How To Balance For Better Leadership

-Both compassion and competence are necessary to lead in 2021.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you witness something so simple yet so attention-grabbing that it knocks you on the head and wakes you up? I had one of those moments recently. I was outside on my phone having a discussion with a colleague, which had veered off course.  We had both been sidelined from the main issue, trying to convince the other that we were on the right side of our discussion.

Suddenly the wind created a spontaneous dance of leaves, swirling them like a mini cyclone. The leaves seemed to have a life of their own as they spun in front of me. Seeing them pulled me back into the present and back into the balance I needed to keep my relationship with the caller intact.

Exceptional leaders don’t wait for self-reflection to happen spontaneously. They schedule it. During this continuing world and economic crisis, it is especially imperative to give yourself that time to discern how to move forward successfully as a leader.

Tackle difficult issues as humanely as possible.
To effectively lead this year, more than ever, you need to integrate people’s needs along with the team or organization’s goals. This consideration requires a balance of two critical leadership qualities, compassion and competence.

Leaders must connect with others on a human level to build a sense of “we” that engenders trust, inspiring engagement and commitment. Compassion empowers others to risk going where they have never gone before, transforming the impossible into the possible.

On the other hand, leaders must also have the will and capability to hold people accountable to follow through on agreed-upon priorities, give difficult feedback and make unpopular decisions. Competence is the ability to do the hard but necessary work that keeps a team or organization afloat and thriving.

Compassion, while comforting in times of distress, cannot come at the expense of competence. Competence, while useful in the near term, cannot come at the cost of compassion. Outstanding leadership requires a delicate balance of both meted at the appropriate time and place.

Finding that balance is an art rather than a science. It is different for every leader and every organization because the needs and challenges of each differ from situation to situation.

Most things in life require a balance to be sustainable. Leadership is no different. However, balance does not mean equal measures of two extremes. Instead, it means being attentive to how particular events impact the overall picture and deciding how much and when compassion and competence are required.

This balancing act of doing what is necessary, compassionately, is the leadership challenge of 2021. Unfortunately, there is no rule book for you to reference. There is only paying attention to your choices and reflecting on the result of your actions. To apply this balanced approach, consider the following to help you decide how to execute on compassion and competence in your leadership.

Compassion focuses on mutuality.
Compassion as a leadership quality is the desire to create a shared understanding of problems with humility. With the willingness to see things from others’ perspectives, you give people respect. You also gather important information for informed decision-making that your naturally limited point of view might not offer.

As you empathize with people’s struggles and take action to support them, you create a safe environment for people to relax and gather their strength to do their best. When you trade criticism for cultivating more constructive and proactive talk, you reframe setbacks as learning opportunities and put development ahead of perfection.

As a compassionate leader, you notice your intentions when you interact with others. When you find they are less than productive, as I did in my phone call above, you shift to a more positive aim.

Competence focuses on accountability.
Competence as a leadership quality hinges on honesty. When you are upfront about expectations and boundaries, you create a different sense of safety that allows people to do their jobs more effectively and innovate more freely. When you give someone the guidance they need clearly and directly, it is the kindest thing you can do. Being less than forthright to avoid discomfort is deceptive and not caring or compassionate at all.

Competent leaders courageously set the bar for success high even when things seem dire. They are transparent in their goal to shape beliefs, desires and priorities to influence people to want to succeed independently. They seek to intrinsically motivate others with meaning and purpose while also creating practical accountability measures to ensure teams follow through on the extraordinary.

Great leadership is a relationship.
At its core, leadership is a relationship between you and your team. To keep any relationship healthy and growing, you find a balance between understanding each other and meeting each other’s needs. Otherwise, the relationship serves no purpose. Needs, expectations and mutual understanding must be attended to so that, for the most part, everyone is satisfied.

Whether you lead a large company, a small team or lead yourself to better performance, notice how you balance compassion and competence in your interactions with others and yourself. If your head is busy with plans and goals for 2021, good for your proactiveness!  Now, consider taking a walk outside to reflect on how you are balancing that with compassion.

And if you happen to notice a leaf swirling playfully in front of you, know that you are on the right track.

Work Your Inner Genius: Here are a few questions to check your balance of compassion and competence in your leadership.

1. When discussing an issue, how much do you listen to learn from and understand the other? When you speak, how assertive are you sharing your perspective? 
2. How often do you give direct and clear feedback when needed? How concerned are you about your tone and body language and how the other person receives the message?
3. How balanced is your relationship with yourself when it comes to compassion and competence? How much understanding and respect do you offer yourself? How much do you hold yourself accountable?

Want to discuss this further? Join me for 2021 Leadership Reboot Wednesday, Jan 13 8:15 – 9 am EST. It’s free. Details here.
   Thanks for reading!  Til next week, 

   Jo-Aynne von Born, Certified Professional Coach
   Authenticity instigator. Success accelerator. Creativity engineer. 
   Mindset shifter. Trusted partner.
  Adapted from Authentic Success Newsletter.
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By Jo-Aynne

Professional and Personal Development

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