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Leadership Development

Welcome to the August newsletter!

This month our focus is on leadership development. We liken leadership to a form of being and a quality of influencing. Successful leaders bring their whole self into the leadership role, engaging their head, their heart and their hands. Leadership has the potential to mobilise newer, freer and more meaningful ways of seeing, working and living. Compassionate, courageous and confident leaders display behavioural versatility, a tenacity of spirit and a commitment to focus on the things that really matter.

Read on for some insights and to find out what it means to be a compassionate and courageous leader.


Transforming Systems: Exploring the place of compassion in the exercise of leadership

A couple of years ago I received information about a Group Relations Conference in India and was struck by the following quote from the conference brochure:

‘As our world grows more chaotic and unpredictable, we tend to turn more and more to those in leadership to control chaos and make us feel safe. Leaders, in their bid to be popular, often lose sight of the fact that their primary task is to enhance individual, group, and systemic capacity to ‘see’ the realities that people face and enact.

It is only through one’s ability to develop a ‘relationship with uncertainty and the unknown’, the competence to more ‘deeply attend to reality’, and the conviction about the interconnectedness of all things, that one can open space also for the possibilities of transformation. This requires not only a deep sense of compassion but also an unflinching faith in the basic capacities of people. These may seem like soft or weak stances in a world that celebrates aggressive and even arrogant leadership, but on deeper reflection we realise that these stances are what make us deeply love and admire those leaders who demonstrate them in their way of being.’

– Rosemary Viswanath & Gouranga Chattopadhyay

I was quite taken, not only by the title of the conference (for obvious reasons) but also with the ideas expressed, particularly the idea that part of a leader’s task is to support others to deeply attend to reality with compassion, no matter how challenging or painful that may be. My research data would suggest that deep attention to reality often mobilizes a flurry of mixed emotions for leaders – ranging from fear to fearlessness, from open heartedness to closed mindedness (and everything in between).

Why? Because as we can all attest to, attending to reality can be complex. Deeply attending to reality requires our presence. Staying with reality, requires our mindfulness and the capacity to sit in the fire and lean into discomfort with others. Cultivating these capacities requires the leader to access compassion for themselves, coupled with courage to face their own feelings of inadequacy and fear in the face of the unknown. Compassion and courage are also needed as leaders disentangle themselves from others’ insistence that they must immediately have the answers, restore the balance or save the day. Heifetz and Linksy remind us through their work on adaptive leadership, that when faced with complexity and upheaval, it can be particularly tempting for leaders to take action too quickly to restore equilibrium. In doing so, the real leadership task may be missed.

This Brené Brown talk is one that I love to share. Brené Brown studies human connection – our ability to empathise, belong, love. In this poignant, funny TED talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.

What does it mean to be a compassionate and courageous leader?

Compassion and courage is mobilised when the leader engages competently with their three centres of intelligence, the head, the heart and the gut centres.

To lead compassionately and courageously, doesn’t always come naturally. It requires the capacity to lean into discomfort (the heart and the gut). This means being comfortable with uncertainty (the head), and further, (and here’s the sticking point for both leaders and followers), demonstrating a willingness to be vulnerable (the head, the heart and the gut). Vulnerability, as it turns out, is not something most leaders are practiced at, nor is it given much air time between leaders and followers. In fact vulnerability is the antithesis of the superhuman leader. A myth that in spite of our best efforts is alive and well. Where does this leave leaders then, when in fact they do feel unsure, when they do feel vulnerable, when they feel more human than superhuman?

I will address this issue in a further newsletter.

“Lindy is a highly skilled facilitator who has supported our team through a number of processes such as team building, planning and specific project scoping. She has also designed and delivered a successful in house facilitator training program. Lindy’s expert professional coaching has helped build leadership capability in individuals and across teams, using important tools to assist in identifying strengths and opportunities.

Lindy has also been instrumental in building our network by connecting us to other OD professionals. I regularly recommend Lindy to my colleagues.”

– Caz McLean, City of Casey