What is the ultimate form of strength?

It is a common misperception that, to get to the top, one has to be rough and tough, and be able to give as good as one gets. This misperception is based on the belief that strength is demonstrated by force and fear: if people are afraid of you and your “power”, they will do what they are told by their leader and all will work out exactly as planned (for the leader).

Misguided leaders believe that kindness, gentleness, compassion are a sign of weakness and result in loss or failure. In their own eyes, they’re far too smart to fall for such rubbish.

Beliefs like these have got many companies and political parties into trouble and resulted in their extinction. Hitler’s Nazi party in the 20th century was one of the most extreme examples of this. While the Third Reich under Hitler was planning to rule for a thousand years, they barely lasted 12, from 1933 to 1945, falling short of their goal by a mere 988 years.

Why is it, then, that there are still leaders who persist in following such practices and failed thinking? An obvious answer to this question is that very little is learned from history. Even today, leaders still attempt to lead or govern by force, little realising what a short-term strategy that is. Such leaders are blind to their own selfishness and cannot see how self-limiting their approach is.

In a world of so-called tough strength, there appears to be little place for leaders of grace and kindness. In politics, it seems to be a case of he who shouts the loudest wins; the danger of such thinking is that younger leaders assume this is how to become a successful leader.

One of the most powerful lessons I learnt from my father – a very strong man physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – is that gentleness is the ultimate form of strength … and he practised what he preached. He was no pushover and stood his ground against some very powerful people who did not approve of his compassionate leadership style.

He explained to me that a person genuinely strong within themselves can afford to be gentle as they have no need to resort to aggression or heavy handedness to achieve their goals.

While we think that strength lies in being forceful, aggressive or just plain bullying, we will never truly achieve good things.

This is not directed at those who smirk at kindness and consideration as a sign of weakness: they seldom change so there is little point trying to get them to. This is addressed to those who are kind and compassionate and who have been led to believe that they’re weak.

If you’re one of these people, I want to tell you to start changing the way you view yourself. Kind, compassionate, gentle people are NOT weak. They’re strong! And we need more people like that to step up, speak up and shut up the arrogant, loud-mouthed leaders who do not care for the wellbeing of others.

Of course, the beauty is that, as the many kind and gentle people start making themselves be heard, not needing to shout, their voices will start to resonate with similar voices, resulting in an increasingly powerful statement being sent to those who choose to lead by force that their days are numbered.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

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