Some Thoughts On Leadership

One of my favorite podcasts comes from the CBC.  It’s a show called Ideas, and the host, Paul Kennedy, takes listeners on a weekly exploration of usually quite interesting topics.  

A few weeks ago he did a piece on leadership, a subject that arises from time to time on the podcast.  In this episode, he talked about leadership through the eyes of the Canadian military.  

Not surprisingly, the “no bullshit factor” was seen as a key component of what it takes to lead young people nowadays. If you want troops to follow you, if you want to be successful influencing them, tell them the truth.  The Canadian forces have found that connecting to people through honesty and truthfulness is a big part of what makes a leader.

Perhaps there is a lesson for the US Congress in there.

These military leaders are saying that they can’t be successful, even in battle, where command and direction are coin of the realm, unless they have invested the time and energy in getting their troops to trust them.  

What’s especially intriguing is that these leaders have found that this trust comes from courage, competence, and compassion.  One of the leaders interviewed even went so far as to say that the need for empathy (i.e. compassion) increases in importance the higher in the ranks you go.

Deep down, I think this is something we all know -- that the people we experience as the most effective leaders are those who are the most authentically human, who can connect to us on some deep, personal level.  

And yet, there is an entire industry devoted to telling us what successful leaders look like, how they behave, what they say.  For all the noise that is out there on the subject, we would do well to keep these three simple principles in mind: be courageous, strive for competence in everything you do, and act with compassion.