The Role of a Leader – Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable

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This is a picture that I had clicked some time back. This was a street art and at that time, it rang true for what it said, from the perspective of an artist (and yes, I do consider myself as an artist who works with words).

When I was going through my instagram feed and stumbled on to this picture again, I realised that this is exactly what a leader is to do – to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable.

Leaders comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable

– Mukesh gupta

Comforting the disturbed:

One of the important role that we, as leaders need to perform is to take care of the people that we lead. And when I say take care, I mean really take care of them as a whole person. We need to understand that just like us they have their aspirations, their challenges, strengths, weaknesses and just like us, they are also on an emotional roller-coster called LIFE.

So, there will be times when they struggle. All of us go through lean periods where nothing works to plan and as expected. It is important for leaders to pay attention and see if anyone that we lead is going through one such patch. If we do find someone like that, it is then our responsibility to comfort them – make them feel seen, heard and that they matter, not just their performance, but they as a human being.

If you look back in your career, I am pretty sure that you will remember someone who did that for you when you were going through a tough patch in life. I am pretty sure that you remember the person who comforted you very fondly and with a lot of respect. That is a role model for you to emulate and pay it forward.

Disturbing the comfortable:

As with everything else, the opposite is also true. There comes a time in our lives when things are going our way. Everything we touch or act upon goes better than expected. It is important to ride that wave and be ultra productive during that time so that we make the most from that period.

As a leader, it is our responsibility to identify someone who is experiencing this wave of success and maybe even help them achieve more than they originally thought they could. All this success and luck has a way of making people comfortable and we start expecting everything to go like this all our lives. Slowly, they stop putting in the effort, the hardwork, the intention and the energy.

We, as leaders, need to observe for such a situation arising (and believe me it will come to pass) and when it does, shake things up a bit for them – disturb them and their comfy world, in a way that they realise that they cant take things for granted and start putting in the intention, energy and the smart/hard work that is expected from them.

This has two effects – one it extends their winning streak by keeping them on their toes and at secondly, when the streak ends, they are not taken by surprise, can acknowledge what happened, be thankful for it and just move on, without too much complains.

Singapore’s first prime minister and the father of the nation, Lee Kuan Yew summed this up the best. You can watch him share his perspective here.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I would only say that

Being a leader is simple, but not easy.

– Mukesh gupta

It is simple in the way that all you need to do is to show a direction in which we want to go as a team, really, deeply care for the people we lead and help them in any and all ways they need help so together, we can achieve what we set out to achieve.

It is not easy because being aware of what we are experiencing is difficult by and of itself and requires much work. Leading and being aware of someone else is experiencing is tougher by a magnitude of 4 or 5. And to do so for a set of people that we lead is even more difficult.

This requires, firstly and most importantly, that we deeply care about the people we lead. This requires us to be patient, observant, self aware of our own emotions, emotionally and socially aware, develop a vision, be creative and create an environment where others can thrive.

So, it is indeed and honour and privilege to be a leader and we need to treat it with the respect, dedication and the work that this needs and take care of our people.

PS: The original quote is attributed to Cesar A Cruz. You can find more of his work here.

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