Leadership: Tenderness and Toughness

Leadership: Tenderness and Toughness

Leadership is influence. Everyone will influence at least 10,000 people in their lifetime. It is not a matter of if you will influence others, it is a matter of how you will influence them. Every day at Microsoft we influence people, including our customers, partners and teammates. Much of our influence occurs across highly matrixed organizations with people that do not directly report to us, but whom we need to work on our behalf to help us get things done. Consequently, the ability to positively influence and motivate others is critical. As leaders, we must develop and learn to use three unique skills in this endeavor. They include: tenderness, toughness and the ability to know when to use one or the other.

Tenderness involves compassion. Interactions with people are not transactions, they are opportunities to add value. They are opportunities to learn about people. These opportunities provide insight into what motivates them. Motivation also provides insight into behavior. For example, what if one of your partners consistently missed their agreement deadlines for two weeks. You may want to criticize them. But what if you learned that the partner’s mother was just diagnosed with cancer? Your perspective would change from criticism to compassion. You would be willing to make adjustments. As leaders, we must show compassion to others. Building strong relationships with people is key.

Toughness involves performance. Toughness also requires building strong relationships with people to create openness, so that you can ask for what is needed. People appreciate candor. Candor can be communicated while preserving dignity and respect. It is not what is said, but how it is said. Strong leaders do not direct their candor at the individual, they direct it at their behavior. For example, “How can we ensure agreements are submitted on time?” They also indirectly address the other person’s performance with the word “and.” For example, “Our momentum is strong and if we get agreements submitted on time we will exceed plan.” People rise to the level of expectation set for them.

Everyone will give and receive the tenderness and toughness message. Always treat people the way that you would want to be treated. As leaders, we must become students of people. We cannot lead from the neck up. We have to capture the other person’s head and heart before we can positively influence and motivate them.

All contents copyright © 2010, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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