CEO Satya Nadella’s story of his first-ever interview at Microsoft, where he was asked how he would react seeing a baby crying in the middle of the road, and his response found short on empathy, has by now gone into corporate folklore.
Rational, intelligent and effective actions have always been key indicators of performance of corporate leaders. Yet, leadership is inspiring if elements of emotions and empathy are pronounced in the action and style of leaders.
Empathy, as we know, is the skill of understanding and recognizing others’ feelings and perspectives. It is one of the vital competencies seen in transformational leaders. While we are witness to empathetic leadership in the likes of Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, Satya Nadella, Indra Nooyi et al in recent times, the clan, sadly, is not large.
Post –pandemic, the scenario is likely to change! Three factors, in particular, will help ethical leadership to bloom:
Lessons from Pandemic itself
Be it the social distancing, collective confinement, topsy-turvy work-schedules and damaged businesses, CEOs are seeing and handling it all. They are privy to tales of the broken supply chains and shrunk income flows of their customers/borrowers/suppliers as well.
In the process of coping with daunting challenges of business to safety and well-being of employees, CEOs are learning vital lessons the hard way. The learnings from the crisis are vital. The pandemic is changing CEOs’ perspective on people, work and life.
New Demands of Market and Community
CEOs, as it is, have been under pressure from regulators and other stakeholders for better compliances on disclosure norms, greater transparency in balance sheets and enhanced commitments for CSR. Further, the funding deficits in SDGs and Climate Change Action Plans have also been creating moral pressures on organizations to do more.
A positive public perception about organizations, CEOs know, is needed for better valuations and brand equity. And, post-pandemic, this perception is going to have a stronger association with the organizations’ ethical approaches to business. The new demands are calling for new paradigms of business.
Closeness and Communion with Nature
With the adverse climate change facing us, coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic, we are realizing the importance and utility of Nature as our sustainer and healer.
In the collective confinement, CEOs must be finding how Nature, as a dependable and true friend, is relaxing their minds, lifting their hearts and bringing pure joy. With closer understanding of rhythms of life, selfless giving, growth and harmony from Nature, businesses and their captains, like all of us, are reimagining nature. The awakening envisages prudent and responsible consumption of natural resources.
The ethical leadership may manifest in a variety of ways:
Humane responses at workplaces, with work- cultures reflecting in sensitivity, and spirit of sharing, caring and support.
People-centric approaches in hiring, promotion, compensation and reward. Flexibility in work hours, healthcare benefits, leave grants.
A more diverse work culture, with people from different backgrounds, experiences and orientations. Appreciating uniqueness in employees and fostering stronger bonds in teams for a resilient and happy workplace.
Listening to and acting on suggestions and feedback. More encouragement and respect to ideas.
Work Processes and Investments
Hybrid schedules, lesser supervision, and higher delegation.
Extended credit and faster realizations of receivables for Small Businesses.
Improved funding for health, green and sustainability projects.
Internalization of the spirit of charity, through CSR, with selfless intent and motivations.
Building relationships with teams via effective communication, be it meetings or writing communications. Regular and clear articulation of values of fairness, integrity, and trust.
Regular and crisis communication apart, use of personal connect and communication to build a deeper connect with employees.
Assessing decisions before implementation to ensure the decision accords with the organization’s mission and values. Making the right empathetic and ethical choices.
Decisions governed by a fair, well- articulated set of rules, rather than by personality or politics.
Shedding of un-fairness, prejudices in decisions, and mindfulness on standards of ethics.
Mission and Vision
Building greater connection and sense of shared purpose. Personal and the professional to get entwined. Walking the talk.
Realization that empathy is as important as, if not more than, earnings. It is okay for profit to take a back seat to empathy and ethics.
Making the right empathetic and ethical choices.
No surprise, post-pandemic, we are poised to see an evolved corporate culture worldwide. And, CEOs, driven by conscience and empathy, are likely to showcase leadership as an emotional craft, positively impacting business, society and future of work.
Commentary by Ram Krishna Sinha. Here’s what you’ve missed?
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