Anyone taking on a leadership role in the workplace must walk along fine lines.

Workplace leaders must innovate while keeping their company in the black. They must inspire co-workers to do an excellent job while holding them accountable. They are expected to create a workplace atmosphere that will attract new workers without compromising productivity.

Even the leaders who have the best intentions will struggle when it comes to striking these delicate balances. It can also be challenging to remain compassionate while being an effective manager.

Becoming a compassionate leader is perhaps more difficult now than ever before. That is due, in part, to market ambiguity, complexity, uncertainty, and volatility, coupled with the toll that the COVID pandemic has had on our workforce.

Workers are struggling, and a leader’s ability to display compassion while expecting results and making tough choices requires the appropriate mindset, the proper skill set, and much practice. However, a commitment to prioritizing your team’s well-being and leading your co-workers with compassion offers increased job satisfaction, improved workplace relationships, and more desirable business outcomes.

What does compassionate leadership look like?

Compassion requires empathy (an ability to experience and understand the emotions of others) and a desire to help.

Compassionate leadership starts with your commitment to see and feel what your co-workers see and feel and then act upon that information with the best interests of your co-workers in mind. That is especially important in cases where it means you will have to make difficult choices.

Therefore, compassionate leaders should be an inspiration and provide support to the individual, but their allegiance ultimately is to the team’s well-being.

What are some benefits of a compassionate leadership approach?

Compassionate leadership benefits not only the leader but the team as a whole. Here are some examples:

  • Compassionate leaders tend to be happier: While some in power positions will relish having authority, most leaders long to be seen as inspiring and caring. As a result, compassionate leadership fosters goodwill, which is an incredible benefit in and of itself. In fact, studies have shown that highly compassionate leaders are less stressed, less likely to leave their jobs, and more effective at what they do.
  • Compassion is excellent for the company’s bottom line: Another study found that when business leaders deliberately incorporated compassion into the company’s values, the company enjoyed greater success and was more effective.

Six Ways to Become More Compassionate in the Workplace

Consider the following six ways to develop the necessary skills as well as the mindset needed to grow into a more compassionate leader in the workplace.

1. Be compassionate with yourself.

When you have compassion for your own self, you ultimately accept and honor your human condition. By getting in touch with your struggles and offering compassion to yourself, you will likely have more compassion for those around you.

2. Learn to live in the present.

To be in tune with how those around you are doing while remaining poised to provide compassion requires that you are fully present in the moment and connected to your surroundings. Unfortunately, so many workplace distractions compete for our brain space. So, the mindful approach is usually best when interacting with your work team. Mindful leadership requires consciously cultivating your ability to stay present, remain open-minded, and practice compassion when you interact with co-workers.

3. Become a master at being an active listener.

To be an active listener, you must listen to those around you with the specific intent of hearing, understanding, and retaining whatever it is that they have to say. Too often, leaders will simply wait for their turn in the conversation or rush to judgment based on what the other individual is saying. Instead, a compassionate leader will listen deeply to the words that are said while taking in the energies and emotions of the individual who is speaking. When you are curious about the perspective of those around you, you will be better able to innovate and collaborate, even in the most difficult, challenging situations.

4. Recognize your personal triggers. 

Everyone has their own personal triggers, particularly when engaging in difficult conversations. As a workplace leader, you will benefit greatly when you become familiar with your own personal triggers, particularly as they relate to direct reports. First, try to determine what types of things get under your skin and what behaviors throw off the game. For example, perhaps you can’t stand office gossip or hate being interrupted. When you consciously note these triggers and recognize them for what they are, that becomes half the battle.

5. Transcend empathy by stepping into action.

Once you’ve learned to tune in to the feelings of those around you and begin to sense the emotions they are experiencing, it is time to take the next step and offer your support. Ask them what they need or how you can best support them in the situation. When you express a real willingness to assist them, it signals that you care and will mobilize to help in any practical way possible.

6. Display courage.

Often, leaders avoid difficult conversations or shy away from tough talk and decisions. Set yourself apart by leaning into these moments in a display of courage, openness, and care. It is okay to honor discomfort, but always step forward and say what has to be said. Just do it in a compassionate, kind, and value-driven manner.

Using these six tips, you’ll be on your way to becoming a compassionate leader in the workplace in no time.  


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