Leading with Compassion: A Requirement of Leaders Today
The word compassion holds many meanings, and it’s hard to define. Here’s what we know. Compassion consists of three main elements: recognizing or noticing when others are struggling, understanding and feeling for the person that is struggling, and responding or having the motivation to act and help relieve the struggle. Compassion takes empathy one step further with that final element: having the motivation to act.
You might be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with leadership? I can’t fix every person’s problems.” Our answer: It has everything to do with it. Human beings are born with a compassionate instinct at our core. In fact, research by David Rand at Harvard University shows that with both adults and children, our first impulse is to help others, not to compete with them.
For example, picture this scenario:
You’re running a 5K. About halfway through, you notice a stranger next to you start to struggle. You can hear him breathing loudly and you see him sweating profusely. Your compassionate instinct has already kicked in. You noticed something different. Then, you start to worry. In your head, you’re thinking what would happen if this person collapsed. Does he always sweat this much? Is this his first time running in a 5K? What if that were me? The instinct in your brain is moving forward – you’re understanding or feeling that the person is struggling. Then, your worst fear comes true. The person collapses and the rest of the group is still far behind you. You really want to be the first to finish. So, what do you do?
The compassionate person stops. Calls for help. Places something soft under the person’s head. Tries to keep the person alert. And does everything he can to help alleviate what this total stranger is going through until more help arrives.
So why, as leaders, do we not always show compassion to those we lead? Every person you meet could be fighting a battle you know nothing about. And sometimes we become so focused on the deadlines, the numbers, and the quotas that we forget our team members are human beings, just like us.
“Every person you meet could be fighting a battle you know nothing about. Start leading with compassion.”
Simon Sinek, a best-selling author and speaker says, “Leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in your charge.” So here are a few things to consider as you continue on your leadership journey.
Be purposeful about showing that you care.
And be authentic. A small gesture can go a long way. For instance, if you have an employee who’s been out sick, pick up the phone and call them. (But don’t ask about work.) You don’t have to pry. Simply ask how they are doing. Ask if they need anything. Being genuinely sympathetic can mean the world to someone.
Demonstrate respect in your actions and expectations.
We all have a job to do. And sometimes, many of us end up taking that work home. But let that be the exception, not the rule. Don’t ask employees to adjust their hours on a daily basis. Don’t bug them when they’re on vacation. And don’t expect them to respond to late-night text messages. Realize that people have lives outside of work. Leading with compassion means showing that you care about their values and respect their time.
Be visible and be present.
Those two words are not one in the same. Part of relationship building is learning about people. And you can’t do that from your office or personal workspace. If you want full trust and engagement on your team, then you have to work on those relationships. Don’t walk by, ask about their kids, and then move on without actually listening to their response. Be present. Take your team to lunch, take the 10 minutes to learn their children’s names and hobbies, and most importantly, listen fully to what they have to say.
Always have their backs.
When things go wrong, we automatically start searching for how it occurred or whose fault it was. Instead, show loyalty, take responsibility and become an advocate for your team. Mistakes aren’t made on purpose. And is it possible that there was a missed training opportunity along the way? As the manager, it’s important that you support your team 100% and always have their backs.
It may not be easy for you to show emotion. And depending on your personality, it may not come naturally to you to connect with people. But as a leader, that is one of the most important parts of your job. Yes, you still have to get results, but that’s only a small percentage of what you should be doing. People don’t leave their company; they leave their manager. Make sure you’re the kind of manager that makes leading with compassion a priority; the kind of manager people want to work for.
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