The concepts of empathy and compassion have gained a lot of traction in the business world in recent years. Many people have begun to acknowledge why these traits are important for effective leadership, yet they still do not frequently make the lists of the most important qualities that business leaders need to develop. However, some leaders have expressed support for compassion in the workplace, including LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who calls himself a practitioner of compassionate management. He has found that compassion has led to quicker and more effective decision-making facilitated by greater trust between himself and his employees. Research conducted by Google found that compassion in the workplace encourages open communication and better teamwork, as well as risk-taking that can lead to innovation. Importantly, compassion begins at the top. Here are some traits of a compassionate business leader.
The phrase “authenticity” has generated a lot of buzz in the business world with research showing that about half of all employees believe that their leaders should be more authentic. Authentic leaders possess a transparent approach to work and avoid acting in any certain way that differs from their true selves. When leaders embrace authenticity, they demonstrate to their employees that they are human beings with certain vulnerabilities. This transparency facilitates better connections with employees and encourages others to open up and represent their authentic selves. When people feel like they can demonstrate vulnerability in the workplace, the office becomes more inclusive and creates a sense of belonging.
Compassionate leaders tend to immerse themselves in the daily grind of their team members, which means that they develop a thorough understanding of the challenges that they face. As a result, these individuals become much better at removing barriers to productivity and addressing issues that can hinder communication. Importantly, removing such barriers involves understanding the emotional patterns of employees in order to encourage the productive ones and reframe the ones that might hold them back. The best leaders are consistently looking at the performance of their employees and pushing them to overcome obstacles and realize their full potential by understanding the personal challenges they face.
The difference between those leaders who have compassion and those who do not lies in the source of their power. Compassionate leaders strive for influence rather than authority. Instead of demanding something, they encourage their employees by providing them with hope and support. Ultimately, leaders who possess compassion show their team members how to work synergistically and drive the bottom line not by focusing on the needs of the company, but rather on developing the skills of the employees. Growth and development are the primary drivers of compassionate leaders.
While leaders have many skills that enabled them to attain their positions, people with compassion realize that those around them are also knowledgeable. Compassionate leaders recognize that they can learn from their employees and lead more effectively by paying attention to their thoughts and ideas. Leaders who do not possess humility will stop listening to the people around them, and their leadership will suffer as a result. New ideas and points of view are critical to becoming and remaining a great leader. By learning from their employees, compassionate leaders demonstrate to them that they are respected, which encourages them to push themselves harder and achieve great things. Leaders who do not pay attention to their employees’ ideas prevent them from reaching their creative potential.
People who lead with compassion hold themselves to high ethical standards and expect the same from their employees. Ethics serve as the building blocks of trust and play an important role in achieving success. Unfortunately, workplaces around the world do not always hold the same ethical standards, so compassionate leaders serve as an example of what they can expect from their employees. Integrity in daily actions inspires the confidence of new team members who will, in turn, comport themselves with the same level of openness. Employees tend to live up or down to the ethical expectations of their leaders. Creating a workplace without high standards can lead to an overall lack of trust. This sort of environment is not conducive to productivity.
Compassionate leaders understand the importance of active listening and strive to understand the different points of view of their employees. Compassionate people understand that every conversation has two sides and always leave the floor open for others to express their thoughts and opinions. Sometimes, employees will not open up immediately because they have not previously worked in environments where it is safe to do so. As trust is earned, employees will start to share their feedback with leaders. In turn, the leaders gain the insight they need to provide encouragement and suggestions to their employees. Employees may also gain some important insights about their own skills and develop a sense of ownership. Leaders should ensure that every voice is heard.