I have never thought of myself as being particularly religious. In fact, truth be told, I am downright cynical about religion. But I do believe in the power of the human spirit. I believe in empathy, in kindness… and in love. I also believe there is a place for all of these in the workplace, that leadership is as much about these things as it is about building market share, managing the bottom line or developing strategic alliances. These softer elements of ourselves make the difference between our being human and automaton. They are also most often the elements we deny, perhaps because they make us feel uncomfortable and vulnerable.
But, as long as we choose to work with human beings, these elements will be present. Perhaps the question is then, how do we encourage and value them without getting all, well, mushy about it?
First of all it might be helpful to look at leadership and love in action. This is a short promo video featuring a guy named Nick Vujicic. Nick was born with no limbs. In this video he talks to schoolchildren. Watch and look, not at Nick, but at the faces of the children as he speaks to them.
Inspiring huh? if you’re anything like me you will have needed a hankie at some point. But, all of that aside, I’m wondering about the lessons that business leaders can learn from Nick and how these lessons can be practically applied in the workplace.
Here are some of my thoughts about that.
People are capable of doing more than they think.
Their leaders would do well to remember this and to know too, that they just need a reason to want to try. That means recognizing potential and encouraging those who have it, to reach beyond what they believe to be their limit. They will do it if they know you believe in them; if their efforts are acknowledged; and if they are not punished when, from time to time, they fail.
Inspiring others does not have to be elaborate
Nick conveyed the message to me that you don’t have to have a big fanfare to inspire others. You do have to be a good role model though. And you do have to find ways of seeing things through their eyes and coming to understand what might be getting in the way of their delivering the best of themselves when they come to work each day. That’s the hard part. It’s also the part that no big incentive program can hope to convey. Simply listening, understanding and acknowledging will, I think, have a more positive effect.
Pessimism is the Enemy
It is clear from the video that in spite of his significant challenges, Nick is a happy person. He is also a realistic person who prefers not to spend his time wishing for things that are outside the realm of his control. He focuses instead on what is possible now and what could be possible in his future. He never gives up.
For leaders to create a working environment where this kind of optimism rules, they must avoid bemoaning what is missing and embrace what is there to create and to build on. As mentioned in an earlier post, attitude is catching. A Pessimistic attitude spreads like wildfire and serves only to undermine even the most noble of efforts.
The bottom line, for me, is this. Anyone who leads with empathy and in the knowledge that people are at their best when they are respected, challenged, acknowledged and held accountable for their own behaviour and contribution, is a person who also leads with, (yes, wait for it now) Love.
What do you think? What did you see that I missed?