Medical science understands the difference between treating the cause of a medical condition and merely treating the symptoms that have resulted.
When you visit your doctor seeking help for a medical condition such as an infection of some sort, your doctor will diagnose what the problem is so that s/he can treat the cause to kill the viral or bacterial infection and then also prescribe something for symptomatic treatment. So, for instance, while the antibiotic is killing the bacterial infection, the symptomatic treatment will help ease the symptoms you are experiencing as a result of the infection.
There’s a very important distinction between the two types of treatment. The antibiotic will, in time, address the symptoms – once the infection has been eliminated, the symptoms will, in time, disappear. But the symptomatic treatment will never kill the infection. It may bring your temperature down, temporarily, it may relieve your blocked nose, temporarily, it may soothe your sore throat, temporarily, but it will never be able to eliminate the infection. And while the infection remains, your symptoms will simply get worse and worse.
This analogy can be applied in the corporate world in that, while we focus only on treating the symptoms in our companies, we will never get rid of the causes of the pain.
Take for example some of the biggest pain points companies have been experiencing over the past few years and are still experiencing – attracting good talent, ensuring that talent is engaged and productive, retaining that talent, changing toxic cultures and creating inclusive workplaces.
Yeah, I know, you’re all very familiar with these issues – no surprises there!
But the surprise may be in the point that every single one of these (and a bunch of other pain points) are all symptoms of another problem – ineffective leadership.
And while those in leadership positions choose to treat only the symptoms of ineffective leadership, they will continue to struggle to attract, engage and retain their talent, struggle along with a toxic workplace culture and battle to create an inclusive workplace.
Ignoring the causes will result in continued frustration and loss of productivity, profitability … and talented people.
And, there’s another problem …
None of us, leaders included, likes to face our flaws and inefficiencies. We all like to think we’re perfectly competent in every way we need to be. That’s what causes our blind spots. And, while we are happy to live with our blind spots, we’ll never change, grow and improve.
In many, if not most cases, people are appointed to leadership positions because of their technical qualifications. So, Chartered Accountants are appointed to leadership positions because, well, they’re good with money and balance sheets, and large companies need someone at the helm who can manage money well. But they usually don’t know very much about people and leading people because that’s not what they trained for. Now, that’s not their fault, but it does present a challenge for the company and its employees.
The pandemic provided a tipping point that introduced the need for empathy and compassion in leaders, something which was not required in the old hierarchical leadership model where people were expected to deal with their own problems and get on with their work. Today, however, things are very, very different …
It takes a lot more leadership courage to see in oneself the need to learn more about how to be a really effective people leader, not just a technical leader. I urge you to muster the courage to identify and address the causes of the your company’s pain points rather than treating the symptoms that ineffective leadership is causing.
The only way to do this is through a deep, personalised Leadership Development Programme.
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net and @HRFuturemag. He is an internationally recognised authority on leadership competencies for the future and teaches experienced and younger business leaders how to lead with empathy, compassion, integrity, purpose and agility. He has been an Age Management Coach for two decades. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter“. In 2020, he was named one of the “Top 200 Global Power Thought Leaders to watch in 2021” by peopleHum in India. In 2022, he has been named on the Power List of the “Top 200 Biggest Voices in Leadership in 2022” by LeaderHum.