Money Matters

Courage and compassion

By Sirajuddin Aziz
Mon, 01, 24

Courage and compassion are not conflicting or contradictory traits or sentiments. Exclusively both traits are desired to be present in a leader/manager. However when both, inclusively are present together and concurrently, they go towards making for a formidable leader.

Courage and compassion

Courage and compassion are not conflicting or contradictory traits or sentiments. Exclusively both traits are desired to be present in a leader/manager. However when both, inclusively are present together and concurrently, they go towards making for a formidable leader.

There are numerous traits that are essential to the concept of leadership; amongst these the two that stand out and are lauded most for their inherent ability to create an army of followers, by both, the leader and followers, is courage and compassion. This is not meant to decimate the significance of humility, vision and the ability to strategise; these remain equally important.

Courage in a leader is an admirable trait. It demands of a leader to be in the thick of the theatre of war and action, and not to be seen standing on the sidelines, either to motivate or admonish the team. A daring attitude given a grim or a risky situation is a prerequisite to qualify for seeking follower-ship

Theodore Roosevelt after being shot in the chest, by an assassin, in 1922, remarked in pain and anguish to the people who had gathered around him, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot... I was going to make a long speech..., so I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best”. Followers admire public displays of courageous responses. In the conduct of any business, there are a wide range of risks that need to be embraced, recognised and managed. Leaders bereft of courage would find risk management a herculean task/dilemma. Progress is dependent upon assumption of risk. The faith in the ability of the leader/manager to surmount challenges of the marketplace, constitutes the reflection of courage.

In the maintenance and adherence to principles and values, leaders do not flow with the current, but instead they swim against the tide. Those managers who work towards instituting a major or paradigm shift, in the strategy of an organisation, are usually faced with deep seated resistance. The China Wall of resistance can only be broken or scaled, if the leader has the ability to demonstrate courage by going against the trends. In doing so, success will be dependent upon the leader’s own conviction of thought and action. Courage without conviction is adventurism. No leader, corporate or otherwise must indulge in improvisation or experimentation or..., in business, or in politics, that is based on either of plans or in defiance of accepted norms.

Adventurists do not make for good leaders. It is a rare occurrence in human history that a dare-devil, foolhardy, reckless or adventurous individual could manage or garner followership. Brazen rashness in behaviour is viewed by some as bravery, while some look at it as an act of cowardice.

Leaders who demonstrate in their strategies and related actions, indecisiveness cannot over a period of time sustain their position. Procrastination is not an option in circumstances that require a fast response; failure to do so can lead to loss of opportunity.

It is largely in adversity of market conditions that the courage of a manager is best tested. If the environment or results therefrom are not in accordance with plans, that’s when managerial courage must come out pronouncedly. Being courageous is not about being right and accurate all the time, in fact, to the contrary, it is a trait that’s needed most, when what unfolds is not as per prediction. Martin Luther King is believed to have said, no leader is measured appropriately in times of peace, comfort and calm; the real assessment can only be done in circumstances of challenge, chaos, controversy and confusion.

Courageous leaders are adept at learning fast. The adaptability to changing realities of the market place is a major test of the manager. In a market storm, the courageous leader walks visibly to all, into the eye of the storm, with strength, confidence, faith and reflected by action, the ability to navigate to safer shores.

Courage as enunciated earlier is not to be equated with senseless adventurism; it demands skills to evaluate clearly and closely, the perils that may attend to a business strategy or proposition. A courageous leader is one, who accepts his/her decisions and the decisions of the team members with full responsibility. Courage sans responsibility is a hazardous attitude. It is not expected of the manager/leader to conceive or improvise or experiment, new strategies, without the back up, of adequate plans, that must be housed, within sound principles of management of diverse risks.

Admittedly, every individual knows fully well, their own strengths and weaknesses, and to address the gaps in their skills they reach out to team members with faith and reliance, upon their skill set. Masked and confined to obscurity, any signs of being courageous, is essentially worse than crass cowardice. The leader must know which resource to use, to fill the gaps of his/her own inadequacies; doing this requires managerial courage.

“Suffer not thy heart upon every altar”(Thomas Fuller) may be true in a generalised situation, but to be devoid of empathy and compassion in special circumstances will render an individual as less than a human kind. The feeling of empathy, if that evaporates, the presence of courage in isolation, will not prevent the consequences of utter calamity of the demise of positive thinking. Dislike begets vengeance, which goes to weaken the personality of those who harbour such feelings. Compassionate attitude requires full jettisoning of negative thinking.

Leaders who lack the ability to relate to their team members on the plane of understanding them emotionally cannot ever get from them the best quality of productivity. Motivation is built upon the edifice of a compassionate attitude and disposition. All material tools of motivation are exhaustible, hence, suffer from major limitations of scale, but the presence of compassion as an operating trait is a lethal weapon, in the armoury of a leader, and this uniqueness sets such leaders apart. A compassionate leader is rewarded by his unit with the finest quality of output.

Business entities and organisations that are recognised in the market as compassionate, have the least percentage of staff turnover. These organisations usually have self propelled leaders as followers. If the organisation takes real care of the emotional needs of its staff members, good results are a thing assured.

Compassion is not about large scale investment of funds, it is merely about small things that emerge in everyday work life, where the supervisor shows ‘respect’ for the feelings of the team. Such compassionate leadership never indulges in public insults, if any reprimand is required it is done privately in isolation; and praise is not restricted to cabins, but instead is done in full public view. This behaviour is the barest minimum required to qualify as a compassionate organisation.

The interdependence of individuals and teams is strengthened in an environment of all pervading compassion; the quality of interpersonal relationships gets a positive boost. A courageous leader is one, who through compassion, knows how to cover up shortfalls in the team members skills and how to exploit the strengths. Leaders alone as compassionate individuals is insufficient for a healthy motivating corporate culture; what is crucial , is that compassion as a required and recognised trait must pervade through the entire echelons of the organisations hierarchy.

Compassion shouldn’t be a slogan but an attitude, a behavioural aspect and a visible trait. In my personal experience, the allocation of time to colleagues, for them to approach and unburden their personal stressors, has worked wonders in getting colleagues back on the rails of successful productivity. Courageous and Compassionate leaders reflect in their personal amazing listening skills.

The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnist