The New Super Powers of Leadership

By Steve McDonald, Co-founder ‘The Human Link’.

“I think superpower is a really good descriptor for Compassion, it has many positive impacts on both the person and the organization. There’s just so much need for compassion. We have been through so much collective pain and suffering and in some cases, trauma” Dr. Scott Sonenshein

Wonderwoman, Spiderman, He-man, She-ra, the Hulk are all heroes from my childhood on Saturday mornings glued to cartoon time. Apart from keeping me up at night as I got lost in my comics they all shared one thing in common. These heroes all rose to the occasion and had the abilities to shine when they were needed.

I think of leaders who I have the privilege of working with now who are also shining. Whether they are leading transformations, driving business forward, helping their people heal after Covid, leading teams who have never physically met or guiding their teams through crisis … they all seem to share two very human qualities, real superpowers.

Compassion and Humility

Compassion literally means to “suffer together”. It is the art of being able to sit with another person and take the time and energy to understand their world. It is a precursor to empathy. Leaders with compassion understand they don’t have all the answers nor do they have to pretend that they do. Sometimes just being present in the conversation and listening is more than enough. The mark of most leaders is to move to action quickly. Compassionate leaders first connect with the people around them, sit in the pain, listen to the suffering and difficulties and then, if appropriate, move to action.

Compassion Is saying: I care deeply enough to take the time to hear you. Interestingly one of the most important predictors of a leaders effectiveness is how those reporting to them answer this question “My Manager Cares about me”.

Humility is the authentic belief that while I may have strengths, talent, or skill so does everyone around me. In other words I am confident in my own value but not arrogant enough to think that my value is better than any others.

Leaders with this trait demonstrate the skills of effective leaders. They set clear direction, have the tough conversations, empower their people, develop leaders around them and take responsibility for their team’s outcomes. They actively look for how they can leverage the strengths of their people and peers. They demonstrate growth and learning through their leadership.

Humility is also the art of calling out the strengths of those around you. To take the time to first notice, and secondly, to take the time to provide the positive observation. Again we know that when followers report that their leaders notice and acknoledge their strengths they feel more connected to the workplace and performance improves.

The two very human superpowers make all the difference to the experience people have in their workplace, and they have never been so relevant as they are today as organizations strive to flourish in the flexible and hybrid world of work


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