It is a natural reaction to want to protect those you care about. That’s why it’s challenging to reconcile that protecting someone often doesn’t represent good leadership. Effective leaders support others in becoming the best they can be. And they do that well by being clear, compassionate, and caring:
Clarity is king. In times of challenge, change, or crisis, our instincts to protect others from bad news, the feedback they’d ultimately benefit from, or the risk of less-than-best outcomes can be strong. We want to hide reality or shine up the circumstances with a glow of positivity that distorts what’s really happening. In tough times the more effectively we can convey the current situation, the more opportunity we allow for all involved to engage in resolving the challenge. Leaders learn not to hide problems and share them constructively as an act of service to the team.
Compassion is action. A key aspect of being compassionate is recognizing that suffering is part of the human experience. Leaders work to serve, support, and guide others when facing difficulty, yet they stop short of wrongly believing they can and should work to eliminate all pain and problems. We grow through challenges. Compassionate leaders understand this. They realize they can’t always prevent the pain of growth, yet they can be the listening ear, offer the strong shoulder of support, or share hard-earned wisdom to help illuminate the way forward.
Caring is brave. When you truly care about setting up someone for success, you do the things others shy away from doing. You share what some might not want to hear but need to. You ask the tough questions. You show up when others are afraid. You do this out of care and concern, never out of a desire to be right or better.
Serving others is one of the most powerful aspects of leadership. Thinking we can save people from difficulty is more about ego and pride. Superheroes are for blockbuster movies. Becoming a leader who serves in meaningful ways is not only possible but also exceptionally valuable.