Over the last couple of years, through the years of the pandemic, all of us have been reminded sternly that material possessions and wealth cannot substitute the value of human life. We learnt again that we must collaborate among people and focus on the goodness of human values. The world of work underwent several changes. Leaders have understood that there are alternate ways of leading people to get things done and building an atmosphere of trust and accountability at the same time. Many of them have been able to transform their thinking and adapt their styles accordingly, while a whole lot of us are still caught in the collision of the old realm with the new and emerging realm.
What has changed?
During the pandemic, many of us worked remotely and hence, hired people all over, let people work remotely and made the digital way of working, right from customer connect, partner engagements and stakeholder communication to the delegation of tasks, workflow approvals and many other business processes. Now the pandemic is over and a part of the world has come back to workplaces; hence, we see a collision of sorts. The power centres that believe in the old model of work have been influencing and insisting to bring back the goodness of the old methods and norms. At the same time, there is a substantial number of people who believe that a lot of work must be done remotely because it can be done efficiently; moreover, if we keep remote work a reality, our workplace can have a diverse pool of talent and access a wide pool of talent to choose from. Debates continue on this; most probably, they will continue for a long time.
What changes do we need to consider?
In any case, there have been a few other realisations which are not topics of debate. Employees are looking for not just fair pay but compassion, freedom and trust from their colleagues including managers and leaders. Hence, managers have to rise to the occasion and adjust their styles by reducing the components of directiveness and increasing the components of collaboration, camaraderie and transparency in their style.
For example, a manager has to see “We” first rather than looking for opportunities to establish one’s authority and prove one’s contribution by referring to “I”. It is not easy to accept one’s limitations and show one’s ignorance; often managers gloss over those areas rather than openly accepting the existence of blind spots and weaknesses in them. While the old thinking puts the manager as the omniscient power, the new thinking ought to be that of a collaborative style of reviewing the situation and arriving at decisions. The manager’s role of leading with integrity around the purpose, values and beliefs is more important than ever before. It is similar to the way parents lead their lives in the family that constitutes their children and others alongside other stakeholders connected with them. Leading a team in the business is now akin to leading a family.
How does a compassionate leader take tough decisions?
Traditionally many of us believe that leaders have to be strong and tough so that they will not shy away from taking hard calls that could potentially impact others in a significant way. Since we are talking about compassion and collaboration, one wonders if these qualities make the person soft, indecisive and procrastinating.
The fact is, a compassionate leader demonstrates compassion towards all stakeholders. One cannot limit one’s exposure to employees only and score high on compassion by listening actively to them, understanding them as people and empathising with them. The job of the compassionate manager includes helping the employee to fulfil one’s potential and get the best out of him or her. So, the manager has to set stretch goals, offer advice and guidance, and coach or mentor the employee to scale new heights of success. Moreover, one has to be compassionate towards the shareholders or owners of the organisation, and compassionate towards the customer and all other external stakeholders. Life is never unidimensional – one has to balance interests along all dimensions and at the same time, be human!