Compassion is rarely the first thing people think of when they imagine the typical leader. Instead, it’s easy to conjure up images of stoic decision-makers focused only on a bottom line.
Certainly, leaders must lead, and decisiveness is an important component of that role. But those who act without compassion do so at the extreme risk of disloyalty, loss of production, and, perhaps most importantly, a toxic culture.
What Does Compassionate Leadership Look Like?
Some leaders may view compassion as weakness. But having and practicing compassion doesn’t mean rolling over every time someone wants something.
Here are a few ways leaders should think about compassion when working with their teams.
- Maintain awareness — Compassionate leaders show empathy, which means they must be aware of and understand what’s going on around them, how team members are doing, and what the team needs to feel supported in their work.
- Facilitate, don’t boss — Great leaders do not simply focus on a number at the end of the budget sheet. Instead, take a keen interest in the process. For example, instead of focusing solely on total sales, a facilitator assesses sales improvement over time.
- Prioritize relationships — Long term, people are happier and work harder if they work amongst leaders and teams that are supportive, encouraging, and intent on creating positive relationships.
- Build the capacity of others — One way leaders show compassion is to help others become better at what they do. Leaders should always look to create new leaders, help others advance, and provide them with the tools and support they need to do their jobs well.
Why Is Compassionate Leadership Important?
Loyalty and trust are essential to every workplace culture. Why? Because when things get difficult — such as during big projects or tight deadlines — loyal and trusting team members are always the ones that fully engage rather than feel overwhelmed and shut down.
“Ultimately, people who perceive the organization as having a vision and a purpose that aligns with their values are more likely to stay at that organization,” says Tim Yeomans, Executive Vice President at FiredUP! Culture.
Leaders demonstrate the wisdom, emotional intelligence, and foresight to recognize that treating others with compassion creates a team that feels more connected to the work, is more loyal to the organization, and is more committed to doing their absolute best.
Practical Tips for Incorporating Compassion
Because compassion relies so much on relationships and awareness, it’s understandable when new leaders aren’t sure exactly how to put those intangibles into action. With that in mind, here are some practical tips for incorporating compassionate practices into your daily routine.
- Connect on a personal level. Talk with people on your teams and ask how their family is doing, how their pets are doing, or how their vacation was, etc. More importantly, make this a daily investment of your time to illustrate that you truly care.
- Exemplify your values. Be a model for everything your organization is supposed to stand for. Don’t allow your values to be a mere poster on the wall. For example, if you honor time, demonstrate that commitment by leading tight, efficient meetings with clear follow-ups and agendas.
- Demonstrate competence. People need to see examples of why their leader is a leader. Show that you can be decisive, reflective, and supportive in everything you do.
Remember, compassionate leadership is not a style. It’s a commitment to leveraging your position to ensure things are done in the most positive way possible.Incorporate compassion into the very fabric of everything your organization does by transforming your culture. Learn how by downloading our free resource: The Innovative Leader’s Guide to Transforming Company Culture.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.