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Lykken on Leadership: The Compassionate Side of Leadership

David Lykken
Jan 13, 2012

Halloween may be behind us, but there is still a scary nightmarish crisis facing us! Do you know what it is? This crisis is far worse than loan originator (LO) compensation changes, worse than the Dodd-Frank Act and even worse than the worldwide debt crisis. For those of you who have been reading this column for the past seven months, you know what I am talking about. It is that “planet Earth is in the midst of a serious leadership crisis!” Another way to put it is that we are experiencing a “leadership deficit” or a “leadership void!” Consider for a moment what is going on in Europe, specifically, in Greece, and the effect it is having on our markets. Globalization has had more than just a “ripple effect” on the world’s economy; it has been more of a tsunami. Think about it for a minute. Greece, if (or more like, when) it defaults on its debt, will have a huge domino affect across all of Western Europe and could very likely crater our country’s debt-ridden economy. The result of globalization is an interconnectedness of our markets with Europe that has scary ramifications. A lack of leadership within the European community is compounding their problems. European leaders seem to prefer denial and/or delusion over taking decisive responsible actions to correct the structural issues perpetuating their financial demise. And we are no better off here at home. Polls suggest that the vast majority of Americans are disillusioned with leadership inside the beltway of Washington, D.C. and the disillusionment is directed at both sides of the political aisle. But here's the beautiful part of our system … WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! We are gearing up for one of the most important election seasons of our nation's history. This process of change that "We the People" have before us is amazing, but we have to act! The solution to this leadership crisis is fairly simple and straightforward—throw out the bad leaders and bring in new "good" leaders. Simple enough, right? Well, on the surface, it may seem simple, but "We the People" haven't had the best track record of picking “good” leaders in recent years. Many in the electorate are discouraged and sadly disengaged because they feel that they have had the wool pulled over our eyes more than a few times. Many have been duped by great campaign slogans like, "Change You Can Believe In" and "Yes We Can!" only to realize that three years later, we are in worse shape today than before … or, at a minimum, no better off. The age-old definition of insanity is expecting different results from the same old actions. So, what are the same old actions that we need to change to turn around this crisis? We need to learn how to recognize a good leader by understanding the characteristics that make up a great leader. The good news is that we do have leaders, even strong leaders, walking amongst us—some of whom I believe are reading this article (hint hint, wink wink)! Yes, I am talking about YOU! And if you sense a draw to leadership, give serious study to what it takes to be a great leader and then if still so inclined, step up and boldly answer the call to leadership. Lord knows we need folks to step up and answer the call. If nothing else, I can guarantee that you will be better for it even if you don’t end up being a leader. My own self-realization is that I needed to learn how to recognize good leaders. This launched my quest to study the subject of leadership, and specifically, identify the key characteristics that are resident in a good leader. I wanted to develop my own list of minimum basic requirements I wanted in a strong leader. That is what inspired me to start writing this series of articles at the first of the year entitled “The Seven Characteristics of Leadership” or “The 7-Cs of Leadership.” This series of articles is sort of my own personal journal of what I have learned in my studies. Author’s note: I would personally like to say “thank you” to the many who have taken the time to write me expressing how much this series of articles has helped you. I really appreciate your continued feedback and encouragement. I intend to stay on this journey, learning all I can and will continue to share with you what I learn each month. So, as I am about to start writing about the seventh "C" (characteristic) of leadership, let us start with a quick refresher of the first six of the “7-Cs” resident in outstanding leaders. They are as follows: 1. Character Character is found in the deepest part of our innermost being, and it causes us to decide to go one way or another on the most important of issues. It is like a core processor deep within each of us that receives input, processes it and makes the determination on the best course of action for any given situation. It is commonly referred to as the heart of a person. Character is usually developed through difficult and painful circumstances. That is why it is so important that we look into someone's life journey and examine the choices they have made before we determine if they are capable of leading. This process of examination will reveal character. Character is like an internal compass—if it is off, even by a couple of degrees, you will end up where you didn't intend to go. It is the cornerstone in the foundation of every leader. 2. Conviction Conviction is the next building block in the foundation of a great leader and is immediately adjacent to the cornerstone of character. Conviction is what you have as an absolute resolve in your heart to be true and accurate. A strong leader leads from the core of their being. That is why conviction anchored in good character is essential to good leadership. If you follow someone with deep convictions anchored in a compromised character, there is a very high probability that they will lead you somewhere you wished you hadn't gone. If you doubt me, think about our country's current direction. 3. Confident Given the difficulties that lie ahead, a strong leader must be someone who has an unwavering confidence that is rooted in deep conviction in sound principles and good character. It is not about power. The counterfeit to confidence is arrogance, which can be spotted from a mile away. 4. Charismatic I believe that the best leaders exude genuine self-less magnetic warmth and have an amazing ability to relate to others. Unlike character which, as I said, is developed, charisma almost always is a gift. Either a leader has it or they don’t. Charisma is not an essential component of leadership, but it is almost always present. 5. Clarity A good leader cuts through and eliminates confusion. They bring clarity to some of the most convoluted and seemingly confusing matters. A strong leader intensely studies whatever issue they are facing and forms a clear plan understandable by all, and then will be able to communicate it concisely. 6. Communicator Because the two most recent articles I wrote were published in this publication on the topic of communication, I won't review much other than to say that a strong leader knows how to relate and effectively communicate with the broadest and most diverse audience. Love him or hate him, Ronald Regan was renowned for his ability to effectively communicate to a broad and diverse audience. 7. Compassionate This is defined as “Having or showing compassion (a feeling of sympathy and sorrow for those dealing with a misfortune and is accompanied with a strong desire to alleviate the suffering) and is evident in an emergency or time of crisis.” With this characteristic being the main topic for this month’s article, I expound on it in more detail below. Compassion is the quality that allows a leader to connect with those he or she leads. Compassion is actually a very strong characteristic that has mistakenly been confused with and misconstrued as weakness. Compassionate leaders of the past are some of our most powerful leaders in history. They are touched, but not de-railed, by the misfortunes of others. They have a strong desire to “make things right.” Some of the best turnaround managers have been some of the most compassionate mangers. By that, I mean those leaders/managers who have been involved with a turnaround management situation, connect with people with compassion, all the while, taking corrective action to make things better. The compassionate component of leadership is less evident or needed when everything is going well. The compassionate component of leadership is most needed when circumstances look bleak if not impossible. In situations like this, the very people you need to turn a negative/bad situation around are often the biggest impediment to turning things around. This is where the expression, “They are their own worst enemy” most likely comes from. The kind of compassion that makes for this kind of great leader originates in the heart. In the book entitled, The Truth About Leadership, written by James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner, which by the way I recommend you add to your library on leadership, the authors wrote about 10 time-tested truths that are essential for leaders in these turbulent times. The tenth truth that they write about is “Leadership is an Affair of the Heart.” In this chapter of their book, the say that “Leaders put their hearts in their business and their businesses in their hearts.” What makes up a business (a company)? It is not a balance sheet or an earnings statement. It is the people … pure and simple! A compassionate good leader leads people from the heart. Interestingly, “compassion” and “character” (the first “C” in my list above), are all about the heart, i.e., they are heart issues. Another book I recently enjoyed reading was The Steve Jobs Way, written by Jay Elliot with William L. Simon. There’s no question that Steve Jobs was an amazing leader. He changed the way we interact with technology more than any other person. In the book, it is easier to see Steve Jobs’ “passion” than his “compassion.” In fact, there were many engineers who were locked in legacy thinking (the way things have always been) that just couldn’t catch the vision during the development of the revolutionary iPhone. Steve was relentless and didn’t come across as a compassionate leader with those that argued “You can’t build a phone with just one button.” But if you were one of the engineers who caught the vision and worked creatively with Steve, you saw the compassionate side of him. Visionary leaders may not come across as compassionate leaders, but they are if you are connected to their vision/passion. Compassion, when it comes from the heart of a good leader with good values/character, can move people to achieve results they themselves never thought possible, and can help them overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Learn to recognize true compassion in a leader. Even better, learn how to be a compassionate leader and watch what happens. Who knows … you may be one of those leaders walking among us. I challenge you to go back, find and study all of the articles in this “7-Cs of Leadership” series. I encourage you to read them and study them. I have a passion to see leaders rise up among us and answer the call. Let’s work together to end the leadership crisis with which we are fighting. Like that old war poster read, “Uncle Sam Need YOU!” If you are a leader, we really need you! If you don’t believe you are a leader, then at least copy down the description of the 7-Cs above and determine to only follow those leaders who embody all seven. Then, get active in the upcoming election season. It is critical that you do if you want to continue to live with the liberties and freedoms we enjoy. David Lykken is president of mortgage strategies and managing partner with Mortgage Banking Solutions. He has more than 35 years of industry experience and has garnered a national reputation, and has become a frequent guest on FOX Business News with Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney, Liz Claman and Dave Asman with additional guest appearances on the CBS Evening News, Bloomberg TV and radio. He may be reached by phone at (512) 977-9900, ext. 10, or e-mail [email protected] or [email protected]
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