What is Compassionate Leadership

When we think of the best qualities a great leader should possess, qualities like being a strong communicator, the ability to delegate, integrity, empathy etc all usually come to mind. However, we rarely hear that a great leader should be compassionate. Empathy and compassion are quite similar but empathy falls a bit short of compassion. The word “compassion” originates from the Latin word “Compati”, which literally translates as “to suffer with”. In addition to this, in a previous Harvard Business Review leadership article, they defined compassion as “the intent to contribute to the happiness and well-being of others”. Both meanings together ultimately mean that being compassionate is more than just empathy or understanding, and more about taking action to help and support. In the past, compassion might have been viewed as a form of weakness – but this certainly no longer the case. Compassionate Leadership has a wealth of benefits and reasons why you need to be employing it within your organisation. 


What is a Compassionate Leader?


We all have emotions and periods of time when we might be struggling with something going on in or outside of the workplace, which can dramatically be improved – or exacerbated by our manager. Negative emotions can and will significantly affect performance and productivity. While this seems fairly obvious, in many organisations the emotional wellbeing of staff is often undervalued and overlooked. This is where compassionate leadership is highly effective. Compassionate leadership in practice is where leaders pay attention and listen to those they lead, resulting in a deeper understanding of the challenges they might be facing, and then taking action to help and support them. With that being said, it is important to distinguish that compassionate leadership is not about simply giving staff what they want but more about providing what they need. By having a deeper understanding of your staff or team’s feelings and needs, you are now more able to provide the optimal solution or advice to them. This means being able to properly provide constructive criticism and suggestions, as opposed to enabling negative behaviour.


Why is it Important to be a Compassionate Leader?


With the new challenges that have been caused as a result of COVID-19, alongside the usual concerns and issues staff may face from day to day, compassionate leadership is crucial to directing staff toward both a successful and sustainable future. As of late, people are concerned for their health, their loved ones, business, job security, and quite often are juggling working from home, alongside managing their children’s homeschooling, and the school run. Great leaders need to be able to start practising compassionate leadership to help support their teams through these new challenges they are facing. This might mean making adjustments in some shape or form, and accepting that each individual’s circumstances might affect their ability to work at full capacity. The kind of leader that can put themselves in the shoes of others, whether that’s clients, customers or colleagues, gains a deeper insight that provides valuable context and awareness – resulting in a stronger connection of trust with all those they lead.


What are the Benefits of Compassionate Leadership?


There are many great benefits to practising compassionate leadership at all levels of an organisation. They include;

Employee engagement levels are greater

Relationships with management are much better

Compassionate Leaders are respected and listened to

Increased collaboration and contribution from staff

Employee turnover is reduced

Encourages staff to be extremely loyal and committed to their organisation

How to become a Compassionate Leader?

Leaders have the ability and privilege of being able to support and inspire people to think and act differently, and by becoming a more compassionate leader, you will be able to do these things more effectively. However, becoming a compassionate leader might not be something that happens instantly and sometimes will require some practice. 


Here are some actionable tips that will help you both become a more compassionate leader and help cultivate compassion within your organisation:


Regularly practise self-reflection 

Respect and appreciate the views of others 

Encourage participation and be an active listener

Adjust your language and be more thoughtful

Be passionate about the well being of those you lead

Get better at providing constructive and valuable feedback to your team

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