When Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ingka Group/IKEA, was asked to take over management of IKEA China, the operation required significant change to be successful and sustainable. He would have to close offices and support many employees to find new employment. Before accepting such a difficult restructuring, he asked himself an important question: “Do I have the courage and stamina to do this?”
An interminable conundrum for leaders is how to do the hard things that come with the responsibility of leadership while remaining a good human being. Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, in a recent HBR article https://lnkd.in/gvztwTKT argued that the binary choice between being a good person or being a tough, effective leader was a false dichotomy. Their thoughtful article builds a good case for managing the conundrum through the development of two key leadership ingredients – wisdom and compassion.
While being human and making hard leadership decisions may not be mutually exclusive, it is naïve to think that you can avoid the struggle. The best leaders are the ones who have the courage to face the demands of reality. They wrestle with the tough decisions, determined to integrate humanity into their leadership and their commitment to ensuring results. And they do it imperfectly.
Like life itself, leadership is an imperfect journey. We don’t always get it right. Sometimes we miss the mark. Our commitment to results can override our compassion. Alternatively, our honest concern for individuals can compromise the tough decisions we have to make for the long-term greater good. And then, at those rare times, we discover that doing the hard things becomes the most human thing to do.
If we stay with the struggle and accept our imperfection as our leadership journey unfolds, we can stay real and earn the credibility it takes to build a great organization and make a difference in the world.