Leading organisations are recognising that the soft stuff isn't so soft

Whilst we may recognise and practice compassion in our personal lives as a matter of course, it's a behaviour that can be lacking in the workplace, can't it?

Why is this? 

Do some leaders consider it too fluffy? Not conducive to achieving business goals?

Whatever the reason, compassion has often been a behaviour in short supply at the office, particularly in leadership.

With a leader's success being measured by more tangible results (i.e. financial targets) than by their people skills, it's no wonder compassion has taken a back seat. 

However, the tide is turning. 'Compassionate Leadership' is being embraced by an ever-increasing number and range of business sectors, with leading organisations recognising the 3-way benefits of compassion - to the individual, the organisation and the team.

So, what does Compassionate Leadership mean?

Whilst the term 'Compassionate Leadership' is being widely used, the understanding of what it means is less well known.

The King's Fund, an independent charity working to improve health and care in England, discusses Compassionate Leadership in the NHS:

"Compassionate leadership in practice means leaders listening with fascination to those they lead, arriving at a shared (rather than imposed) understanding of the challenges they face, empathising with and caring for them and then taking action to help or support them. Such leadership will help us begin to address the problems the service faces because top down national solutions are not working" 

Suzie Bailey and Michael West, The King's Fund 

Jeff Weiner, CEO at Linkedin talks about what Compassionate Leadership looks like to him;

"I decided to change. I vowed that as long as I’d be responsible for managing other people, I would aspire to manage compassionately. That meant pausing, and being a spectator to my own thoughts, especially when getting emotional. It meant walking a mile in the other person’s shoes; and understanding their hopes, their fears, their strengths and their weaknesses. And it meant doing everything within my power to set them up to be successful"

Jeff Weiner, CEO, Linkedin

The case for Compassionate Leadership

There's a strong case for compassionate leadership. Some of the documented benefits at an individual and team level include:

  • reduced stress
  • less anxiety
  • increased resilience
  • increased job satisfaction

There are more tangible results too. Empathy and compassion in business are more important to a successful business that ever been before and lead to increased growth, productivity and earnings per employee. 

A study in 2016 into the 20 most empathetic companies scored Facebook, Alphabet (Google), Linkedin, Netflix and Unilever highest - evidence that it can really give an organisation the competitive advantage in business.

"I’ve now been practicing this approach for well over a decade. And I can tell you with absolute conviction that managing compassionately is not just a better way to build a team, it’s a better way to build a company" 

Jeff Weiner, CEO, Linkedin

How do Leaders become more Compassionate Leaders? 

It begins with making time to listen (without judging) and understand the pain points facing a team member.  This means really getting to grips with what's going on in their world.

Setting the tone in the work environment that people matter begins to build trust and improve interpersonal relationships.

The next step is to provide a measured response, recognising the emotional impact your response could have on others.  A good degree of emotional intelligence is key here.

Understanding underlying perceptions and potential barriers to the leadership role, including Impostor Syndrome, is a key aspect of self-awareness allowing the leaders to align values meaning and purpose to enable them to become their authentic best.

Finally, whenever appropriate, it's time to take action, to make a change.

Compassionate leadership requires huge courage, resilience and belief - it requires a commitment by a leader to be the best that they can be - but in the long run, the benefits are far wider than to the leader and the individual themselves.

Read more:

Upcoming Masterclass

Crisp has put together a one-day Masterclass where leaders can work in a supportive environment to explore the key concepts of being a Compassionate Leader. Drawing on research-based evidence, this experiential programme will enable you to build skills to create the conditions to have tough performance management conversations when needed.

Click the link below to find out more.

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