Profit? Loss? Return on investment? How about compassionate leadership as an organisational metric? We give you the skinny on why it might not be as counterintuitive as it sounds and how to become a compassionate leader with our 5 key steps.
If you’re scratching your head wondering what compassion has two do with leadership, read on. Research demonstrates how working in a compassionate workplace impacts positively upon our levels of stress and ability to maintain resilience, reducing burnout (Figley 1995). The corollary of this is an improved ability to care for colleagues, direct reports and clients (Lilius et al. 2011). The impact of compassionate leadership also influences employees’ perception of their colleagues and the organisation generally. Suggesting compassion is good for business and for employees.
Lilius et al. (2011) found that when employees perceived that direct line managers were concerned about their wellbeing they reported feeling more engaged and happier at work. Employees were also less likely to leave the organisation resulting in a reduced staff turnover.
From Good To Great
Compassionate leaders have the ability to make workplaces more enjoyable and less stressful places to be. Fredrickson et al. 2000 found that when subjects experienced positive emotions their heart rate and blood pressure is lowered. Psychological distress was also observed to decrease. As Wallace Bachman’s (1988) military based research found, sometimes nice guys really do finish first. In ‘True North’ Bill George (2007) describes this compassionate leadership style as “transforming a workplace from ‘I’ to ‘We.’” Providing an environment where leaders leave behind the cut throat competition along with their ego’s to provide a workplace space were individuals are supported and developed by leaders. Collins (2001) describes this as what he considers a ‘Level 5’ leadership skill, consisting of motivation and humility. These leaders, Collins states move individuals, teams and organizations from ‘good to great.’
Becoming a Compassionate leader
Former CEO of SIYLI, Marc Lesser highlights the link between mindfulness and compassion defining compassion as consisting of three pillars;
1. Empathy: Feeling as somebody else is feeling (however uncomfortable)
2. Cognitive: Seeking to understand what somebody else is thinking and why they came to hold their opinion (requiring mindful listening)
3. Motivation: Trying to take care of the concerns of others and reduce their suffering
5 Key Steps to Compassionate Leadership
- Begin with you: Start with yourself. Practice self care, making sure you have a sound work life balance. Renewal is key to building resilience and will leave you better placed to embody compassion. As with with most organisational change, what’s modelled at the top, dominoes into the rest of the organisation having a corollary effect.
- Slow down: If you’re caught in a cycle of doing rather than being you’ll not only burnout but the first thing to go will be self regulation, making compassion less than easy. Build regular pauses and breaks into your day to disrupt doing and the default mode network.
- Be kind: Yes, we know it sounds simple, but it’s deceptively so. Modelling kindness and compassion will pay dividends and is often cited as a huge motivating factor for employees who know it demonstrates support. Use both your head and your heart for decision making.
- Self Regulate: Key to compassion, self regulation will improve your clarity of thought and decision making. How? Develop a regular mindfulness practice, research suggests as little as 10 minutes a day will result in benefits. It will also develop your emotional intelligence (see 2 & 5).
- Focus on others: Use your emotional and social intelligence to put others first. Practice non judgement and try to step into the other persons situation. using empathy. This isn’t about taking a soft approach it’s about stepping back to obtain as much information as you can, improving your decision making.
So are you a compassionate leader? Visit our resources page to find out more https://positivechangeguru.com/compassionate-self-assessment/
We deliver compassion at work training and compassionate leader courses in a variety of settings offering 1 day, half day, bitesize training sessions along with conference speaking. We’re also currently researching the impact of mindfulness and compassion on leadership efficacy. To find out more about compassionate leadership or compassion training contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our events page https://positivechangeguru.com/events-2/
Image courtesy of Andrew Worley at the fabulous Unsplash