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Leading With Compassion

The outbreak of coronavirus has had an incredibly disorientating effect on the lives of millions, if not billions, across the globe, which has, in turn, left many feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

Some reports are even showing that over half the population believe their mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

When crises such as Covid-19 occur, leadership is stripped back to the very bare-bones, right back to its most fundamental element: having a positive impact on people’s lives. In times like this compassionate leadership has never been more important, as unfolding human tragedy needs to be the first priority.

Over the years, there have been numerous studies that have shown that compassionate leadership results in a more loyal and engaged team. During a crisis, this compassion becomes even more essential. Although a crisis may seem a time for leaders to portray control, listening to the fears and anxieties of others is crucial in order to help employees and team members to regulate their feelings. Although this may seem difficult, introspection and projection of care is necessary to connect with the needs of others, putting businesses on the road to recovery.

How To Lead Compassionately

So, now that we’ve discussed the importance of compassionate leadership, particularly in recent times of crisis, the next step is to learn how to lead compassionately.

Compassionate leadership results in greater mindfulness and awareness of others. As a leader, this awareness and presence can bring wisdom and compassion to your work environment.

There are a number of different practices which can help your company lead with compassion, read on to discover our tips to cultivate a more productive and understanding workplace.

Perfecting Self-Compassion

Being a compassionate person begins with having compassion for yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and overloaded, then it’s almost impossible to aid others in achieving balance.

Quality sleep and taking regular breaks are important ways to treat yourself with compassion. For many leaders, self-compassion may involve hushing obsessive and self-critical thoughts.

This means you need to stop agonising over what could have been done differently. It’s necessary to cultivate a culture of positive self-talk, where setbacks are seen as a learning experience.

Check Your Intentions

As a leader, you need to make a habit of checking your intentions, before talking to your team members. Try to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself: How can I best help this person?

Compassion means having positive intentions and genuine concern for those around you. Compassionate leadership creates stronger connections between people. Having good intentions will improve collaboration, raise the level of trust, and enhance loyalty in your team.

Validate What Your Team Is Feeling

Looking inward is incredibly vital, but as a compassionate leader, you also need to listen to your employees and validate what they are feeling, which in turn creates a safe space for team members to express their uncertainties and anxieties.

Part of being a leader involves helping your team identify and name the emotions they are experiencing and providing a forum where people can talk about their fears.

By validating team members’ feelings, a leadership team can then help employees overcome stress, so they can better focus on their work.

Lead With Care, Follow Up With Support

Taking a visible interest and showing genuine care for your team will help your organisation recover from any crisis periods.

The following tips, both big and small, can then help leaders cultivate a caring, supportive workplace:

  • Checking in on team members and their families to understand what people are feeling and what support they need

  • Showing your team gratitude and recognition, and highlighting when employees act with compassion

  • Providing practical support through greater flexibility. This may mean providing extended leave, additional time off, and expanded health coverage

Focus On Inclusion

Fostering an environment of belonging and inclusion in the workplace is vital, otherwise, employees may feel that they are in the same crisis but still feel alone.

As a compassionate leader, you should aim to create a workplace where people feel psychologically safe, and everyone feels as though they are working as one to overcome any challenges.

Here are some steps which you can use to facilitate an environment of inclusion:

  • Making sure everyone has a voice and that their opinions are heard

  • Withholding judgement, receiving others unconditionally, and welcoming diverse self-expression

  • Creating solidarity to communities suffering from adversity by wearing symbols or clothing

The Dynamic Duo: Compassion & Courage

Never has there been a more dynamic duo than that of compassion and courage.

Compassionate leadership requires huge amounts of courage, resilience, and belief. It requires the courage to listen to tough messages from your employees.

It takes courage to explore your understanding of the challenges your team faces, and then have your own interpretations challenged and rejected. Finally, courage is necessary to understand that being a compassionate leader means accepting some of the most difficult obstacles in the workplace.

Compassionate, courageous leadership requires a commitment to be the best that you can be, which takes bravery and self-compassion.

Why Is Compassion Important In Leadership?

Compassion is incredibly important in leadership, as empathetic leaders, who value humility, have a genuine desire to learn from experience and setbacks, and are willing to understand the viewpoints of others, can create a more productive and optimistic working environment for both them and their employees.

Values such as this will help you cultivate a psychologically safe and compassionate culture and a safe space for employees to be their true, authentic selves. A workplace where everyone focuses on improvement, trusts their team members, and aren’t worried about being overly criticised, will always be positive. Compassionate leadership can truly make a meaningful impact in the lives of your employees and will also help your company overcome challenges and build towards a brighter future.

So, there you have it! This guide has covered the very basics of compassionate leadership and why it is vital for a successful workplace.

However, this is just a drop in the ocean of what is in fact a much larger topic. Zest can help your organisation lead with compassion and can aid in training your leaders, in order to cultivate a productive and understanding workplace.

Find out how we can help with any level of change and training in your business by dropping an email through to

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