in Leadership

Leadership and Building Emotional Infrastructure

Last two posts (here and here) focused on managing the emotional aspects of workplace to build a culture of engagement. While I was writing about it, I came across a very interesting paper titled “The Emotionally Bonded Organization: Why Emotional Infrastructure Matters And How Leaders Can Build It” by Vijay Govindarajan, Professor of International Business at The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and Subroto Bagchi, co-founder of MindTree.

The paper emphasizes that role of a leader within an organization is to primarily create infrastructure. Organizations are composed of three types of infrastructure:

  1. Physical Infrastructure (buildings, furniture, equipments, offices across global locations etc.)
  2. Intellectual Infrastructure (systems, processes, technical capabilities, unique tools, patents, copyrights etc.)
  3. Emotional Infrastructure (aggregated positive feelings employees have for the organization and each other)

According to the authors, emotional infrastructure is most time consuming and difficult to build. They state:

In comparison to physical and intellectual infrastructure, emotional infrastructure is the most time-intensive and the most difficult to build. Yet the factors that create emotional infrastructure are not visibly manifest to an outsider and hence it is the most difficult for a competitor to copy, yielding a sizable and sustainable competitive advantage. This is precisely why numerous people visit Toyota in Japan but very few are able to replicate Toyota’s legendary manufacturing practices.

Further, this paper outlines 8 factors that build an emotional infrastructure.

Bottom line: Employee engagement and emotional infrastructure within an organization are a result of conscious choices at the top. Leaders who are aware of the emotional aspect of culture building will be able to build highly engaged and connected teams – a direct competitive advantage in a knowledge oriented world.

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