Courage and Compassion – Two essential traits of iconic leadership
“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others”. -Aristotle
What are we without courage? Where would human race be today if our ancestors did not have the courage to discover, invent and innovate?
I believe courage is the most important business virtue. Can you imagine a meek and fearful person creating a large conglomerate? The very basis of entrepreneurship is courage. The courage to think differently, the courage to lead with conviction and the courage to realise your dreams.
The second most important virtue is compassion. For me compassion is – kindness, openness and forgiveness. These could be towards oneself or towards others. Leaders are remembered for their courage and compassion.
Leadership requires courage to make bold and sometimes unpopular decisions. Leaders must be courageous to foster innovation, to nurture ground-breaking and tradition-defying ideas. They must also be compassionate to ensure trust, encourage new thoughts and ensure inclusion. Courageous and compassionate leaders enhance the resilience of an organization, foster growth and assure perpetuity. Unless there is the courage to step out of the comfort zone, to endure the discomfort of doing things not done before, growth is impossible. If you add true compassion to this courage, you get a humane organization that genuinely cares.
The COVID pandemic showed us that Organizations that had the courage to innovate, in whichever way they could – processes, products, and culture, grew more resilient and stable. These organizations flourished because of a learning mind-set and the courage to walk the path less trodden. They exhibited compassion at a time most required. They reached out to colleagues and supported them in every way possible.
They had leaders with the ability to effect change. They understood what needs to be done and had the courage to make it happen. Such leadership comes from a realization that, “I am a human first and yet, I am also a leader”. True courage includes discerning what matters most and where you will expend your energy. It is choosing your battles wisely and letting go when things do not turn out the way you planned. It is the ability to pause, consider, act with discretion and sometimes take hard decisions.
To me, compassion and courage together is fundamentally optimistic. When you take action in the face of adversity and when you persevere for a cause, you’re moving forward and contributing to a bright future. It is the fuel for success as well as for thriving and happiness.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern said “I think one of the sad things that I’ve seen in political leadership is – because we’ve placed over time so much emphasis on notions of assertiveness and strength – that we probably have assumed that it means you can’t have those other qualities of kindness and empathy. And yet, when you think about all the big challenges that we face in the world, that’s probably the quality we need the most.”