What do Leaders Need to Have?


22nd August 2011

What do Leaders Need to Have?

Empathy or toughness? What we need from our leaders is the ability to combine the two – an edge.

An article in a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) raised one of the age-old dilemmas when looking at leaders. Should they be loved or feared? If they are loved they are probably fair and show lots of empathy. If they are feared they probably are tough and do not always consider their impact on others. Surely what we need from our leaders is not either empathy or toughness but the ability to combine the two. I describe it as having an edge. Having an edge means being someone who is not necessarily comfortable to be with but who has the knack of keeping others (and themselves) alert, fresh, thoughtful and sharp. Leaders with an edge achieve this not through fear or toughness, but through their restless push for new and better ways of doing things. Leaders with an edge ask good probing questions to help people think. They freshen up routines and rituals to stop people coasting. They coach people to help them take responsibility and ownership and they challenge practices to facilitate creative thinking. They are great to work for and they help us learn and become more resilient. Working with them, though, will never be comfortable.
Graham Stickland

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