Resonant vs. Dissonant Leadership

leadership styles

Resonant and dissonant leadership refers to different styles of managing employees. One style is not inherently better than the other. Rather, each style is useful in specific situations (i.e. when an employee needs coaching versus when a team needs to be reined in so the team stays on task).

Let’s take a quick look at their differences.


A manager with resonant leadership is more in touch with the emotional well-being of his team. She focuses on values and personal growth, which in turn builds loyalty and teamwork.

The dissonant leadership style is less concerned with employees’ emotions and more concerned with reaching goals and growing the company. The dissonant leader avoids democratic leading in order to keep things moving forward and avoid stalemates.

Here are four of the most common leadership styles you’ll see in the workplace. See if you can tell what is resonant and what’s dissonant.


A visionary is a boss who focuses on the big picture. She encourages creativity in her department and champions innovative, out-of-the-box solutions to problems. She works on inspiring her team, helping them take on her dream as their own. A visionary leader is often extroverted and assertive.

Answer: Resonant


A leadership style that focuses on pacesetting puts goals, objectives and deadlines as the top priority. These leaders exude high energy and will step in themselves to fix problems if someone on the team is under-performing. This leadership style is definitely effective during crunch time, but used exclusively it can lead to employee burnout.

Answer: Dissonant


A leader who focuses on coaching and harmony tries to build a strong team spirit within her department, while also wanting her employees to strive to improve themselves. This type of leader is more human and admits to her own mistakes so that the team can relate to her. She doesn’t ignore when employees do something wrong, but helps them find ways to improve their performance.

In addition to tangible goals, a Coach helps employees establish emotional goals. This is a good thing, to be sure, but this brand of leadership is at risk of ignoring problems and allowing bad performance to continue, at the cost of the company.

Answer: Resonant


As you might have guessed by the name, the commanding leader reflects a military-style of leadership. Instead of appealing to employees’ emotions with praise and constructive criticism, this leader expects employees to fall in line and rarely accepts excuses. Criticism is frequent, but it’s not usually the kind that is intended to build a person up.

If used all the time, this leadership style can lead to a severe drop in morale. In a time of crisis? The Commander is the ultimate option.

Answer: Dissonant

How did you do? Do you identify within yourself a particular leadership style?


In short, if your company is in crisis mode, the dissonant leadership style is the more potent of the two. It’s effective for the short term. But in most cases, the resonant visionary or coach are best for the long haul.

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