Do Leaders need to be Jerks or Can they show Compassion and Caring?

The other day, I was looking through my collection of Leadership books. I stumbled

on a small paperback book by James Autry.  called Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership. Mr. Autry may be unknown to you and if you are involved in business as a non-business major he sheds light on the need to be more sensitive and caring to be successful. He may be the first one to talk about do ” doing well by doing good in business.” This book was a best-seller back  in the early 90’s and was seen by some as a breakthrough in management thinking because it focused on the people or soft skills needed to be a successful business person. It didn’t talk about all the “sacred cows” of  MBA schools in the 1980’s. The technical jargon of business (earnings/share, profit motive, balance sheets etc) was replaced by poetry and a humanistic point of view about business. breakthrough in the management book field, helped establish the genre of management and leadership books that go beyond the technical, business-school teachings so prevalent in the 1980s. Also, Love and Profit clearly made a path for a whole new genre of poetry: not just poetry by business people but poetry by business people about the subject of business. Poems in this book have been anthologized and reprinted around the world.

A few weeks ago, one of the senior managers in my group told me about a very difficult critique session he’d had with one of his women employees. He had hired her, with great expectations of an outstanding performance. Instead, she had not adjusted well to her new job, and her performance was lackluster. An appraisal and perhpas a “caring conftontation” were in order. When he told her she was not doing the job well enough, she began to cry. She knew, she said, she was letting him down, and her own disappointment in herself embarrassed her. Thus she cried. “What did you do?” I asked. “What could I do? I felt terrible. I cried too,” he said, and I couldn’t help thinking about the big-time management consultant and his box of Kleenex. In my view, that manager demonstrated two things: He cared enough about the work that he was willing to confront someone he had a special interest in, and he cared enough about her to be hurt that she was upset. But let me make something clear: *I’m not talking about management for and by the wimps.* In fact, I am talking about the most difficult management there is, a management without emotional hiding places. You just can no longer be the tough guy, and you also can’t come on as the impassive, icewater-in-the-veins “cool head.” On the other hand, the kindly parent who listens-and-understands-but-does-nothing approach also won’t work. No, in every situation, you must lead with your real self, because if you’re going to be on the leading edge of management, you sometimes must be on the emotional edge as well.

James Autry

Source: Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership, Pages: 110

“A few weeks ago, one of the senior managers in my group told me about a very difficult critique session he’d had with one of his women employees. He had hired her, with great expectations of an outstanding performance. Instead, she had not adjusted well to her new job, and her performance was lackluster. An appraisal and perhaps “caring confrontation” were in order. When he told her she was not doing the job well enough, she began to cry. She knew, she said, she was letting him down, and her own disappointment in herself embarrassed her. Thus she cried. “What did you do?” I asked. “What could I do? I felt terrible. I cried too,” he said, and I couldn’t help thinking about the big-time management consultant and his box of Kleenex. In my view, that manager demonstrated two things: He cared enough about the work that he was willing to confront someone he had a special interest in, and he cared enough about her to be hurt that she was upset. But let me make something clear: *I’m not talking about management for and by the wimps.* In fact, I am talking about the most difficult management there is, a management without emotional hiding places. You just can no longer be the tough guy, and you also can’t come on as the impassive, icewater-in-the-veins “cool head.” On the other hand, the kindly parent who listens-and-understands-but-does-nothing approach also won’t work. No, in every situation, you must lead with your real self, because if you’re going to be on the leading edge of management, you sometimes must be on the emotional edge as well.”

James Autry

Source: Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership, Pages: 110

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