George Kohlrieser is an organizational and clinical psychologist, a professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at The International Institute for Management Development (IMD), and consultant to global organizations around the world.
His research, teaching, and consulting activities are focused on high performance leadership, high performance teamwork, conflict management, change management, dialogue and negotiation, coaching, stress management, work life balance, and personal and professional development. He is also a Police Psychologist and Hostage Negotiator focusing on aggression management and hostage negotiations. Kohlrieser is founder and director of Shiloah International, a consultancy offering integrated programs to a wide range of organizations. He has worked in some eighty-five countries in North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, Middle East, Asia, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Kohlrieser completed his doctorate at Ohio State University where he wrote his dissertation on cardio vascular recovery of law enforcement leaders following high stress situations. He is also the author of a recent book entitled Hostage At The Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance.
Question: How do influential leaders build bonds in their organizations?
Kohlrieser: If you look at some of the great top leaders now, they are able to inspire. They are able to create bonding relationships. They’re able to take a whole organization and bring them through a transformation to see what is possible when you build relationship. Look, I know you met at the World Business Forum, Muhammad Yunus. Look at what he’s done with the social bonding there. Being a secure base, it is a revolutionary idea that is able to bring about change. So that, no, I am optimistic about leaders and it’s very clear now, the system through self-regulation is sorting out those who can build collaborative relationships and, yeah, there are some there that remain. But by and large, those people who are overfocused on professionality, IT, finance, law, whatever it is, and their focus on the professionality is in the way of leading, they’re either getting the feedback or the help or the coaching to see that professional training doesn’t automatically make you a leader. And in the past, people were promoted more for technical competence or competence in driving numbers rather than competence in being able to drive human relationships. And when you inspire people, then you’re going to get the greatest numbers. And, again, we know choose the right people is the key to any successful organization. And I think, here, we have to understand that this is fundamentally what leaders do. Leaders must, first of all, number 1, understand how to focus from their own mind’s eye, leading from the mind’s eye. Number 2, be able to create these bonds, these relationships. It’s the foundation to resilient inspiration. Even if you don’t like somebody, you have to bond to them. Number 3, be able to talk. Use language in a way that inspires, uplifts, doesn’t demotivate, even if you have to put the issues of problems on the table. And then from the talking, go to the dialog and the negotiation. Number 4, be able to deal with conflict. If you cannot put those fish on the table, go through the bloody mess of cleaning it. It’s simple. You will not be able to truly build a high performing team. And from there, go into negotiation, which is essentially a high impact negotiation is around the art of concession making, how do we use the law of reciprocity, the give and take. And, finally, how to be a secure base, to build trust. And these are fundamentally the basic chapters in the book, “Hostage at the Table” which, again, takes the idea of what we know from hostage negotiation to the idea that we can all be metaphorically, psychologically a hostage. And what can we learn from hostage negotiators that, as leaders, we can deal with conflict, raise performance, and never be a hostage to anyone, anything or even to yourself. Question: How will leadership paradigms change in the future? Kohlrieser: Look, we are a global world. We have to build collaborative relationships. Organizations must be learning how to drive processes that bring people together. And how to separate quickly, I mean, look at the number of organizations who in mergers and acquisitions disappear. We have to be prepared that change is coming so quickly, faster than we have ever anticipated. And that uncertainty is all around. And in this global world and in organizations, we need leaders who can give that sense of safety so that we’re not all driven by fear. The more the world is driven by fear and over fear, you see, the more the negative behavior comes on to that. The reality is change is happening fast and there’s a lot of uncertainty out there. But leaders can guide and direct. And it may be that in organizations where we have the flow, moving from one generation to another or the flow of one leader to another is a better way to lead an organizational system over time. In the political world, we don’t have that. We have the change of abrupt difference. And, normally, what happens is the leaders are not effective in being able to help people understand the change that’s necessary and bring a whole country, a whole culture towards a new mindset. And that takes a very, very inspiring and effective leader. And when you don’t have this consistency of going from generation or in [this recession] planning, it disrupts that whole process. I think the other thing that’s happening is we are far more knowledge now about how talent is developed. It’s clear, leadership is a talent. You’re not born leaders, it’s developed. It’s really clear. And, so now we have so many ways for people to learn how they can develop these talents of leadership, by watching others and getting coaching. Being authentically you but at the same time being impactful, not being a hostage. I get so concerned when I see so many leaders taken hostage. They have the right intention, they have the right goal, but they’re taken hostage because of… they somehow, they lack the courage to go that next step.