You may have read the inspiration for this blog under the “About Lead With Mercy” tab. That moment also inspired me to write a book. As I finalize the book I’m previewing sections. I’d love to get your feedback on the posts … questions, thoughts, observations. Here we go!
What is mercy? As I read several definitions of the word, I came upon one in Webster’s that seemed apropos to leadership and business: “Compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.” It’s the part about showing compassion to someone who is subject to your power that intrigues me. It’s intriguing because it is a deliberate choice. Nothing is forcing the person in power to show mercy to the person subject to his power.
The world of business, however, is not about salvation … it’s about the bottom-line and soft, intangible words like mercy, compassion, patience, and forgiveness don’t really have a logical place in business. In a 24/7 global business cycle, leaders don’t have time for forgiveness – they are being held accountable for results, not compassion, by boards, customers, investors, and other stakeholders. Right? Or, is there a place for mercy and should we as leaders make time to show it?
I’m confident there is a compelling case for mercy in the world of business and especially amongst the leaders of business. It is especially compelling for leaders because we set the tone for culture and behavior in our organizations.
The case for leading with mercy is made even more compelling when you consider the common traits or characteristics often found in successful leaders. These characteristics do not guarantee successful leadership nor are they found in all successful leaders. A significant body of research as summarized in Bruce Peltier’s, The Psychology of Executive Coaching, however, concludes that many successful leaders bear these traits that I associate to leading with mercy. These relevant traits of successful leaders include:
Integrity: If I were asked to pick one trait most greatly associated with leading with mercy I would choose integrity. From leading by example, delegating responsibility, to encouraging risk taking … the foundation is trust in the leader.
Emotional maturity: While this trait has broad meaning, the component that I associate with mercy is the ability to “care about others” and empathize.
Vision: The capacity of a leader for organizational vision and to articulate that vision is a common trait amongst successful leaders … and as we will discuss, clarity of vision is a key component of the Lead With Mercy framework.[i]
So am I saying that leading with mercy has true return on investment or ROI? Yes, I am. In fact, I am saying the ROI can be quite significant because the monetary investment is nominal at best and the return can be substantial – both the tangible and intangible return. And I am not the only one saying it. Phrases like compassionate management, managing compassionately, and conscious capitalism are rolling off the tongues of chief executives like LinkedIn’s, Jeff Weiner; and the blogs of leading business magazines like Harvard Business Review. [ii] [iii] [iv] The former CEO of PUMA (an international sportswear brand), Jochen Zeitz – who turned around a corporation near bankruptcy – believes a leader’s job is “to exercise authority with the greatest possible understanding and circumspection.”[v]
Copyright © 2014 Robert E. Goodson Jr. All rights reserved.
Image courtesy of Photokanok/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
[i] Peltier, B. (2010). The Psychology of Executive Coaching: Theory and Application (2nd Edition). Routledge (Taylor and Francis Group).
[ii] Weiner, J (2012). “Managing Compassionately.” Available at https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20121015034012-22330283-managing-compassionately
[iii] Fryer, B. (2013). “The Rise of Compassionate Management (Finally).”Available at http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/the-rise-of-compassionate-management-finally/
[iv] Schwartz, T. (2013). Companies that Practice “Conscious Capitalism” Perform 10x Better. Available at http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/04/companies-that-practice-conscious-capitalism-perform/
[v] Zeitz, J. and Grün, A. (2010). The Manager and The Monk: A Discourse on Prayer, Profit, and Principles. Jossey-Bass.