What’s needed now are leaders who can do the hard things of leadership but in a human way.
It seems like everyone is holding their breath waiting for “normal” to return. The hard truth is…it’s not. Whatever was “normal” before the pandemic has changed. The world changed, people changed, companies changed. The opportunity before you is to create the next new normal. A new study from the Potential Project, in partnership with Harvard Business Review, charts an emerging trend: that what’s needed now are leaders who can do the hard things of leadership but in a human way.
Their research examined 5,000 companies in nearly 100 countries and found, when faced with the choice between performance and compassion, the best leaders refuse to compromise. They do BOTH.
“As a leader, how do you care for your people but still do the hard things that leadership demands? Many think this is a binary choice, but making tough decisions and being human are not mutually exclusive. In truth, they are aligned. There are two key ingredients: WISDOM and COMPASSION.”
We love this. But what exactly are Wisdom and Compassion? The report defines these as:
- Wisdom is courage to be transparent with others and to do what needs to be done, even when it is uncomfortable.
- Compassion is care and empathy for another person, combined with an intention to support and help.
“Employees with leaders who show either wisdom or compassion have net positive experiences. They enjoy and are engaged with their jobs and are less likely to burn out. But, when a leader demonstrates both wisdom and compassion, the impact on employee wellness and productivity is exponential.”
Clients like ours, who are leading the way at being human-centered organizations, live the tension of this both/and approach of wisdom and compassion.
Sometimes we observe leaders trying to make hard news less hard. You think the compassionate thing to do is soften the message, make things easier for people to hear. The reality is this type of message lands in a way that is disingenuous; it ignites confusion and mistrust amongst your people.
Sometimes we observe leaders trying to make hard news a nasty pill folks just need to swallow. Maybe out of fear, maybe out of an old mental model of paternalistic leadership, messages are delivered without consideration or regard for what people need to hear vs what the leader wants to say. The reality is this type of message lands in a way that disconnects people from the issue; it leaves people wondering why they should care – is this worth their time, energy, and efforts. As a leader, how you navigate the tension between what you need to say or do, and how you do it, matters.
Striking the right balance of wisdom and compassion can be tough. Here are a few tips:
- Begin with the end in mind. Know what you are trying to create.
- Sit in your discomfort. Discomfort means something important is trying to emerge. Mine your discomfort for information and insight.
- Align your message so that what you are saying is consistent with how you are being.
- Meet people where they are and help them move forward with you, this helps create trust.
- Be clear about boundaries: what is possible and what is not. This creates clarity and that creates safety.
- Healthy relationships are reciprocal. Listen to what is important to them: there is information in their silence, or in what they are saying.
- Listening at Levels 1-2-3 (more about this in our book) will tell them that you care.
Deep connection requires an attitude and a heart for serving others. Instead of thinking about your needs, think about them. Ask yourself these questions:
- What can I do for them?
- What do they need?
- What can I offer to them and this relationship?