A myth buster of the power of the understated
There is a common perception in the world that a strong leader is not compassionate. While it is true that a good leader has to often take tough and unpopular decisions, there is clearly no correlation to being unempathetic or uncompassionate. In fact, I believe it is the opposite.
In the past, leaders naturally evoked associations of a commanding and an aggressive authority. In recent years however, the concept of leadership has evolved. Empathy is today a very common jargon and used voraciously. Clearly in today’s world, I believe there is greater emphasis on leadership attributes like listening, communication, empathy, and emotional intelligence.
Why is it important?
A McKinsey report says that relationships with the management is a top factor in employees’ job satisfaction. Unfortunately, research also shows that most people find their managers to be far from ideal. In another survey by McKinsey, 75 percent of the participants said that the most stressful aspect of their job was their immediate boss. The situation is dire and there is a much-needed change in leadership. In fact, studies also show that compassionate leaders perform better and foster more loyalty and engagement by their teams, and this becomes especially critical during a crisis.
Compassion as a concept
‘Compassion’ in the dictionary means ‘a concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.’ It is a desire to see others happy and the willingness to do something to help make it happen. I think it is a basic quality every human being must have – work or otherwise! There is no greater happiness in looking after your team and taking genuine interest in them.
Compassion becomes even more critical for leaders of today, especially while dealing with tough times like the past few years of the pandemic. It is in fact one of the pillars in business recovery. While in the midst of a crisis, leaders tend to focus on the work and display a more controlling leadership style. However, it is equally important to be aware of your team’s internal struggles and worries so that you can be of help to them. While it is no piece of cake, I believe it is a critical skill for sure.
Is it a dichotomy?
Something that I’ve heard again and again over the years is that a good human cannot be a tough leader! I am vehemently against this thought process. I have always believed in being a humane leader with the ability to make tough decisions.
Many a times, I’ve had people talk to me about how they have had to make a choice about being compassionate or being a leader. People pride themselves in having made this tough choice in their leadership career, for they feel that is the only way to go. I wonder why making tough decisions must come at the price of making yourself inhuman. As humans also, we need to make some tough decisions.
As a leader, I have had to make many tough decisions over the years myself. It is difficult, certainly, but cannot be dodged. Does that make me a bad human? Does taking on the responsibilities that come with leadership make you heartless? This is a perpetual puzzle for leaders. Many end up making a choice and decide to either be a good human or an effective leader. I have also been accused of being too friendly with my team members, when it came to work, I do believe you can be objective while being friendly.
Through compassion, leaders can exhibit care, build resilience, and position their teams in such a manner that they can positively reimagine a better future. Being humane and connecting with others will help leaders in the long run to become better listeners, identify potential, be open and perceptive.
Leaders must refocus their energies back to their most essential element, that is making a positive impact in other people’s lives.