At a client event this week, I met a terrific leader who really impressed me.
This person is a seasoned executive.
He is intelligent and strategic.
He is charismatic.
But it was not the traits listed above that impressed me.
What impressed me was his self-awareness and balance.
This is a person who has really invested in his development over the years.
So, while he has a naturally dominant workstyle, he has learned to listen more than he speaks. He focuses on giving others the opportunity to provide their input on key issues and ideas.
While he tends to move at a very fast pace, he has learned to slow down. While his preference is to focus on a hundred things at once, he has learned to get really clear on a few key priorities and execute them well.
While he tends to be very focused on the achievement of tasks and objectives, he has learned to focus just as much time on his relationships.
He told me that building high-trust relationships is one of his key objectives as an executive.
A few days later, when I reflected on his leadership style, one of my favourite quotes came to mind.
This quote comes from author Joan Halifax who says, “Leaders need to have a strong back and a soft front.”
Let me explain.
The term STRONG BACK, SOFT FRONT means that we are:
- STRONG BACK: Sturdy, confident, and assertive
- SOFT FRONT: Open, compassionate, and caring
Unfortunately, many of us have been conditioned to have a strong back and a strong front.
This means that we have built up walls around us.
We have become tough and unbendable.
We are too focused on results and don’t consider the needs of our people.
We are not open to feedback.
We are unwilling to listen to other people’s perspectives.
We would never appear vulnerable or imperfect in front of others.
I see strong back, strong front leaders all the time.
This needs to change.
What would it take for YOU to have a strong back and soft front?
If we merge the two, we become brave and compassionate leaders.
This is exactly the type of leadership that is needed these days!