A captain is as good as his team, says MS Dhoni, Captain, Indian Cricket team. I do not agree. For me this statement reflects low confidence but not necessarily lack of ability. I am a big fan of MS Dhoni, though!
Now, this is not a surprise to many who follow sports where team work is essential to meet the desired goal. In a scenario where employees are needed to perform certain tasks and take actions, the onus lies on each individual. Each team member knows what is expected and how their performance impacts the big goal.
Yet, when the team fails, the knife-sharp critics dig deep into the flesh of the leader and make him bleed to satisfy the urge to hold him accountable. Sometimes leaders are asked to step down and sometimes the situations are manufactured to force them to step down. But, is it as simple as it looks?
It has always amazed me, how much a leader can influence team members. In a corporate scenario, where hierarchies are fed into our DNA from day one and systems do not function without approvals, reviews and performance evaluations, a leader is expected to redact everything and make it look awesome for his team. And you thought being a leader was easy!
I have had opportunities to work with multiple leaders from various geographies, functions and levels within the organization. Some dazzled me with their brilliance, demeanor and vision while some baffled me with their fake sense of arrogance, incompetent knowledge and insensitivity. Don’t worry, I would not name anyone here ;-).
I asked my network, what qualities do they admire in their leaders and astonishingly, though the list was long, it was not diverse. Most of them did not even mention technical skills, or MBA, or compensation. Every employee admires ‘human’ qualities in their leaders. Tweet This.
Ritu Gogia, a housewife (Manager with Tata Business Support Services before she shifted focus on her family), opines that good leaders lead by setting an example and they are always respectful and approachable. Being approachable is one of the essential and critical qualities which a lot of leaders lack.
Will Runyon, Brand System & IBMer Enablement, Sales Incentives and Global Recognition, IBM, is a perfect example. Last couple of times, when I traveled to Armonk, New York, he took out time to meet me and talk about the brilliant efforts he is leading. Not only that, he came in his awesome Jeep, from IBM North Castle office to pick me up at IBM CHQ Armonk office for our meeting. I have never heard or seen any leader do that.
Farah Hashim, Business Development Manager & Head of Operations, Paul Mitchell, believes that leaders should be good listeners, motivators, goal orientated and organized people who make things happen! Communication is the key in any relationship and it starts with listening. Social has transformed the leadership style from ‘ruler’ to ‘partner.’ Tweet This. With the advent and assimilation of Enterprise Social Network (ESN) leaders have become more accessible – their thought process and personal time.
ESN allows leaders to listen openly and engage employees on a regular basis. Who ever thought that every IBMer would be able to communicate with the CEO, publicly! But we can and we do, using our internal social media platform, Connections, which Ginni Rometty, IBM Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer uses to interact with all IBMers! Every IBMer, no matter what the hierarchy or geography can reach out and share their thoughts.
Sarah Siegel, Enterprise Design & Development Manager, Center for Advanced Learning, IBM, is an inspiration for many within and outside the organization, and she expects her leaders to inspire her. Sarah and I have worked on many projects together, including IBM Manager Community – an online community for IBM People Managers to connect and learn socially. She, along with few others, was instrumental in guiding and inspiring me to write and finish the whitepaper on community management.
Currently she is supporting the effort to make IBM Human Resources more social with #SocialHRSuccess.
Tim Collins, Director, HR Talent, Development & Resources, IBM, also the co-leader of #SocialHRSuccess along with Elyse Anchell, Manager, Smarter Workforce, IBM, and I, is a perfect example of a leader who inspires and walks the talk. As my manager, he has ensured an amazing environment of openness and positivity, which brings the best out of our team members including me.
So how can you become a good leader?
Well, for me it all boils down to one thing – compassion. Compassion is the feeling of empathy for others and is often regarded as having an emotional aspect to it, though when based on cerebral notions such as fairness, justice and interdependence it may be considered rational in nature and its application understood as an activity based on sound judgment.
Chade-Meng Tan (Meng), a Google pioneer, an award-winning engineer, a New York Times bestselling author, a thought leader, and a philanthropist explains in his blog, “Compassionate Leaders are Effective Leaders.”
He shares, “The best definition of compassion I know comes from the eminent Tibetan scholar Thupten Jinpa. Jinpa is also the longtime English translator for the Dalai Lama. He has a charmingly mellow and gentle voice, so the Dalai Lama mischievously makes gentle fun of it every now and then (“See, I have deep booming voice, but this guy, his voice so soft,” the Dalai Lama would say, and they would all laugh out loud).
Jinpa defines compassion as follows: “Compassion is a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved.”
Specifically, he defines compassion as having three components:
- A cognitive component: “I understand you”
- An affective component: “I feel for you”
- A motivational component: “I want to help you”
The most compelling benefit of compassion in the context of work is that compassion creates highly effective leaders. To become a highly effective leader, you need to go through an important transformation. Bill George, the widely respected former CEO of Medtronic puts it most succinctly, calling it going from “I” to “We.”
And not just leaders, all of us play a great part in creating the happy culture within our organizations. So are you compassionate?
I am interested to know your thoughts. Feel free to comment and help others become better. And that is the first step to become a better leader. If you need to know more about how #SocialHRSuccess is helping IBM HR become smarter, connect with Tim, Elyse or me.
Recommended Reading: A Critical Soft Skill for High Performing Teams
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