Demanding or Compassionate Leader

I want to raise a very interesting topic – the exactingness of a leader. What qualities does a leader need in general? Can Leadership be learned? Why is demanding to be a leader? You will find answers to these and other questions in our article.

Leadership and management are often pitted against each other, with some people proclaiming, “We don’t need managers, we need leaders!” In my perspective, leadership is an essential component of management, specifically concerning the psychological aspect of management. In this article, we’ll delve into the distinctions between leadership and management and explore the importance of the psychological aspect in the management process.

Understanding the technological and psychological aspects of management.

When discussing management, we can differentiate between the technological (informational) and psychological aspects. For example, imagine you are my leader. The technological aspect involves discussing tasks and responsibilities. You might delegate a task to me or ask for my input on which task to prioritize. Alternatively, you may grant me the authority to make independent decisions. Regardless of the specific discussion, the technological aspect focuses on the content of the tasks and responsibilities.

Meanwhile, the psychological aspect of management deals with the emotional and personal dynamics of our interactions. When we communicate with one another, our interactions occur on two levels: the “What?” and the “How?”.

As my manager, you have authority over me and my work. We discuss tasks that have specific content and objectives. At the same time, I am an employee of a company with a defined role, position, and functional responsibilities. However, I am also a human being with emotions and personal needs. Ideally, we could separate our personal selves from our work roles, but that’s not the case for most people. As a result, our interactions encompass both “function-function” (role, technical) and “person-person” dynamics.

The ability to personally influence an employee in a positive direction is what I consider leadership.

This influence is not based on authority, official rights, or power but stems from personal connections. If a leader doesn’t possess leadership skills, their management approach will be incomplete and less effective.

This is especially true when managing people engaged in intellectual work. For example, if someone is performing a simple manual task, like using a hammer, leadership might not be as crucial. However, when managing employees who require creativity and critical thinking, effective leadership becomes essential.

The concept of compassion in a leader.

The question arises: can leadership be learned, or must a leader be born? Certainly, there are innate leadership qualities that can be observed from an early age (sometimes even in the playground, we can identify the leader). However, I believe leadership can be learned, and since I’m interested in the tools rather than abilities, I highlight specific leadership competencies, including exactingness.

We might wonder what qualities a leader needs in general. I would list qualities such as open-mindedness (the ability to receive, process, and reconsider information – cognition), perseverance, responsibility, and exactingness. Furthermore, a leader should possess internal responsibility, which is an innate or developed character trait, while external responsibility arises not from within, but from external circumstances.

Human qualities can be categorized along a certain scale. Let’s say talent is on one end, and it can be labeled differently. I define it as a synergistic combination of specific abilities. Several abilities synergistically combine, and a person develops a talent for a particular activity, such as sports, drawing, or sculpture. There are individuals referred to as “Leonardo Man” in honor of Leonardo da Vinci, who combined the talents of an artist, sculptor, and more. Such people are exceptionally talented.

As for myself, I possess the ability to think systematically, and I can transform complex concepts into simpler ones. I believe this is an innate quality, which I may have developed over five years of consulting. Whether I had this ability ten years ago is uncertain. An ability is an inherent quality within a person: aptitude for music, sports, or foreign languages.

On the other end of the scale of qualities is aptitude. What does this mean? Aptitude means that a person may lack innate abilities but can develop specific skills and capabilities through training. It’s true that an apt person needs to work hard to achieve the results of a capable and talented individual. Is this a hindrance? Not necessarily. You might have observed in school or sports clubs that capable individuals sometimes make rapid progress, and achieve initial results, but then fade away (not always, but occasionally). Why? Because their innate abilities allow them to easily grasp what is difficult for others.

So, can everyone be taught leadership?  No. 

Can everyone be a leader?  No. 

However, the character is not a sentence. Are there executives who have learned nothing and have built giant companies? There are plenty! These people are called geniuses. Everyone knows about them. Not everyone knows about those who laid down their heads, not having learned, but relying on their abilities.

The ends of the scale are talent and contraindications.  Everyone else can be leaders since this is a profession, not a gift from God. If our exactingness is not in the zone of difficulties or in the zone of contraindications, we can develop it. We can train character by actions. In order to change it or build up some additional qualities, we can begin to perform actions inherent in a person with the qualities that we want to acquire. 

A person who is accustomed to achieving success easily may sometimes lack innate industriousness and, consequently, perseverance. When the foundation for their initial accomplishments runs out, they may struggle to reach more complex, higher standards. This is when hard work becomes essential, but they are not used to it since they’ve always experienced easy victories.

For example, a capable child might excel in elementary school but gradually lose steam. Similarly, an athlete could effortlessly achieve the first 2-3 ranks but not progress further, as that would require hard work. At that point, their advantage becomes less noticeable, and since they are not used to working hard, they prefer easy results. Of course, this isn’t always the case. Some people begin at the first level and graduate at the top of their class, or athletes who consistently outperform from the start. However, the innate ability doesn’t always equate to long-term success. This is why various cultures have stories of the tortoise overtaking the hare: a determined tortoise can outpace a capable hare.

Further along the scale, there is a zone of difficulty. This zone represents actions that are not just challenging but require significant effort and self-discipline to overcome. An example of this can be found in the American Major Basketball League, where some players possess unconventional heights for basketball. They may appear unusual on the court, but their presence in the league is not due to political correctness. Instead, these players likely compensate for their lack of height with exceptional jumping, agility, dribbling, and other skills, which allow them to succeed in an unorthodox position.

In conclusion, innate abilities and talents don’t always guarantee long-term success. Hard work, perseverance, and the willingness to overcome challenges can be equally, if not more, important in achieving one’s goals.

Why is it demanding to be a leader? 

Incorporating individuals who exhibit external responsibility is essential, as it discourages those who may shy away from the right attitude towards work from doing so.

Many people might ask, “Why to work with such people?” I can’t say for sure—perhaps there’s no need. If all your employees possess a high level of internal responsibility and don’t require stringent expectations, I congratulate you! You are an outstanding leader (sincerely and without any irony).

In my 10+ years of work experience, not everyone is a paragon of fearlessness and integrity. It would undoubtedly be fantastic if we could assemble a team of 300 highly moral, highly responsible, and highly professional individuals. Who wouldn’t want that? But when people indignantly exclaim, “Why work with such people?” I can’t help but ask,

“Colleagues, are you referring to yourself or others?”

A person who is content with their performance is usually surprised by such questions and rarely reacts defensively. In contrast, someone dissatisfied with their own performance often raises their voice and focuses on what should be, rather than what is. They lack what others possess.

By no means am I advocating for waging a war for talent—I don’t even support initiating one. Despite the countless suggestions to “assemble a star team and achieve success in life,” do you really think that talented individuals have nowhere else to go? I have my doubts. Are you the star coach under whom the star team will come together? Or do you want a star team without being a star coach yourself? The critical questions remain: how to assemble such a team, and who do you need to become to attract a star team?

Leadership training

What should you do when compassion is needed for offended employees when you make demands and they feel hurt? There are various scenarios for dealing with such situations. The most positive outcome is that they overcome their hurt feelings and continue to be productive, while the less favorable scenarios are best left unmentioned. Of course, it is wrong to hurt people, but not holding them accountable for their responsibilities is also a disservice.

I understand that some belief in mythical mantras and the power of exclusively positive influences, which supposedly can transform negative individuals into positive ones. I’ve never met these people in real life, but I’ve heard many stories about them, often without specific names and usually from “somewhere overseas.”

In reality, leadership has a dark side.

What does this mean? Naturally, a leader should begin with the positive: they must inspire, motivate, and encourage. But how should leaders handle those who seem immune to such positivity? Do these people even exist?

Niccolo Machiavelli once elegantly said, “Unfortunately, people do not always live as the Lord commanded them.” This statement holds true, as even generally decent people sometimes justify unworthy behavior in an attempt to maintain a positive image.

Thus, a leader needs to show compassion, and if they possess this quality, they may not need to make demands frequently—they can simply ask. A compassionate leader can afford to be polite, well-mannered, warm, and approachable, without compromising their authority. This is because everyone understands the value of interacting with a compassionate leader, and would prefer to maintain a positive relationship with them.

Hope you enjoyed reading my article! Looking forward to your comments and feedback.

Very truly yours,

ILona B. Schukina

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