More compassion, less coercion

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More compassion, less coercion: What on earth is this all about? Well imagine a continuum of approaches to or methods of leading in a given situation, say from autocratic all the way to democratic. (Remember this from the Personal Leadership Programme?)



This immediately suggests that there are a lot more than just 2 ways of leading. It’s not just that you are either a dictator or a caring coach, no, there are a myriad of approaches/styles in between. Even when we spoke of PUSH and PULL styles, we were not suggesting that there was one way of pushing people to do what you want them to do, nor is there one way of pulling people with you. I am here using different terminology and suggesting to you that at one end of the continuum there is a style best described as coercion (i.e. leaving folk very little choice) all the way to compassion, a style of leading that puts the needs of the worker/team member first. And of course, as we have been saying, there are many methodologies in between.


The key is to GET IT RIGHT! This is because if you apply the wrong leadership method in a given situation, it may not only “not work”, but it could result in significant casualties! Daniel Goleman in his Primal Leadershipa seminal work on leading in a way that is emotionally intelligent, suggests an analogy from the game of golf.

The problem is that, in a way, EVERY situation is unique! And there is no leadership book ever written that can say to you – If this is the situation, this is what you do. If only! In any given day there may be dozens of unique scenarios that face you and both the joy and challenge of leadership is that we have the opportunity to make a real difference both in terms of the job that needs to be done AND in the life of the team member(s) concerned, by carefully analysing the situation and then applying the best possible leadership solution.


He will probably go down is history as THE most successful (if not the most liked) business figure of the 20th century. His name is Jack Welch, and for 50 years he worked for and eventually led the General Electric Corporation in the USA and around the world. In his book “Jack – straight from the gut” he speaks about a leadership dilemma he faced. He was looking at his global “top team” and found that, to his horror, he had 4 types of people on that team, as we can see in the diagram below:


So if this was YOUR team, how would you lead the individual described? The first two are relatively “easy” –

  1. For the first one you want to see them go onward and upward, you invest in them, you give them authority and responsibility.
  2. The next one you need probably to get rid of them as soon as possible – get them off the bus, as Jim Collins might say.
  3. and 4.What do you do now? They both give you something really attractive – good, solid values-based co-operation (but not enough delivery) OR great delivery, huge productivity (but possibly toxic activity below the surface). So what do you do?


We will look at this carefully when you join us on the “Power of 10” workshop.

In the meantime, what can you be doing for your team to keep up their levels of engagement? And I know this is really challenging in these current times of complete or partial lockdown. The best you can do is give them want they want from you as a leader. And what is that?

Community– they want from you as their leader a sense of belonging – a sense that they really are part of a team of people that care for and want to co-operate with you and one another. But wow! How do you do this when you are all working from home?

Authenticity – they want you to be yourself. Remember the earlier module where we talked about more substance and less style? They want to be able to relate to you as a real credible, approachable person.

Significance – they want you to realise, and show that you value the fact, that their work, their contribution is genuinely significant. They want the assurance that what they are doing from day to day, as routine as it may be, is truly adding value to the whole, corporate operation. 

Excitement – this may be the most challenging of all, especially in current times. How can you as a leader, help each member of your team find genuine excitement in their daily work, especially when so much routine is involved? No-one can work from day to day, week after week, year after year, when there are no obstacles to overcome and no celebration of success.


I look forward sharing this module with you when I see you on the workshop – there is so much for us to learn in this area of leadership method and style.


 Written by Rob Gee | Senior Partner of The Living Leader | Power of 10

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