Leadership and the Human Condition

I happened to read a post by Ram S. Ramanathan yesterday that I found quite interesting and tangentially related to what I have been looking into recently, as for instance in this recent piece. In Ramanathan’s post “Cut in Half: Does Executive Coaching Work?” (not sure that title works, but my own are atrocious, so what do I know?) he discusses the value and necessity of addressing life issues in the context of executive coaching.

Oddly enough, in his experience, plenty of people he trains as coaches ask: “Why should we waste time in looking at life and emotional issues while coaching executives? After all, what companies and individuals expect is improved performance. Why waste time on personal issues?”

I feel a Duh! moment coming on, so please excuse me. The answer seems obvious. Because you are dealing with human beings! Human beings have “life issues”. Dammit! They have lives! You have a life, with “issues” that affect you, those around you, and your “performance”.

You might think eliminating them is the ideal solution, but as long as the procedure or pill for that hasn’t yet been discovered and made compulsory by fascist decree, be grateful for the fact that they can be dealt with, and that there are people who know how — who take the “life issues” of their fellow beings seriously and are willing to help.

If you are a leader or aspire to being one (something I think no true leader would or ought to aspire to), and you belong to the school of: “Life issues belong outside the workspace and shouldn’t affect pros”, then, please reconsider your position. Read a book of poetry or a great work of literature. Read another. Listen, learn, show compassion and understanding. Cultivate a genuine interest in others. Seriously, it will make you a better leader, and ultimately a better human being.

Finally I will allow myself to correct one of Ramanathan’s suggestions, namely, that a leader should “Engage with the person consistently and with care, [but not only] if that person matters to you at work and life.”(Here’s why.) — Make it unconditional. Just do it.

You’ll feel all the better. Promise.