By Tino Mantella
In 1995, when Bob and Lyn Turknett finalized the Leadership Character Model, I wonder if they knew it would withstand the test of time? How could they have imagined that the four tenets on the “Respect” side of the scale (empathy, lack of blame, emotional mastery, and humility) would be discussed more broadly today than, I believe, at any time in the history of this country.
Being a CEO for over three decades, I have always been mindful of and diligent about hitting every aspect of the responsibility side of the ledger. Many of you in leadership positions (and everyone can be a leader, so don’t think I am not talking about you) might be like me. I have never had an issue with the responsibility side of the scale. I certainly have always held myself accountable, from my head to my toes. I use every ounce of my being to get the job done.
Over the years I have gotten better at the respect side but, as my wife would say, I am a work in progress. From a business standpoint, it was much easier, thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago to overweight the responsibility side of the scale. I remember having employees in my office, back in the day, when setting expectations, I would say something along the lines of – hey, I am not in this position to understand you. You need to understand me.
With the generations in the workforce today that simply doesn’t work. And it shouldn’t. Today, we must seek to understand before asking to be understood. If we don’t, our employees will leave at best and, worse yet, stay unengaged or even sabotage you and all that you try to accomplish. So, the point is, even if you are using your heart and soul to get the job done, expecting your team to follow to the “sound of the guns” in lockstep, don’t be surprised when you turn around, no one is there.
In the book, “Leadership: In Turbulent Times”, Doris Kearns Goodwin tells the story of Teddy Roosevelt, early on in his legislative career in the NY State legislator. Roosevelt was hard driving and had excellent ideas and was much loved, but then people tired of his single mindedness, acting like he was the only good legislator in the State of NY. The story goes that no one would touch any of his proposals, no matter how good they were framed, because they didn’t want to support him. Roosevelt was a quick study and learned to understand the other points of view, and, over time, he won back the confidence and friendship of other legislators and the rest is history.
Finally, as I think about the words on the Respect side of the ledger, one word stands above them all and that’s empathy. Take the political landscape, at all levels of government and public institutions. Governors, mayors, school superintendents, and the list goes on. Death tolls are rising and there is an 11% unemployment rate at this writing. No matter what decision makers decide today, showing sincere empathy is critical. That’s certainly the big picture, but it applies to all of us today. When you and I look in the mirror what do we see?
I will end with a favorite quote of mine that is credited to Claude Bissell
“ Risk more than others think is safe
Care more than others think is wise
Dream more than others think is practical
Expect more than others think is possible ”
Of all these caring more is the most important thing we all need to be thinking about being and doing today.