Does leadership require pushing as well as pulling? Is there room for the metaphorical whip? When is an alternative approach the best answer?
Recent experiences remind me that there is no single answer to the leadership question. Alternatives, options, and variations should be tools that are used frequently. Increasingly I find that whip(s) do no last longer than the sting. They can motivate, but when the sting wears off the balance will return. In the interim, the trust relationship will be damaged, if not broken beyond repair.
The reminders have reinforced a position that I have had for some time. What I have come to realize is that many options, viable and good ones, feel similar to a whip. They challenge to the point of pain. They drive people to act in a way that hurts. They can cause stress and uncertainty. David uses flowery words to describe the outcomes of a positive yet painful approach. “You radiate with such brilliance that they cringe as before a furnace. Now the furnace swallows them whole, the fire eats them alive!” (Psalm 21.9)
The difference is that truth can hurt. Truth can be difficult. Truth can be painful. Compassionate truth is effective yet the hurt, difficulty, and pain are still there. Truth with mercy fits in the same pattern. I find compassion and mercy effective ways to act efficiently. The underlying reason is that people can feel that it is truth even in their tears. Leadership is, after all, a heart issue as much as it is a head one.
The recent experiences remind me of three mantras that I know I need to hold onto.
Leadership is a process as much as it is a destination. There are no shortcuts. One can strive to be efficient, however leadership takes time, patience, and a willingness to let truth be the power.
Leadership is implicitly a relationship between leader and those willing to be lead. Trust and faith are elements. When used with compassion and fairness, leadership is a powerful force that changes everyone involved.
Leadership lives through individuals.