Leading positive change

Compassionate Leadership

Compassion and Leadership are not two words that usually show up in the same sentence, at least not in most corporate perspectives. But, coming to think of it, compassion should be the single biggest defining factor in how Leadership and Leaders are defined and known by.

The epitome of leadership is usually described using phrases and adjectives such as inspirational, principle or value centered and by-example. All key qualities and essential for any leader – aspiring and experienced.

However, the pinnacle of stellar leadership should be one of compassion. Treating your team with the same kindness that you will treat your family with should be the norm and not the exception.

Considering the ever increasing hours that the workforce spends in the office, it wouldn’t be a stretch to cite family as the yardstick of how people need to be treated. After all, more and more people spend longer hours at work than at home.

Most often though, leadership is usually lost in the trappings of a title, perks, size of the team, plush office and other materialistic paraphernalia. Making a case for a leader who does not focus on these outwardly significant elements, will be a topic for another dayNonetheless, even those that appreciate these hard benefits can still cultivate and show compassion in their workplaces.

A defining characteristic of a compassionate leader is how they approach issues. While many factors would compete for this key principle, the biggest one would be how the leader approaches a fact or an issue – with the head or the heart. The head in this case is the no brainer. In the workplace – it all boils down to data, facts, figures, charts and statistics. And most certainly there is a place for that. No arguments there. However, a compassionate leaders approach should be rooted in the heart where there is room for emotions, feelings and stories.

Of course, the thorniest argument against compassionate leadership is the leader’s ability to meet the numbers for the organization aka deliver results. The misconception that compassionate leaders are soft, mushy, teary eyed and easy going is antithetical to strong leaders who have the courage and self-esteem enough to deal with compassion while exercising the will power and discipline to meet the numbers. In fact compassionate leaders tend to achieve bigger, better, cheaper and faster by virtue of having a team that appreciates how they are being treated. Not to mention the overall effect this can have on employee engagement. That alone will make compassion a worthwhile pursuit. In a nutshell, both these qualities need not be mutually exclusive to each other.

Managing diverse workforces, where age, gender, race and multiple orientations come into play, will call for more managers to adopt compassion as the primary driver of their leadership style.

If you are a compassionate leader, I would love to hear your thoughts on how you exercised compassion in your workplace without losing sight of numbers and goals for your organization.