Posted September 2015
I know I have not written a blog on leadership in three months, but believe me, my thoughts on the subject are not far away – sad I know.
I have since seen many things that have reminded me about leadership and the different types of leaders there are out there:
· Leadership as a parent
· …As a teacher
· …As a Royal
· …As a politician
· …As a dictator
· …As a lawyer and town counsellor
The list goes on…
And I wonder, what does a passionate teacher and a loving parent have in common with a dictator? What do leaders like Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and Queen Elizabeth, to name a few, have in common? Regardless of politics and beliefs, there must be something that defines one leader as being good and another being bad. We talk a lot about the skills of a leader but I think there is something more that makes a leader someone who we aspire, admire and find inspirational – someone we would define as a “good” leader.
It could be possible to say that perhaps the different agendas – what the leader seeks out to achieve - separates them and makes one good and another bad. However, when it comes to leaders in organisations, I think it would be harder to differentiate good from bad based on agenda.
So, this got me thinking and I thought what about COMPASSION and BENEVOLENCE? I have been discussing in previous conversations the importance benevolence has on developing leaders in the future. But what about in the past and the here and now? I think benevolence has already had a big impact on leadership, and is not a “new” thing.
For example, it could easily be argued it was Hitler’s lack of compassion and benevolence that made him a leader with terrible consequences. On the other side of the spectrum, the level of compassion and benevolence Nelson Mandela had made him a leader of amazing consequences.
So, now I want to put my professional head on and ask if this is the case, then how do we measure compassion and benevolence? How do we develop it? Is this possible or is it all just airy-fairy stuff?
I think it is simple. We can develop and measure it by asking people to articulate how they interpret people in situations and in pictures. It is widely said that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, so lets use them to our advantage. We could use pictures we find on the internet, be it headshots or advertising, and ask managers/leaders to interpret what they think is going on – give them permission to make a judgement call on what they see in a person. A typical favourite pastime of many people is to people watch. Oddly though I don’t think we allow ourselves to do this consciously in business – we do it sub-consciously, but not with an objective or goal in mind, typically.
I think this will allow us to measure and develop a leaders levels of benevolence that will then create significant impacts on the organisation and their teams.
The biggest issue is we need to get comfortable talking about these characteristics and admit that emotion is part of what makes us human. The more we recognise this, the better leaders we will be for people and the organisation we work with.