At first glance, the words “compassionate” and “ruthless” may seem to be complete opposites of one another, but they are a masterfully balanced combination when viewed through the lens of leadership.
Being completely ruthless as a leader comes with its benefits and drawbacks, as does being purely compassionate. When these two traits are put together, compassionate ruthless leadership is created, which often breeds success for both the business itself and for the team members that keep it running.
Keep reading to learn about what compassionate ruthless leadership is and how it can help you be the most effective leader possible.
What Is Compassionate Ruthless Leadership?
As the name suggests, compassionate ruthless leadership combines a compassion-oriented leadership style with a ruthless leadership style. So, what exactly does this mean?
Compassion in Leadership
Leading with compassion means leading with empathy and understanding. You listen to your team’s ideas and concerns and you try to create solutions that prioritize their greater good. Empathizing with your employees or the people on your team involves being able to meet them where they are and understand where they’re coming from.
This can be in regard too many different situations. Maybe a team member needs some additional support during an urgent family emergency, or maybe they’ve been dealing with a personal matter and need a small extension on a project deadline in order to deliver their best work. Perhaps they need a bit of extra training in a skill they haven’t practiced in months, or they might complete a task differently than you do as a result of previous experience.
The point is, having compassion is about being supportive, empathetic, and understanding. Of course, as a leader that has a business or a team to run, you can’t succeed off of compassion alone.
Ruthlessness in Leadership
Ruthlessness in leadership means having high expectations and pushing people to reach their full potential. It comes with an understanding of each team member and their skills and abilities and then refusing to accept sub-par effort or work.
It involves encouraging team members to be the best they can be and not rolling over when expectations are not met. Any successful business needs to have leaders that know how to be ruthless. Though, it’s important to remember that this kind of leadership can be very draining for team members without the addition of compassion.
Why Does the Compassion & Ruthlessness Combo Work?
We often have a harder time seeing our strengths and weaknesses for what they are than a friend, family member, colleague, or boss does. It can be challenging to judge ourselves appropriately when we’re so close to a situation and always in our own heads. It’s the job of managers, team leaders, and other boss-like figures to gauge the potential of employees and team members, as they can often see strengths and weaknesses more clearly than the individuals themselves.
This is why the compassionate ruthless leadership style is so effective in many cases—the leader uses compassion to understand the team member’s position and potential, and then they ruthlessly set high expectations that will encourage them to perform and grow professionally. The compassion aspect is also important in terms of supporting employees on their path to meeting expectations, whether that be with extra guidance, providing extra resources, etc.
The bottom line is that being both compassionate and ruthless allows you to lead most effectively by setting the bar high—where it should be—while offering a kind and helping hand along the way.
This helps positively motivate employees to perform and excel at their jobs without the stress and anxiety that often appears in working environments. In addition to being beneficial for employees’ mental health, leading with an element of compassion is a key factor in improving performance, and it can also reduce employee churn.
Compassion without ruthlessness is not a ticket to success in the business world, and ruthlessness without compassion creates an unpleasant, and often unproductive, working environment.
Whether you’re the CEO of a company or a project manager for a marketing campaign, compassionate ruthless leadership will help you and your team members excel. Remember to maintain balance in your leadership and keep both your bottom line and the well-being of your team members in mind as you push them to achieve.