Do You Need to Become a More Compassionate Leader?

Do You Need to Become a More Compassionate Leader?
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A More Compassionate Leader
Of all the traits that you want to develop as a leader, where does compassion fit in? When we ask participants in our new manager training workshops to list the attributes of great leaders, the most common are: self-awareness, learning agility, communication, and influence.  Being a compassionate leader may not be separately listed, but compassion is certainly part of all four foundational aspects of great leadership.

A compassionate leader combines empathy with effective leadership skills. They lead from the head as well as from the heart.  They consistently have positive intentions and real concern for others – in both good and bad times.

Recent Research on Compassion
Awakening Compassion at Work by Monica Worline and Jane Dutton was published in 2017. They found that compassion positively impacts innovation, productivity, customer loyalty, employee engagement, employee retention, financial performance, and adaptability to change. They subtitled their book The Quiet Power that Elevates People and Organizations.

Harvard Business Review agrees. 91% of the leaders surveyed say compassion is very important for leadership. Interestingly 80% of those leaders want to raise their compassion but don’t know how.  When we assess organizational culture, we find the same thing — employees want more from their leaders.

But leaders report feeling increased stress, frustration, and burnout at work which is undoubtedly affecting their ability to consistently empathize with their workforce. A recent survey of 3,000 HR professionals by BusinessSolver found that 33 percent rated their CEOs as unempathetic, a 16% drop from last year. With employee’s feeling anxious over layoffs and uncertain futures, CEOs must have enough empathy to garner the support required to weather the storm and come out stronger.

Some Tips on How to Enhance Compassion as a Leader
Based upon data form our  leadership simulation assessments, we believe that, regardless of title, everyone in an organization has the potential to be a compassionate leader and to develop their ability to practice compassionate leadership. Compassion fuels positive change. If you want to become a more compassionate leader:

  • Be Self-Aware, Pause to Reflect, and Be Intentional
    Compassion is especially needed in times of stress and crisis. Unfortunately, that’s when many leaders dig in, try to control the situation, and quickly move to action. Experts say that this reaction removes you from your own and others’ feelings and emotional needs.

    To be a more compassionate leader, you need to first recognize and deal with these emotions.  Pause and reflect on what you and your team are feeling. If you are a hard-charging CEO, this will require some discipline.

    With more leadership self-awareness, you will be better able to connect with your employees in a meaningful and supportive way.  Before you speak or act, put yourself in your team’s shoes and ensure that you are focused on what matters most to helping them. This will require being present, actively listening, asking good questions, and not interrupting.

    Do you need a Leadership 360 to increase your leadership self-awareness?
  • Role Model Being Authentic and Vulnerable
    Whenever possible, and especially in key leadership moments of truth, role-model vulnerability, empathy, and compassion.  Not only will you help lower everyone’s stress level, but you will create meaningful connections with others in a way that improves employee engagement and performance.

    Are you transparent and vulnerable enough to earn the trust and respect of your team?
  • Provide Psychological Team Safety
    Compassionate leaders create safe environments for their teams to get work done.  They encourage and role-model self-care, vulnerability, and compassion for others. This approach has improved productivity, employee morale, and retention.

    Sadly, recent McKinsey research uncovered that only 43% of respondents report a positive climate within their teams. If team members are afraid to speak up, resist sharing their concerns, or don’t feel comfortable asking challenging questions, you are not setting your teams up to perform at their peak.

    Do your teams feel safe enough to have the candid conversations required to challenge the status quo, make tough decisions, and innovate?
  • Create Ways to Come Together as a Group
    The more employees feel that they are not alone, the more they feel joined together as they face adversity. Foster feelings of inclusivity, trust and belonging to help lessen mental health issues and boost worker commitment.

    Assuming that you provide clear direction and the necessary resources, the more you have your team work on goals that must be accomplished interdependently, the more connected they will feel as a team.

    Are you doing enough to bring your team together to strive toward common goals?
  • Demonstrate Your Caring
    Simple gestures can make a huge difference. Personal check-in calls to a worker, allowing more flexible working hours, or providing additional sick days can go a long way toward employees feeling taken care of.  You will know you are on the right track when your team feels that you consistently:

    – Treat them fairly
    – Advocate for their overall health and wellbeing
    – Invest in their personal and professional growth
    Value their contributions
    – Show interest in their lives
    – Create a clear line of sight for them to contribute
    – Understand what really matters to them
    – Make time for them
    – Have their back
    – Share information
    – Have honest conversations

    Are you showing your team that you truly care?

The Bottom Line
Does the term “compassion” make you squirm as an old-school leader?  If you truly want followers, it’s time to take stock of how you lead. If you handle both good and bad times with compassion, you and your team will be the better for it.

To learn more about being a better leader, download 29 Ways to Build and Maintain Trust as a Leader

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