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professions such as goldsmiths, sculptors and potters – a deep understanding and mastery of working with the materials of the occupation. If your organisation’s work is achieved through people and working together is the key to success, people are the raw materials that you work with. As materials go, human beings

are probably the most complex that a professional might choose. Intelligent but emotional, capable of being both logical and irrational, wishing both to be led and have their own inde- pendent voice. If this is not enough to underline the importance of sensitive leadership, consider this: unlike gold or stone or clay, human beings may, if insensitively or inappropriately handled, choose not to work with us.

Tips for sensitive leadership ``

Sensitivity is not a synonym for weakness: problems and issues must be tackled, but they must be tackled thoughtfully and with emotional intelligence.

`` `` ❝ `` `` ``

Feedback is a dialogue: leaders need to receive feedback every bit as much as they need to offer it.

In communicating, consider the po- tential damage of silence as much as the potential impact of what is said.

The point of feedback is to make a positive impact, not to leave a dent

as ‘difficult’ or ‘awkward’.

A failure to point out an obvious ‘elephant in the room’ – a significant concern that organisational culture has hitherto rendered unmentionable.

A lack of courage to point out that a course of action or a decision is frankly stupid, ill-judged and doomed to fail.

But if words can be misinterpreted, so can silence. And silence from leaders can lead to rumour and speculation amongst the led, eager for, but denied, information. Leaders should always be sensitive

to the dangers of silence, and the misinformation that it can engender. Given the vital importance of

conversation and dialogue in building relationships and engagement, they should remember that without speaking out there can also be no listening. As the writer Alice Walker has pointed out: “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”

Mastering your raw materials

Although management and leadership are not manual crafts, they share an important characteristic with

To understand your impact as a leader, you must understand yourself as well as others and recognise that diversity refers to preferences as well as factors such as gender, ethnicity and age.


Tose you lead have a number of simple, basic requests: to be encouraged, trusted and informed, to be connected with, and to feel there is concern for their development. Be sensitive to these requests.

Dave Wakely is editorial manager of ASK Europe plc. Visit www.askeurope. com or email

References 1 Great Workplaces Special Report - Do you love where you work? Getting from good to great, Great Place to Work® Institute,2016

2 Daniel Goleman (1995) cited in: John O. Dozier, The Weeping, the Window, the Way, Tate Publishing, 2010, p.130

3 Institute of Leadership & Manage- ment, The truth about trust: Honesty and integrity at work, ILM, 2014

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