Some leaders are introverts and others are extroverts. Some are modest and unpretentious, while others are intrusive and arrogant.
Some leaders build their reputations on hard daily work, while others are visionaries with a focus on the future.
Given this huge diversity, you can easily get the impression that there is no specific right approach to leadership. You may think that what makes a leader great is strictly individual. This way of thinking is understandable, but also wrong. Although leaders differ in many ways, a new study by consulting firm Potential Project, which involves 5,000 companies in nearly 100 countries around the world, shows that all good leaders have something in common.
Wisdom + compassion = exceptional leadership
After two years of unprecedented working conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are completely exhausted. At the same time, many businesses are under enormous pressure after a long period of uncertainty. Employees need compassion, and at the same time managers need to focus on the result. This is not a pleasant situation for leaders, and research reflects this fact.
“In our recent global survey of 300 top business leaders in industries ranging from tourism to automotive and biotechnology, 61 percent said they had difficulty balancing employees’ support needs and the company’s drive for high productivity.” a pair of business professors from the European Institute of Business Administration and Harvard University announced recently.
When compassion and productivity seem to be at odds, what should leaders focus on? According to the authors of the new Potential Project study, the answer to this question is what distinguishes great leaders from mediocre ones. Research shows that the best leaders refuse to compromise in either direction.
“We distilled the analysis and came to two key traits: wisdom, which we define as the courage to do what needs to be done, even when it is difficult; and compassion, which is the care and empathy shown to others, combined to offer help. Both traits are important, but when combined, they have an exponentially greater impact on all important indicators, “three of the researchers behind the study told the Harvard Business Review.
They summarize this essential quality of great leadership in a few words: “Humanly doing difficult things.”
Leaders who combine these two basic skills perform significantly better than those who do not. “For example, job satisfaction is 86 percent higher for an employee who works for a wise and compassionate leader than for an employee who is unlucky,” they wrote. In teams with wise and compassionate leaders, burnout is 64% less common, productivity is 20% higher, and engagement is 53%.
The most important conclusion from this study is that good leader do not sacrifice compassion for the sake of achieving the desired results of the company. They may have to make difficult choices in search of balance, but they never allow this to reduce their sensitivity to the purely human realities that their employees face, nor does it prevent them from making difficult decisions in the most humane way possible. Yes, achieving this balance is difficult, but if you manage to cope with this task, you will have come a long way to becoming a great leader.