Here’s the story of a leader who did not get it right:
- Her personal ambition was more important than the impact the team was trying to achieve.
- She had the false notion that displaying vulnerability or confusion meant letting the team down. So, she always put on a brave face and expected others to do the same.
- She had poor communication skills and was unable to have difficult conversations with team members. This left people disgruntled and disillusioned.
How effective was the team?
Contrary to popular understanding, the team was very effective! They organized several successful community clinics, put on well-planned events, and initiated a few projects that are being continued to this day.
How was she on the personal front?
Bad. The leader hated being a leader. She began to think that leadership meant being disliked and disrespected. After, internalizing a lot of criticism, she thought leadership meant being lonely and feeling emotional anxiety and unhappiness most of the time.
More than 7 years later, she knows now that leadership isn’t like that.
How do I know all this?
Well, that leader was me!
I have dedicated the last 2-3 years solely to understanding how leadership works. In an effort to become a good leader, I learnt and unlearned several different leadership styles. As a general dentist leading a team of 7-10 members on a daily basis, and the founder of a teaching non-profit, leadership is an important principle I knew I needed to get right. I had the motivation, and the drive to be a leader. Additionally, I also wanted to be happy and peaceful. Are these possible together, was the question I was trying to solve.
Why is it so important to inculcate the right leadership style? It is because all those years ago when I was the leader, I was never happy and at peace with myself.
And, life as a leader IS NOT worth it, if you aren’t happy. Right?
This realization led me to research and ultimately discover Compassionate Leadership.
A compassionate leader gets a lot of things right. If you’re in a healthcare setting and are in the ‘business’ of caring for people, you might want to continue reading.
A compassionate leader meets people where they are. This means accepting and empathizing with team members. Understanding that each individual comes from a different background, with concerns at home, kids, racial and economic inequalities, passions and hobbies. These leaders listen to problems and use the data to recognize people’s unique strengths and weaknesses. They then understand how to harness those strengths to manage a cohesive team.
Inspire and Motivate
A truly compassionate leader is more than a 100% invested in the success of their team members. To them, true success is when they are able to inspire and motivate people to reach their fullest potential. They are patient until people reach this potential. Ultimately, the success of the team, which may take several years, is what truly defines great institutions. This is why compassionate leaders are in it for the long haul.
Compassionate leaders create a safe space for team members to voice their vulnerabilities. Team members are not afraid of reaching out to their leader and saying ‘hey, I don’t know how to do this, can you help me?’ Team members understand that their leader has their best interest at heart.
They enjoy the feeling of ‘trust’ shared within great teams.
Compassionate leaders recognize the importance of communication. They may be afraid of having an uncomfortable conversation, but that doesn’t stop them from having it. They understand the value of listening and maintaining an open and honest line of communication.
‘To be understood, you must first seek to understand’ – Stephen Covey
Lastly, compassionate leaders are true role models. They have high expectations from their teams because they set the bar pretty high with their own integrity and hard work.
Working with a compassionate leader may mean being pushed out of your comfort zone. It may mean stepping up to the task and finding your ultimate potential. It will also mean removing defeatist thoughts and becoming growth-minded.
Have I met compassionate leaders in my life? Yes, I have. I am proud to say that many of my mentors are compassionate leaders, both in their own businesses and to mentees like myself.
Am I a compassionate leader? Not yet, although I am trying to become one everyday! #thejoyisinthehustle