“If you are leading anything of significance then you will regularly run into many uncertainties, obstacles, and failures. And it is the way you deal with these situations, how you handle things going wrong, that truly defines your leadership.”
Those were the words of Paul Hughes in the post, “Your leadership is defined by how you handle things going wrong.”
Paul is someone who believes that leadership should be founded on love.
According to him, “When a culture has its foundation in love, then it is safe to fail. People start to come out of their comfort zones because they know that even if they make a mistake they are still going to be valued. Instead of being blamed, they know they will be supported and assisted to grow.”
What that means in a way is that a leader who loves his or her team will not take pleasure in dishing out blames to the team if failure occurs along the line; neither will he or she be judgemental.
Rather the leader focuses “…on discovering and truly understanding the cause of the failure, while at the same time being attuned to the feelings of the people involved.”
Paul calls that the Empathetic Discovery Approach. The principle requires that in any situation of failure, you the leader should build shared understanding of the root-cause of the problem through exploration conversations without demoralising any member of your team.
If you jump into conclusions without this empathetic exploration, you are more likely to get your team feeling hurt and getting blamed. And as you know, no one enjoys being blamed all the time.
I agreed with that position when I read it in the original post. But I was also left with the following questions:
Does this approach (of focusing on the root-cause of failure and having respect for the team members’ feelings) preclude a leader from holding people accountable for their actions?
Or is this another way of saying, “Ask what went wrong, not who was wrong?”
Here was Paul’s response to that question. (I have his permission to reproduce it here):
This approach doesn’t preclude a leader from holding people accountable for their actions. In fact, it is the opposite.
If you don’t hold people accountable then you aren’t really being a loving leader.
To give an analogy of how the approach I’m describing fits in with accountability, imagine the situation when someone is speeding in their car and a police officer pulls them over.
There is a consequence for exceeding the speed limit, which is getting fined. It is the police officer’s duty to issue that fine.
But the police officer has a decision to make about how they are going to perceive the speeding driver.
One approach is to make an assumption that the driver doesn’t care about the road laws, and then to look down on the driver for this lack of care.
Another approach is to hold back from jumping to conclusions or forming a judgement.
I guarantee that the driver will know the difference, even if the police officer did not say anything. They would sense in a lot of subtle ways whether the officer was holding that judgement or not.
Now, the officer could just issue the fine and walk away. And there is nothing wrong with that.
But think about the possibilities of approaching the situation from a standpoint of unconditional love.
The police officer might want to do the best they can to help make the chance of speeding lower in future, to protect people from preventable accidents. In his case, the loving officer would be navigating the table in my article.
The system first. What if it turns out that the speed signs had fallen down and it was impossible for drivers to know the speed limit.
If this turned out to be the case, the officer would want to arrange for the signs to be fixed to help all drivers.
But let’s say the speed signs were fine. What caused the driver to be speeding?
May be they were stressed out with many different things, and weren’t concentrating while driving.
The loving officer could listen and empathise with this, while at the same time still giving the person the fine. And who knows, maybe just taking the time to listen and to offer an encouraging word letting the person know there is hope amidst their many problems, ends up being a moment that really changes that person.
And then maybe that person is able to sort out some challenges they have that help them in many ways, only one of which is not getting distracted while driving and causing them to speed.
How much better of an outcome is this than just the person stopping speeding out of fear that they’ll get another ticket?
Or let’s say it turns out that the driver really doesn’t care and is disrespectful to the officer. At that point the officer obviously still gives them the fine, which is the consequence of their behaviour. But the officer still has a choice whether to love the person.
The unloving path is to hold the innate worth of the person lower because of the attitude they expressed. Following that path, what is the chance of this interaction actually helping that person?
It’s most likely going to re-enforce the poor attitude they have.
But on the other hand, what if the officer was loving? In this case they would not diminish the worth of the person. They would feel sorry for person, knowing the expressed attitude will lead to pain for them and others.
They would look the person in the eye, and out of genuine love say something like, “I really don’t want to see you get hurt or others get hurt. I need to give you this fine today because you have broken the law and done something dangerous. But I truly hope you value yourself as much as I value you, and stop speeding”.
Now the person may snarl and dismiss the comment. But you never know what kind of seed that moment of genuine unconditional love will plant.
The authenticity of that interaction could play some small part in really helping that person change. And even if that is only the remotest of possibilities, then it is worth it.
What do you think?
©Copyright 2018 | Victor Uyanwanne