Resonant and Dissonant Leadership Styles in Project Management

Brandi Johnson

Sep 22 2016 5 min read

Good project managers have many skills in common. Organization, prioritization, and communication skills are just a few. But another key component to effective project management is leadership. There are two key types of leaders – resonant and dissonant.

A resonant leader is one that focuses on the emotional well-being of their team. They emphasize core values and personal growth for their team along with accomplishing objectives. A resonant leader is one that inspires loyalty and drives teamwork.

Dissonant leadership, on the other hand, focuses on reaching goals and growing the company, rather than the individuals. They avoid democratic leadership to keep things moving and avoid stalemates. Dissonant leaders are most effective in times of crisis, as they have a dedicated focus on getting to the end goal without letting feelings get in the way.

Resonant and Dissonant Leadership Styles in Project Management

Both types of leadership are value in project management. When your project is in crisis – for example, you may be over budget, running behind, or out of scope – then it’s time to pull out the dissonant leadership hat. As a dissonant leader, you can direct the steps that your team needs to take to get back on track and accomplish your project objectives.

Over the longer term, it’s better to leverage resonant leadership as a project manager. Not only do they inspire loyalty and drive teamwork, but resonant leaders also create engagement with their employees. Here are a few additional ways that resonant leadership can help your projects succeed.

  • Encourage creativity. As a project manager, you’ve clearly defined the goal of your project, and the general steps to get there. Leaving some room in the process for your team to think creatively not only increases their commitment and engagement but may identify new methods that save you time and money or give you better results.
  • Foster experimentation. Sometimes you know where you’re going, but you’re not quite sure how to get there. When you allow your team to experiment, they find new pathways to success and learn more as part of the process.
  • Inspire change. Change is hard for most people. We’ve developed comfortable habits, processes, and systems that help us accomplish our goals. We need to have the right motivation to embrace change. Resonant leaders provide that through providing guided and supportive leadership.
  • Engaged employees. Engaged employees do more than just boost productivity. According to Jim Harter Ph.D., “Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.”
  • Competitive advantage. Engaged employees who feel empowered and creative in their jobs are less likely to search for different jobs. This helps you develop a competitive advantage as you spend more time developing your team and executing projects, and less time on recruiting, training, and scrambling to fill the gaps left by the open position.

Resonant leadership is about more than just “feel good” stuff. Your leadership affects productivity and employee retention. So when you’re approaching a situation, take a second to consider which style is right for your project and your long-term objectives.


Brandi Johnson

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