Supporting leaders – some lessons from ancient Rome

Robin Kermode discusses why leaders need to instil confidence in their workforce to get the best of out them.

New research from coaching consultancy Zone2 has found that many of the UK’s leaders are currently failing to incite confidence in their workforce, with 40 per cent of workers leaving jobs because their boss lacked leadership skills.

So how can training managers and HR professional best support leaders who need extra guidance to enhance their leadership skills? If approached in a tactile and effective way, the optimum outcome of better leadership and happier staff can be achieved.

There has been a fundamental shift in leadership style over the last 15 years. The old ‘command and control’ leader is not only becoming out-dated, but also totally unacceptable to the Z generation (those born from the late 1990s onward).

Employees under the age of around 25 perceive the old order, or ‘command and control’ leadership style to be dictatorial, un-emotional and frankly ridiculous in today’s world.

The most common request from senior executives and leaders is that they would like to have more of these following three qualities: confidence, charisma and gravitas.

Many senior executives admit their lack of these three qualities, which is very encouraging for training managers and HR professionals, as senior leaders are now clearly open to personal development in their leadership skills – in fact, they now expect to be offered this development. What senior leaders will need to understand is how they can possess these three qualities but in a way that resonates with the Z generation.

So what do we mean by confidence, charisma and gravitas in the modern world?

Confidence, of course, has two sides. Inner confidence is about how we feel about ourselves (Do we think we have the right skills? Do we have the right experience? Can we cope under pressure? Or do we feel we are constantly trying to prove to ourselves and to others that we are good enough?) Outer confidence is about how we are perceived. Leaders must develop a strong inner confidence, so they can inspire confidence in others.

Charisma comes from the Greek meaning ‘favour freely given’ or ‘gift of grace’ bringing both a sense of authority and respect. This derivation is interesting because it implies that charisma is about giving something back to other people. It is the exact opposite of what most people think of as charisma, that of making you look important. It is only by listening to other people and making them feel special that we have real charisma.

Gravitas is one of the original Roman Virtues, bringing with it a sense of seriousness, dignity and a substance of personality.

The 15 Roman Virtues were the qualities of life, to which every Roman citizen was expected to aspire. It might be worth having a look at some of the other virtues in respect of our modern day senior leaders. I’ve picked out just six here:

  • Industria:               (Industriousness) Hard working.
  • Dignitas:                (Dignity) A clear sense of personal standards.
  • Veritas:                  (Truthfulness) Honesty in dealing with others.
  • Clementia: (Mercy) Understanding and fairness.
  • Comitas:                (Humor) Ease of manner, courteous, openness, and friendliness.
  • Pietas:                   (Dutifulness) A sense of respect for the wider universe and society.

These virtues seem as appropriate today as they were over two thousand years ago. Today we expect no less of our leaders. One of the biggest differences between Roman times and today is modern technology. This means that leaders today have nowhere to hide. Everything they say and do is recorded, repeated and analysed. Employees, customers and future employers can find out everything about how they behave, what they say and to some extent what they believe.

The big question is: How do training managers and HR professionals help senior leaders develop their sense of a compassionate modern leadership that has confidence, gravitas and charisma?

As a communication coach, I find that 1:1 coaching can work wonders. For senior managers born long before either the Z generation, or even the post millennials, it often requires a total mind shift away from old styles of leadership. Understanding that being a strong leader doesn’t simply mean telling people what to do in a dictatorial way. It means listening, coaching and empowering them in a way that inspires them to grow themselves.

Training managers and HR professionals can encourage senior leaders to take a good look at their leadership style; and by doing that, hopefully they can help bring down that alarming statistic that 40 per cent of employees leave a job because their feel their boss doesn’t show appropriate leadership skills. 


About the author

Robin Kermode is one of Europe’s leading communication coaches and founder of Zone2, a professional training and coaching consultancy.

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