Recently I heard a podcast host talk about resonance with their audience and they gave a great definition of the word. That it made me think a bit about the word and how it applies to leadership. When I looked up the word and its application I was even more drawn into the idea of this as an excellent metaphor for leadership and marketing. If you know me at all, you probably know I believe many things are analogous. I believe leadership and marketing are closely interwoven and while that’s an excellent discussion in and of itself, we’ll be focusing on the resonance.
I’m sure we’ve all seen this experiment. The experimenter goes through a range of sounds to find the frequency that will break the glass. While the point of the experiment might be to break the glass, notice that at different frequencies the glass wobbles. At other frequencies, nothing happens. Even more interesting is that the volume of the sound has nothing to do with its resonance.
If you look up the definition for resonance you’ll find that it’s a multi-faceted word that applies to music, chemistry, physics, and even astronomy. The podcast host described resonance as being in sync with your audience. When I looked at all the definitions of resonance online I discovered that he was correct and that all the definitions could be summarized with the word, “being in sync.”
In order to achieve resonance in these experiments, the experimenter has to achieve two things:
- They have to find the right frequency and
- play a clear tone.
In music that means they have to play the right melody for the ensemble and choosing the right key to play it in. In physics, resonance is a phenomenon that occurs when the frequency at which a force is periodically applied is equal or nearly equal to one of the natural frequencies of the system on which it acts. This causes the system to oscillate with a larger amplitude than when the force is applied at other frequencies. Confused? I am too.
It’s a great point so it’s worth explaining. Essentially, if you think of pushing a child on a swing set (the system). If you stand directly behind the child and push (force), that could be a great starting point. However, when the child returns to that position, you’ll stop the momentum if you push from that position. Instead, you’d want to apply force further back to help increase the speed.
If you take this out further, you can see that your frequency of pushes, the strength of your push and where you deliver the push are all important in maintaining momentum and speed in the swing. There are those two characteristics again, the right frequency (how often) and the right force (delivery).
To put it even more simply, resonance needs two things.
- The what (the system, melody, object, speech, message, culture, opinion)
- The how (force, tune, frequency, vocabulary, semantics, delivery)
What does resonance have to do with leadership?
If you’re like me at all you’re already seeing the connection. You can’t think of a successful leader that wasn’t in sync with their followers. Resonance or “being in sync” doesn’t always mean that you’re in agreement. A pastor’s message might cause friction, it might be almost offensive, but if it resonates, it can spur the listener to action. Resonance happens when you’re in tune with your audience and when you’re clear in your communication.
We resonate when we communicate clearly in the manner our audience hears.
When a leader communicates, their success is often related to their clarity. If you were to create of list of great leaders around the world, you’d eventually get to the name, Andy Stanley. The Pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Andy could be the world’s greatest communicator. He rarely communicates in a way that doesn’t resonate. Even those that disagree with his theological exegesis agree that he is an excellent communicator.
The reason is Andy resonates. In an interview, he was asked why does he think he communicates so well. It comes down to two things.
1. He asks, “What do they need to hear?” (Force)
2. He plans his talks to be so simple, so clear, they can be portable or memorable. (Frequency)
So how to do we resonate?
In order to resonate with your followers, you must communicate at their frequency and you must be clear in communication. In other words, we resonate when we communicate clearly in the manner our audience hears. Practically, this means you must know your audience well enough to know what they will listen to and what. If you’re asked to speak for example, then you must understand the audience. This in a way is servant leadership.
Any time the youth pastor is asked to speak the congregation as a whole, it’s very clear whether they studied their audience or not. In sadly comical fashion, the youth pastor will use references that are incredibly relevant and make life-giving points, only to have their message fall on deaf ears. They aren’t resonating with the audience because they didn’t tailor their message for the audience.
If you’re a business leader then it means understanding your employees and your customers more deeply. Much of the frustration in the workplace comes from poor or unclear communication. In general, business leaders often get the message right. The business needs to grow. However, the “how” that message is delivered makes all the difference. Poor communication can create unnecessary friction even when all the parties at a company want the same thing.
This leads me to the customer side of leading a company.
What does this have to do with marketing?
A ton. In order to have a successful marketing campaign, you need to create an ad that resonates with your target audience. It’s really that simple. The more you know your audience and the more your message is specifically crafted to them, the better your campaign will be. Marketing fails when the message isn’t the right message for the audience, which is true for leadership as well.
If you’d like me to dive further into this topic, comment below! What do you think of resonance or this post? Let’s discuss it!