Which City?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Gracious leadership - is it time for a softer style?

Now that the lovely Tom Pellereau has won The Apprentice and the nasty newspaper barons are  geting their comeuppance, is it time for a softer, more gracious style of leadership?

I saw the film Tree of Life this weekend and can't have been alone in struggling on first viewing to get the point of it all. But it is a film which makes you think, it's impact extending long after the titles have rolled. In it, we are asked to ponder the essential forces of life - nature which creates us, and grace, which makes us human. Grace, broadly interpreted, might be  simply defined as kindness, that force in us which chooses to be good rather than not.

In business, and (sadly I think ) in public life we have got used in the last thirty years to displaying some of our worst human qualities in the pursuit of profit and performance. Agressive competitiveness, clawing our way to the top, squeezing the pips out of every deal and contract, looking after number one - some of the cliched concepts which have been seen as good for profit and best for customers.

But where has it led us but to financial and moral bankruptcy. We are feeling well and truly screwed by the banks, by the press, the police and politicians. And they are left without any reputation or good standing, trust or confidence.

Is it time to bring some grace back into business? Great leaders - those who take people with them - are great people. They display integrity as much as influence, they care as much as they create, they serve as much as speculate.

In the midst of our current difficulties we feel that what we want is for those in power to be fair, to value the people that work for them, to respect the people who use their services. And not just to say it, but to do it.

Strong leaders are not loud, cruel or selfish. They are sensitive to the needs of others, quietly considerate, scrupulous in their integrity. If we could rely on all our leaders being this strong, we would have nothing to worry about. Gracious leadership isn't easy, it requires a leader to believe not just in themselves but in others, not only to be independent but to recognise that we are interdependent and much more powerful when we work with one another and not against one another.

A softer style isn't a weakness, it requires confidence in your ability to do what is right. Instincts and gut feeling, common sense, and a sense of justice are better leadership tools than Gantt charts and project plans. Use your moral compass rather than your management satnav.

Our belief in the strengths in people drives our work at The Open Channel. We know that people aren't perfect and that they can and need to improve. But if you want to lead people to do more with less and deliver the best services they can, then build on what they can do well rather than knocking them down for what they havn't done.

Be gracious - it will pay off.


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