Corporate environments seem to have a certain reputation for being cold. It is a mindset that people assume as soon as they put on a suit. As a result, employees will often expect their leadership to be dull, conservative and even somewhat intimidating.
In many cases, there’s actually some truth to this; but it’s not as bad as it seems. Don’t forget that a corporation is still made up of people, and all people have one thing in common – emotion (contrary to what you may think, few business people are completely heartless).
All people, including office employees, managers and CEOs, share the same basic needs, fears, apprehensions, desires, and goals in almost everything they do. In order to cultivate leadership, beyond the professional standard required of most leaders, you have to focus on 3 key elements:
#1 – Empathy
Empathy is actually a hot topic in the business world – whether it be for user experience, marketing, customer service and support or training. But leadership is the area where empathy plays the biggest role. This is especially true when you’re training people in leadership programs, or when trying you’re trying to develop your own capacity as a leader.
When training people to become leaders -to take the reins of the corporation you care deeply for – then you need to start with empathy. It may sound cheesy, but as a leader, you are the shepherd of your flock. A leader must relate to the people who work with and beneath him/her. You must think from the bottom up. A leader must understand employee concerns, fears and apprehensions. Encourage people to voice their concerns. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Do you have limited resources, an overflowing workload, or unreasonable demands put upon you? How do you feel?
#2 – Staying Cool Under Pressure
This is the next issue; training people to be able to work under pressure. Don’t let fear and stress prevent employees from confidently making decisions and thinking clearly. Corporate environments can feel like stressful, fast-paced prisons. It is the leader’s job to be steadfast and strong, especially in the face of crisis or big decisions. If you are confident, you will pass on this quality to your team.
Those below the leader will look to him/her as a role model, and they will mimic the leader’s reaction. If they pick up on worry and apprehension, it will exacerbate their own feelings of worry and concern. But if they see a calm and collected leader, they will remain calm as well.
This is a hard thing to train someone to do. Sometimes just drilling confidence in your team is the best tactic; with tough love they will learn to deal with failure, swallow their fears and move on. The military works this way, and while it’s not fun to endure tough love in stressful situations, a standard classroom can’t really teach this kind of thing.
#3 – Seeing the People in Business
This goes along with empathy, but it isn’t the same thing.
It’s easy for leaders, especially leaders of big corporations, to start seeing those who make up the staff of their company as components, and not as human beings. After hiring an individual, a gradual but seldom intentional ‘distance’ sets in between the manager and the lower ranked employee – which can lead to major problems. Employees may feel disrespected or under-valued by their leaders. (This is how corporate environments got their bad reputations in the first place).
Leaders need to learn to establish lasting, personal rapports with all of the staff (and clients) with whom they will interact. This goes against traditional corporate philosophy, but it works. Sometimes, it’s best to shake preconceptions, and realize that maybe just because something is a tradition; it is not always the best.
Training to become a good leader requires little more than changing the way you view the people around you. If you treat your coworkers and team-members with empathy and humanity, and act with confidence and strength, you will be well on your way to becoming a great and successful leader.