Benjamin LakerContributorLeadership Strategy
Expert commentary on global affairs for leaders everywhere
Much has changed during the last twelve months, and this has emphasized the need for a new approach to leadership, a blend of heads and hearts: Courageous and Compassionate leadership is now a prerequisite for anyone striving to lead organizations within the ‘new normal.’
So, how can these qualities manifest?
Firstly, its important to consider how to start something from almost nothing, do a lot with a little and turn failure into success. In 2014, Andy Hargreaves, Director of Chenine: Change, Engagement and Innovation in Education, University of Ottawa, co-authored a business book on Uplifting Leadership in education, business, and sport. Drawing on case studies of unusually high performance in 8 countries on four continents that included Fiat Auto just before its takeover of Chrysler, Burnley Football Club which is the smallest and poorest ever town ever to ascend into the English Premier League of soccer, and a series of turnaround schools and local education authorities (school districts) in the UK, Hargreaves showed how uplifting leaders uplift those they serve by uplifting those who serve them. They do this by defining a bold vision, developing counter-intuitive strategies, collaborating with competitors, and pushing and pulling each other forward towards a more desirable future.
If ever there is a need for uplifting leadership in education and elsewhere, it is now. As he describes in his memoir, Moving, of growing up and being educated in a working-class community in the North of England, getting ahead, as an underdog, against the odds, requires all of these qualities. It calls for being bold and courageous in the face of opposition and doubt, forging networks and collaborations with people that others would never put in the same room, and doing the opposite of what other people expect.
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This is the kind of leadership that is called for now. The coronavirus pandemic, racial oppression and injustice, Brexit, vaccine nationalism, threats to democracy, extreme inequality, and being on the brink of catastrophic and irreversible climate change – these things are all interconnected and are seemingly threatening now: the old solutions for solving a crisis no longer work. And so, a new dawn of leadership is needed.
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Sadhguru, the founder of the Isha Foundation, Yogi, and New York Times bestselling author suggests, “Leadership is not an assertion of yourself but the art of fulfilling everyone’s aspirations,” outlining integrity, insight, and inclusiveness as the “three essential qualities of leadership.” Sadhguru places a leader’s role as one of partnership, mentoring, and support, not self-aggrandizement. As such, the quality of courage in a leader does, it seems, not equate to domination because “being a leader does not mean dominating the situation. It means empowering people to do what they would not have imagined possible.”
This perspective is consistent with Diana Osagie’s, the CEO of Courageous Leadership and Director of the Academy of Women’s Leadership. She concludes the bridge between being courageous and compassionate can be found in one of seven courageous statements, ‘I am human first, a leader second. I remember the importance of family, love, grace, and compassion.’ This is such an important consideration because various myths are associated with leaders being compassionate, such as reducing levels of commitment, establishing low expectations, and avoiding challenging conversations.
As such, we can conclude that courage and compassion are strengths that enable colleagues to find a platform of trust in your leadership. When you are known for facing risk and leadership danger but do so from a stance of professional love, you enable others to become vulnerable with you, sharing their concerns as well as their successes. They feel safe to disclose where they are stuck as well as where they are exceeding expectations.
More recently, we have seen some outstanding examples of this change in leadership style and approach has a great impact; one standout example has been the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern “I think one of the sad things that I’ve seen in political leadership is – because we’ve placed over time so much emphasis on notions of assertiveness and strength – that we probably have assumed that it means you can’t have those other qualities of kindness and empathy. And yet, when you think about all the big challenges that we face in the world, that’s probably the quality we need the most.”
Andy Buck, creator of the BASIC coaching method, agrees and concludes that collective endeavor isn’t just confined to the education sector but is, in fact, a prerequisite for leadership per se. He also concludes talking, and active listening is vital as a courageous leader: “sometimes these takes bravery and longer but much better in the long term” because our conversational micro-habits make us great to talk with. Not least, talking less, listening actively, and playing back what we have heard. Buck infers this builds rapport and empathy far more than we realize.
Angela Browne of Nourished Collective agrees, and explores luminary leadership and uses coaching to find true clarity amid confusion and quiet in the noise, grounded in common sense and big on wisdom. She says, “The value of wise compassionate leadership is incalculable. It’s benefits are often the dimensions of organisations that are difficult to measure: high levels of trust, connection and positive emotion but they are those same dimensions that we need in spades to get us through testing and turbulent times”. This view is consistent with Dame Alison Peacock, CEO of Chartered College of Teaching, who when considering the educational workplace, suggests at the moment leaders must find professional courage to do what is right. “We need leaders who are confident in listening carefully to their colleagues and their pupils’ needs when prioritizing.” She, continues, “Compassion involves putting critical leadership dispositions such as openness, trust, and empathy before compliance with others’ expectations. Much has been lost during repeated lockdowns, but our schools will be the first places to begin the process of supported recovery. We can only truly do this if led and inspired by colleagues with courage and moral purpose.” Amidst the vast challenges facing the profession and wider society, a sense of collective endeavor carried us through: trust and humility are powerful leadership qualities.
Peacock’s point is an important one that translates beyond education – that of collective endeavor driven through courageous, Compassionate, and uplifting leadership. As such, there is a buzz and a sense of sea-change, which will soon culminate at the World Education Summit – which has today partnered with Tes. Such wisdom will be debated and discussed by those referenced and many more global leadership experts, orchestrated by co creators Anne-Marie Duguid and Stephen Cox. Heralded as the largest and most influential Leadership Summit and the place from which new ways can emerge: Courageous, Compassionate, and Uplifting