Friday, 5 June 2015

Compassionate Leadership

Everything in life has an opposite .Creation/destruction, Yin/ yang, positive/negative, feminine/ masculine, and so on. What I've lately become acutely aware of has been the two opposing perspectives of compassion and judgment. These are two different perspectives as well as realities. One focuses on the awareness of multiple perspectives, and the understanding that one isn't necessarily better than the other, or right or wrong, and the other sees only one's own perspective and believes that it is right. Empathy helps one "feel" another's pain and allows for an understanding of the other's point of view. Judgment separates and creates an environment of fear. I'm seeing the importance of choosing to be compassionate in creating a culture of teamwork. 

When an organizational culture is based on judgment, an environment of fear is created; fear of being judged. Fear isn't a motivator; it makes people close down and prevents the building of confidence. Empathy helps find common ground, and allows for relationships to form and connections to be made.  
It's the difference between the people in charge believing the power is in them and the leaders understanding the power is in the people. The power of one is limited to the one, and the power of that one allowing the people to see that they have power and that collectively they are infinitely more powerful.  I believe that's what leadership is, setting the tone and not being set by the current tone.  The coach isn't the team, but part of the team. They only inspire the greatness in their people with the creation of a culture of vision with values, confidence, and providing a story of hope that creates an impassioned and inspired team.  To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, “I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great of a burden to bear.”  Love is the source of courage and passion, and fear is the source of anxiety. It comes down to a choice.  Do we choose to show compassion, or do we choose to judge?    
Compassion is a way for us to use our imagination and creativity, which is what separates us from the other animals, to show respect for others, and to understand that there are other possible ways of seeing the same thing.  
Where is our focus?  Is it on personal gain, advancement, or for our own personal agenda?  There is nothing wrong with bettering oneself, but if you find yourself stepping on others to get ahead, you may not be inspired or moved by a collective vision.  Selfish acts do not build a culture of teamwork; it only creates walls of mistrust and a culture of separateness.    
I have spoken to quite a few people about the seemingly impossible idea of changing our culture (our workforce in general) to this more compassionate mindset.  I have also been told that this is a task that would be impossible.  I see it differently.  I see people doing the very things that could inspire such a change, but they may be acting more on intuition than any conscious effort on their part.  I see this as an opportunity to teach them about the impact of what they are doing so that they are able to share this gift with others.  Culture, as I see it, is how we treat each other as a whole.
Are we perpetuating the same mistakes or are we learning what we can do better and influencing positive change?  Are we placing our leaders at the head of a canoe going downstream and calling it leadership, or are we using our collective vision to inspire positive change?  
Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Just because a group has always done something one way doesn’t mean it is a positive tradition.  Dysfunction can be a tradition, but that does not mean it is right.  Change can be painful, and almost always takes work.  If you are not working hard you probably are not leading. Change takes thought, vision, purpose, and dedication.  People want to be moved not manipulated.  If we help each other feel appreciated, respected, and valued, magic happens.  If we choose to give respect, people will stop trying to demand it. In my experience, humility infers compassion and removes judgment.
Where does passion come from?  What excites you, moves you, or intrigues you?The specifics are different for each of us.  We are all motivated or demotivated by different things.  I was asked this very question and I proposed an answer.  I tried to think of where my source of inspiration came from.  I came up with a possible answer which was simply, vision.     
We are all either moved or held back by possibility, and possibility is the route of vision.  We humans are animals with a certain trait exhibited by only our species, the ability to imagine possible futures.  It is in this ability to think of different scenarios and to create one that energizes us, or that incapacitates us. It is this cognitive process that allows us to choose to move ourselves forward, or to withdrawal into ourselves.  As I see it, this is where true leadership begins.    

With this power, the power of choice, we can create, and be moved collectively by a vision.  If there is one thing that can inspire a person or a group, it’s hope.  Hope is simply a story of a possibility, and in this positive possibility is where we can engage people on an emotional level.  Some feel that fear has a place to move people, but in my experience fear has the opposite effect.  A person will do what is expected of them when fear is used, but if we help them see their self-worth, feel appreciated, and respected as part of a team, there is no telling how far they will go for you.  This, when seen in action, almost seems like magic, but it is merely our basic human desire to feel like we have worth.  I have seen those who try to demand respect and used fear as their primary tool of management, not realizing they are desperate to get the very thing without giving it themselves.  
If we choose to lead with vision, respect, appreciation, and humility, not only will the team be inspired, but you will be building a family.  Brotherhood is based on action, not words.  Labels without action, are nothing but platitudes.  Passion is powered by positive possibilities, and anxiety is born from negative ones.  The vision gives us a common set of values in which to make decisions moving us in a desired direction.    
A good way of seeing what kind of culture you are working in is to see how people react to a member of the team speaking poorly of a teammate.  Are the people in charge jumping on the bandwagon, or are they offering help to the ones being spoken about?  Are the weaker members (the ones needing extra help and guidance) the problem, or are the ones choosing to chastise them the problem?  If the people in charge are sitting in the front of a canoe that is going with the current, no work is being done, only drifting with no direction.  
We the leaders need to understand that our team looks to us for direction, and our focus should be on our collective values.  Being a leader has less to do about where you sit in the boat, but the energy and direction you inspire in it. By choosing to help the team to believe in themselves, helping the rest of the group believe in each other, and to assist instead of criticize, the team will begin to bond.  People know when they are being singled out and being unfairly judged. This creates an environment of fear and animosity that is counterproductive and detrimental to team building. Create an environment where mistakes are welcomed and used as tools to learn instead of making people in need of training feel worthless. Compassion is vital to true communication, and communication is paramount in team building.  Too many people assume too much and understand too little.  It starts with the one person strong enough to set that tone and the culture will follow. Imagine, encourage, respect, and grow together while being mindful of your choices, and making sure they are inline with the core values.