Unwrapping benevolent leadership
John Blakey author of the Trusted Executive talks of 3 things that engender trust in leaders – ability, integrity and benevolence and, at this time of year, benevolence seems like an interesting quality to explore further. At Christmas time we perhaps practise more benevolence than usual, turning our attention to those less fortunate than ourselves or expressing a higher than usual level of goodwill.
If we consider the definition of benevolence (which as a word in itself has a slightly old fashioned and maybe even spiritual quality to it which I like) we see that it’s described as:
‘desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness: to be filled with benevolence toward one’s fellow creatures’
Using this sort of language within the boardroom or on the shop floor might seem somewhat alien and yet the sentiment is extremely important when it comes to the quality of relationships that we build within the workplace (and beyond). It has me thinking about the degree to which we, as leaders, really function from a place of goodwill and desire to do good to others. At an even more basic level to what degree do we consider others as fellow human beings or simply rush about our tasks without really forming any connection?
Leading from a place of benevolence calls on us to examine the degree to which we truly care about others and their well-being. If we’re feeling defensive, at this point, we might start to argue that the workplace isn’t a charity or a benevolence society operating for the well-being of its people. And whilst that’s true at one level, unless we really care about the people who form our business or organisation then we are guilty of seeing them as human ‘capital’ just like financial capital and not as people with more complex, beautiful and creative contributions. Contributions that will exceed anything we can imagine if our people feel secure in themselves, valued and cared for, and where the quality of interaction is one that is based on real harmlessness, consideration, and an innate sense of recognition that they are members of our (human) ‘tribe’.
This could manifest as a deep and genuine desire that they succeed, or the offer of a helping hand if they are feeling overloaded, or the benefit of the doubt when things are getting a bit mixed up. There are of course so many more ways it can show up. So as you are reflecting on your year as a leader consider whether there’s room for adopting a more benevolent approach and if there is,how might you package that gift to yourself and others?