Soft leadership: teamwork works better when people get to express their passions

A Word from Guido Stratta


Today, soft leadership or kindness is making it possible to create a listening space between people: with kindness, we can express ideas and opinions before taking a decision. This is because kind leaders are able to give people space. And that means completely changing the way we work so that we live better, and achieve bigger and better goals.  

That said, we still - and always will - need someone to lead each working group at the right moment: i.e., when it comes to realization. Until a short time ago, people in leadership positions had a skewed view of this relationship, mistaking hierarchy for participation. That mechanism resulted in the mindset that the “boss’s” ideas were best, as was his or her advice. However, further down the road, we realized that including and assimilating different points of view was the right way forward.  

“Doing” does in fact produce genuine results when it is part of a participatory process. If we want teamwork to be successful, then we have to allow people to express their passions and talents freely. We have to ensure that strengths are allowed to emerge. This, for us, is “soft leadership”: nurturing relationships and giving space to each individual.  

Over the years, organizations focused entirely on execution, often forgetting “listening.” In recent years, however, we are rediscovering the importance of this factor. It is the foundation of the whole concept of "We", which is itself made up of integration and plurality. The team working together helps everyone, including the boss, to grow and improve. The “We” opens up stories that the “I” can’t see. Indeed, this relationship can take us even further and help us achieve even better results. If we have the humility to bring these other visions together, we will win. The “We” strengthens the “I,” both in life and at work.

In the future, leaders will, of course, still be needed to finalize projects, to lead teams in the right direction. In that context, however, soft skills will enable kind leaders to give the teams they coordinate freedom, fostering cohesion and intervening to maintain balance within the groups. When a team clicks, the pace of collaboration can be felt everywhere. And leaders must as part of their job know how to bring out people’s potential.

Separating work and personal passions is not the answer. Passions are what consolidate a more emotional type of inclusion which lays the foundations for the kind of informal, human relationship that strengthen teams. This also includes vulnerability, weak points and other factors that are less easy to manage. The more complex a person is, the more they can strengthen the balance within a group.

The time has come for businesses to rethink the way they work. We have put our trust in people’s abilities, and we have been able to practice kindness on a completely new level. We have learned that simply trusting people takes you a long way and that the ability to find new systems for interaction produces results. The time has also come, for managers as well as everyone else, to take a long hard look at past leadership styles which just won’t succeed in this new way of working.  

The question leaders need to keep asking is: “What are your ideas about the project?” Talent has to find the right environment in order to flourish. Companies have always looked on talent from the point of view of performance, potential, ability and culture. But to be genuinely considered, talent needs to be listened to. We need to listen, to every single one of us, including ourselves, to find the most fertile ground for our talent to flourish. And that includes the talent of people outside the organization who work with us and whose job it is to help us develop.  

Kindness lets us recover our personal and professional sense of identity, and helps people find out who they are and be independent, tap into their own complexity, compare notes, open themselves up to dialogue and, most importantly of all, grow. That growth will be both professional and personal.

The future of organizations will be a mix of digital and analogue, facilitated by more simplified corporate processes and procedures, built on trust, responsibility, listening, passion and new leadership models.