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  • Power of Staff Networks

A Balancing Act: Emotion, Reciprocity & Reason

In his book 'Soul Trader', Rasheed Ogunlaru writes:

"Tomorrow's leaders will not lead dictating from the front, or directing from the back, but from the centre, led by the heart"

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement and recently, I've found myself thinking about matters of the heart. Not in a romantic sense but more along the lines of heart centred leadership. That compassionate side of leadership that reaches out to others.

Compassion is a crucial aspect when leading a staff network. I've met many leaders who:

  • are passionate about the agenda;

  • are focussed on improving outcomes for the target group (members) in the organisation;

  • can empathise with some of the experiences of the members;

...and yet sometimes these very leaders lack compassion. How can they have empathy but lack compassion? The Dalai Lama offers a great explanation: “Empathy is a desire to know the other person. Compassion is to act on that knowledge with positive intent.”

Passion, compassion (and to some extent empathy) are all branches from the same tree; they are all about relationships. But being passionate and having compassion aren't the same. The motivation is different. Passion is a strong emotion that drives the individual (I/me). Compassion, on the other hand, does not mean 'with passion' but rather it means 'to suffer with' or 'with the patient' - the focus is on others (you/us).

I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with being passionate - it is often passion that fuels staff members to volunteer in a staff network. But if passion is misplaced and surpasses reason, pragmatism and compassion, then the staff network can become susceptible to various problems.

Therefore, leaders need to consider making decisions about the network (its mission, activities, action plans etc) using their heads (reason) as well as their hearts (emotion). The 'head and heart' leadership table below highlights the key principles and competencies that contribute to the qualities required for heart centred leadership and I hope you find it a useful aide memoire.

Staff network leaders can be models of heart centred leadership within organisations but this will require courage. It will also mean finding an equilibrium between harnessing emotion (passion), remembering reciprocity (compassion), and keeping reason as a close ally.

(Table courtesy of Nitin Kalra, PeopleStrong)

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