“Strength and compassion are not mutually exclusive.”
– Robert Kiyosaki
In many parts of the world, we’re all too familiar with phrases like “The nice guy always finishes last” or “Give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile.” Many in the business world continue to associate compassionate leadership behavior with being too “touchy feely” or even unprofessional.
How true is that for you?
Whatever your answer, I invite you to take a closer look at the value of compassionate leadership.
Being Compassionate Leads to Success in Business and Leadership
Studies have demonstrated that compassionate leadership strategies have positive results. My own experience has shown me the vital role compassion can play in enhancing one’s abilities as an effective leader.
The way to achieve measurable results is to take care of people: the relationships you cultivate always precede meaningful results.
Professor and author Adam Grant, who penned the best-selling Give and Take, discovered that in business, “givers,” a term he coined to represent those who care about others, are both overrepresented at the very bottom and at the very top of the success ladder.
You’re probably wondering “How can that be?!” – right? It all comes down to strategy.
While it is true that “givers” can be taken advantage of, those who learn strategies to prevent that from happening often experience very positive results – more so than those who implement no compassion at all. They rise to the top of the success ladder because people love working with and naturally gravitate to them. It’s a little like fire – a flame can burn you or keep you warm – it’s all in how you use it.
Compassion is a Leadership Strategy That Builds Trust
As you probably are well aware, establishing trust as a leader can achieve very effective results.
Think about it this way: which of the following scenarios do you think would build more trust?
Suppose that one of the newest members on your team who has shown promising ability doesn’t meet an important project deadline.
A – You express to her in no uncertain terms your dissatisfaction, without taking the time to more deeply understand what happened. You make it known that this isn’t something that can be tolerated and threaten to replace her if it happens again. It’s all about results, and it doesn’t matter how you achieve them.
B – You sit down and start a conversation with her to approach the situation in a way that seeks deeper understanding of what is going on. In doing so, you learn that she has recently experienced some significant personal issues in her life that you may even be able to relate to. Perhaps you share something about yourself to put her at ease and let her know you care. With this new understanding, you both come to a workable solution.
Displaying Compassion Can Help Make You a More Influential Leader
Scenario A simply perpetuates an attitude of harsh indifference; Scenario B opens up the opportunity to cultivate a trusting relationship where the person is not seen simply as a disposable “resource” – but as a valued and respected member of the team. And, more importantly, as a human being.
As I am sure you realize by now, displaying compassion helps others – even when the stakes are high and the situation is very stressful – to feel safe. That cultivates a sense of trust.
It’s that trust you build in your relationships that can help make you an influential leader, and this is just one of the many positive takeaways from practicing compassion in leadership.
Strategies to Enhance Your Abilities as a Compassionate Leader
1- Practice the power of the present moment. Especially in the high-stress, fast-paced business world, it’s easy to let your mind run off in a million different directions. Staying present allows you to be a more effective listener and to focus on what matters in the moment.
2- Listen loudly, speak softly. For many of us, being brief can present a challenge. But compassionate leadership asks us to listen more than we speak, to come from a place of understanding, and to use our words as effectively as possible – especially because humans cannot retain more than a tidbit of information at one time.
3- Be gentle with yourself. Without a deeper understanding of and a willingness to be kind to yourself, you will find it very difficult to show self-compassion to others. Self-compassion can also help boost your self-esteem as you come to see “mistakes” (by you and others) as opportunities for learning and new growth.
May this information inspire you to begin incorporating more compassion into your personal leadership style!
Looking for more strategies on how to effectively practice compassionate leadership? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.
Colleen Slaughter Raue, Managing Partner of Authentic Leadership International
Colleen is a transformational leadership coach who guides international leaders as they attain the clarity, courage and self-confidence necessary to realize higher levels of productivity and fulfillment in both their personal and professional lives.
Her purpose is to facilitate her clients’ transformation from limiting beliefs and self-doubts into a deeper, more powerful knowingness of how much they – and what they envision for themselves – truly matter.
Colleen’s perspectives were recently featured in an article on the International Coach Federation’s website here.