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.
Kohlrieser: First of all, building and understanding that we want security, we want to create economic opportunity for families, for children. We want to create opportunities for people to live in a constructive happy way, the right to be able to walk out and feel safe. Now, there could be more specific goals. There can be very, very general goals. However, we live in a tribal world. We live in a global world and tribes must come together. And what we see under fear, this [retribalization] to more nationalism, to more small entities who are attacking others, the brain is not fundamentally hardwired to create war. The brain is fundamentally hardwired for social bonding. However, we have all been exposed to and see the violence that occurs, and what we know is that whether it’s an individual act of violence in the school or a business or whether it’s more large group violent behavior, it comes when there is broken bonding. The fundamental process in the mirror neurons of the brain and the way the brain focuses is to build collaborative relationships. Now, when the early warning system goes off and you start seeing danger or you start looking only for your self-interest, your own self-interest then you begin to create these wars that occur, and wars begin in the mind, peace begins in the mind, and that is where leaders have to go. And bring it back to organizations. I think we have to understand that same processes working in organizations. We must have leaders at all levels who are focused on what common goals are, and where you have that and you have the courage to say the truth or as I say in the book, “Put the fish on the table” because if you’ve got a conflict, a difference where there’s tension, disagreement, polarization, it only truly is an extreme conflict or a dangerous conflict when the bond is broken. If two people, two groups, two tribes have a difference that difference does not have to lead to a violent conflict if they maintain a bond. You don’t have to like someone they have a bond with them. You simply have to be able to come up with a common goal, and we know this by some of the great actions that have taken place. The Gorbachev-Reagan story of starting out as arch enemies who come together around the common goal, build the bond of working together and ultimately becoming personal friends. Now, this doesn’t mean all these are going to lead to personal friendship. But the truly great leaders, the truly great leaders, whether it’s Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, you look around the world, they have this fundamental view of how do we bond, how do we create relationships, and through that find solutions and find problems.