Why you should be a leader?
In a conversation and quick brainstorming session regarding the filling of FLIPs paja calendar, an interesting suggestion came up, to write essays about how it is and what it means to be a leader. Soon FLIP leadership group will be modified and this essay can be a form of encouragement – or not – for those who have never taken such an initiative within the team, or even for those who have already perfected their skills and would like to try to be a leader again. The important thing is that this discussion has to start at some point and another experience should be valued and listened to, that is one of the fundamental aspects of working in a team.
Therefore, this essay will discuss thoughts, learnings, and leadership concepts that I have found myself learning in the Human Resources position these past few months. Why should you have a leadership role within the team? This question is actually a very good one and not obvious at all. I say this with certainty because the learning process is as intense as some negative parts can be, and that must be dealt with honesty and braveness. In my opinion, honesty and bravery are extremely essential to working with people who are different from you. Developing these two qualities makes you more open to the world of the other, the world of empathy and compassion, but at the same time, they also make you start trusting more in your decisions that are not always easy to make, and believing more in your own capabilities of executing a fair decision-making process, which starts to feel more natural as well.
The Harvard Business Review article named “Compassionate Leadership is Necessary But Not Sufficient”, written by Rasmus Hougaard, Jacqueline Carter e Nick Hobson, has a passage that I personally evaluate as extremely important, that is: “Compassion is the quality of having positive intentions and real concern for others. Compassion in leadership creates stronger connections between people. It improves collaboration, raises levels of trust, and enhances loyalty. In addition, studies find that compassionate leaders are perceived as stronger and more competent”(Hougaard, Carter&Hobson, 2020). My Human Resources position and the article taught me that, unfortunately, these factors, while essential, alone do not make an effective leader and those must be combined wisely. The combination of those is the recipe for good team leadership. For example, many times during this leadership group period, I felt like at some point the needs of the group were not really taken into consideration and we ended up reducing the time for important discussions and wasting time with others that seem useless today. The point is that teammates had things to say and in the name of effectiveness, they were not allowed to speak and I, at least, learned that this is not the way to lead.
Effective and difficult decisions must be made but, at the same time, solidarity with the employee cannot be forgotten. We must remember that we are dealing with different human beings, of different cultures and ages, as well as diverse backgrounds and this applies 100% in FLIP Solutions. My perception is that just listening to different sides of problems in multicultural groups is not enough if there is no real knowledge and assessment of the cultures present in the team and their different modes of communication. To be a leader of a balanced and efficient multicultural team, one must follow the balance of the following image below, extracted from the same article mentioned above:
Another Harvard Business Review article, “Becoming A More Humane Leader”, addresses these aspects in a paragraph that is worth quoting here for a better understanding of the image: “As a leader, how do you do the hard things that come with taking on the responsibility of leadership, while remaining a good human being? This is an eternal conundrum for all leaders. Most of us think we have to make a difficult, binary choice between being a good person or being a tough, effective leader. This is a false dichotomy. Being human and making hard leadership decisions are not mutually exclusive. In truth, doing hard things is often the most human thing to do. There are two key ingredients: wisdom and compassion” (Hougaard&Carter, 2021).
In my personal life, I really like to talk but I also really like to listen and value the feelings of people around me. Another lesson from my leadership group period is that not everyone works this way and some people are just so work-oriented that they forget that they are working with human beings who have feelings and limitations. In Human Resources, in the monthly feedback, dialogue proposals of important topics, when preparing the pajas calendar, I tried to listen to the team as much as possible and have attitudes based on its needs. I learned that it is very good to have feedback that your work has improved other person’s satisfaction regarding the quality of the pajas and the general organization within the team. On the other hand, constructive feedback is never that easy to handle.
The learning came through developing self-leadership skills, which I have been dedicating myself to improve in it for about 1 year now. With that, I learned to organize myself more so I am able to organize the team around me in a better way too. On the hard skills side, along with books like The Essential HR Handbook by Sharong Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell, I learned concepts of management, strategic management, and how to create a business plan and put it into action. Also, concepts such as onboarding, how to have effective meetings, Excel skills from our teammate’s pajas, and much more. The good part was building FLIPs strategy together with the team and adapting things in a way that would work for us since we are a “different” kind of company.
On the soft skills side, in addition to being an empathetic person since always, my role still helped me to increase my empathy, even more, when dealing with my teammates’ problems and trying to find a way to support them in the best way possible. I discovered that besides dialogue, it is also necessary to see the other’s side using real empathy. That means really trying to understand my colleague’s issues as if they were my own, and then start thinking of a solution together. Trusting and showing that you trust the people you work with is of utmost importance because with trust, delegating tasks becomes easier and the other also has the satisfaction of knowing that they are trustworthy to carry out the assigned task.
On the downside of my experience in FLIP’s HR, I don’t intend to lie to lighten any situation, because if you, reader, want to be HR or have any leadership role, you must be provided with a non-romanticized view of leadership positions and I am here to talk about my experience. It’s extremely difficult to deal with people who don’t have empathy for others, who don’t understand different life situations, age gaps, and even roll their eyes at class/company friends while others are in their speaking turn. Disrespect from others is difficult to deal with because people receive a different kind of education in their countries and at home, have different customs, and think differently, which makes it difficult to react in certain situations.
Managing cultural shock is also not an easy lesson and, at FLIP Solutions, it is something that is often forgotten or ignored as if everyone is from the same culture, which makes company and team management super tricky and difficult to align the expectations. Furthermore, if the leadership group is not on a good path for various reasons or even conflicts, the imbalance is also seen by colleagues, even if in a blurry vision. One of my mistakes in this area was not being transparent with the team about the problems of the leadership group and ending up in a state of burnout that I find myself in now, feeling completely disrespected, misunderstood and ignored. Transparency must be more important than fear of conflict and judgment and we never know if we are strong enough for it until we are in the situation.
If you are the kind of person who doesn’t get too caught up in sensitive situations, team leadership might be for you. I know that, besides the problems, it is something for me too and I enjoy managing people and environments. There are certainly great and diverse types of learning that I will take with me for life and for my future profession, because I see myself as Human Resources of a bigger company. In a company in which there is not so much pre-judgment, and mainly, where professionalism is valued, no bullying police is taken seriously, and last but not less importantly, the multiculturalism part is well developed as well.
Always remember how important is to care for others, for your own mental health and that psychological safety in companies and teams must be build constantly. Giving up on those factors in name of effectiveness is not a smart or healthy move, but a lot of hard work is needed in order to conquer both sides of the coin and make the employees and you feel good. I have definitely learned the kind of boss I don’t ever want to be and have ever again, and I hope I never see myself in that vulnerable situation within a team that I love and gives me so many good things. But on the other hand, some relationships damaged so much my mental health. Apply to be a leader but do not let controlling and people without empathy affect you, otherwise, you will lose the most simple rights of life such as the right to grieve in peace, as unfortunately happened to me.
Written by Luiza de Oliveira Vago.
B. Mitchell, S. Armstrong, The Essential HR Handbook, 10th Edition, Career Press, 2019.
R. Hougaard, J. Carter, Becoming A More Humane Leader, Harvard Business Review, Published on November 23, 2021, available on https://hbr.org/2021/11/becoming-a-more-humane-leader.
R. Hougaard, J. Carter and N. Hobson, Compassionate Leadership is Necessary But Not Sufficient, Harvard Business Review, Published on December 4th, 2020, available on https://hbr.org/2020/12/compassionate-leadership-is-necessary-but-not-sufficient.