Leadership: Do everything to your people, but don’t expect return

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.

The definition is simple and easy to understand, but leadership is a serious business. As very appropriately described by renowned Management Guru Peter Drucker, Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.

Increasingly today, in whichever business, it’s all about managing and leading people. This task is challenging and multifaceted because of complexities in human behavior and attitudes. We all live under the same sky, but we all don’t have the same horizon. A human being is a bundle of emotions governed by complex psychological factors.

There are various categories of emotions such as conceptions, sensations, reflexes and expressions, each having a purpose and a trigger leaving mental or physical effects.

Further, emotions are characteristics of individual, genetic and group factors. While the science behind the theory of emotions is indeed complex, experienced leaders are aware of the subject, in the context of leading people. In corporate environment, the followings are some common behavioral trends seen by all of us:

  • A feeling of pride with promotions or high increments.
  • A feeling of humiliation with demotions, terminations.
  • A feeling of jealousy when a peer is promoted or sympathy or humor when a peer is demoted.
  • A feeling of humiliation when fired in public.
  • A feeling of anger and frustration with personal problems being brought to office and vice versa.

Such feelings or emotions can cause different effects, either voluntary or involuntary such as horror or humor, anger or laughter, smile or blush etc.

Conflicting issues

An employee always has several conflicting issues bothering him such as career vs family, matrimonial issues, financial problems and inter personal problems. However, it is a pleasure to give advice, humiliating to need it, normal to ignore it. A humane leader understands this through extreme sensitivity and empathy.

Empathetic listening is not easy and comes with a lot of sacrifice and practice as empathy has two parts — the skill [the tip of the iceberg] and the attitude [the mass of the iceberg].

A leader has to be a good empathetic listener to provide vent for an employee’s frustrations. A leader also needs to do this genuinely allowing an employee to open up.

It is almost impossible to smile on the outside without feeling better on the inside and hence all feelings have to be genuine and originating straight from the heart. For an employee to open up, it’s also necessary that a leader always shows the same face of his personality whether in private or public so that trust is developed. In other words, a leader has to understand, before being understood.

Thus a leader understands an employee, counsels and plays a constructive role in his professional and often personal life.

Balancing act

A leader focuses on people without losing the focus on results, balancing the two all the time tactfully. Being humane, he manages to stay in the circle of influence of an employee, thereby having a very high emotional bank account.

However, such leaders are not always popular but respected for being humane and result oriented.

A simple check list for a humane leader:

  • Be a good empathetic listener.
  • Understand an employee before being understood.
  • Be genuine and sincere.
  • Create an atmosphere of openness and trust.
  • Have patience and tolerance in plenty.
  • Focus on results but through people.
  • Praise in public, criticize in private.
  • Perceptions are more important than facts.
  • Exceptions made if any, shouldn’t create wrong precedents.
Finally, it’s good to remember the lesson in Bhagavad-Gita: Do everything to your people, but without expecting any returns.

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V Pradeep Kumar

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