept can be put into a transformational leader who becomes a secure base for their followers. These leaders “transform groups, organizations and even societies, in part by developing followers into moral agents and leaders” (Zhu, 2011). This is done with leading as an example of how they want their flowers to be and instilling the right moral values into the group. One of the leadership factors associated with transformational leadership is idealized influence. This “describes leaders who act as strong role models for followers; followers identify with these leaders and want very much to emulate them. These leaders usually have very high standards of moral and ethical conduct and can be counted on to do the right thing” (Northouse, 2016 p.167). The other three factors are: inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Northouse, 2016 p.167). All of these factors roll into being someone’s secure base. A transformational leader can be a secure base for their followers and everyone benefits from it
The second concept I learned from the seminar was to make sure and put the issue that needs addressed out in front to resolve conflict. His analogy is that conflict happens when something is kept under the table and not brought out for discussion. It is a smelly fish that we all know sits down just below our sight, but we can all smell it and know it is there (Kohlrieser, 2006). We moved on to role play some scenarios to identify underlying issues and participating in these gave me a new insight on leadership and how I could do a better job of being there for my people and keep everything on the table. There have been many occasions where others on our team have said, let’s just “put that fish on the table” and talk through what is troubling us. I took the same concept I had learned to them and now they are also using some of the same techniques in their daily lives. The leadership model from Kouzes and Posner illustrate this concept the leadership practices that “challenge the process” and “Enable others to act” (Northouse, 2012 p.174). Taking the issues or processes that exist, but no one wants to address and improve take a strong person to challenge. A transformational leader is willing to take risks and “when exemplary leaders take risks, they do it one step at a time, learning from their mistakes as they go” (Northouse, 2012 p.174). Expecting the same behavior from their followers is good role modeling and allows them to take the same risks with the support of the leader.
This speech had a profound effect on me and got me thinking about going back to school. It took a few years to commit to, but it is a great concept from a one day seminar that lends itself well leadership concepts. This is a small taste of what transformational leadership is like for me. I know there is still a long journey ahead, but I do have the right moral compass to succeed and will learn to lead better by example so that the next wave of leaders can be born.
Kohlrieser, G. (2006). Hostage at the table: how leaders can overcome conflict, influence others, and raise performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Zhu, W., Avolio, B., Riggo, R., & Sosik, J. (2011, October). The effect of authentic transformational leadership on follower and group ethics. Retrieved December 06, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/science/article/pii/S1048984311001068
Northouse, Peter G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.