Truly effective leaders have a deep desire to do their work to the best of their ability. They find ways to inspire their teams to share their passion and to set and reach meaningful goals. They don’t push their workforce too hard but inspire them to motivate themselves and to help motivate the team as a whole. Leading from the heart and caring as much about the individual as the organization is now most commonly called compassionate leadership. 

According to a recent study conducted by Cornell University, the best leaders have an acute sense of empathy and compassion. But what does compassionate leadership mean and how does it manifest itself in leaders and organizations? 

1. Compassionate leadership requires knowing your team

Leaders who recognize and utilize compassion in their team have remarkable opportunities for engagement and team success.

Compassion is vital for leaders. Why?

Soft Skills Development

Building the critical skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace

Your compassion as a leader will give you room to focus on the motivations of your team as a whole, as well as the personal motivators of individual team members.

If you understand their passions and drivers, you will be better able to place team members in areas of responsibility where their individual motivational forces can best be utilized.

2. Bringing down barriers

Compassionate leadership is about involving yourself in the daily work of your team, solving problems alongside them.

Eliminating barriers is a two-part process:

i) Leaders must know the emotional and motivational workings of each team member. What brings them happiness with their own work? What tasks do they hate? What is happening in their lives right now that could prevent them from doing certain tasks?

ii) A leader should help team members get over their own obstacles and think in different ways. Once your team members are thinking of success and not quibbling over past failures, your team can go forward with renewed vigor.

Further reading

The 5 Changing Traits of Today’s Modern Leader

The Future of Work: Skills of a Modern Leader

How Do You Rate Your Management Skills?

Why Organizations Are Failing to Develop Global Leaders 

3. Create team values

Values can aid in shaping and sharpening the focus of your compassionate leadership strategy. But they should be focused on the personalities of the specific people who make up the team. Values to look for include: 

  • Collaboration
  • Innovation
  • Openness
  • Customer Commitment
  • Customer Engagement
  • Solidarity

Your efforts to create team-tailored and easily expressible team values have a fundamental role in crafting a compassionate leadership strategy that brings together a unique community of employees who share a common focus and framework.

If you do not appreciate your team’s values, no one else is going to, either.

Make an effort to give your team the opportunity to find their own passions and to live and work for them.

4. Listen and respond

Most employees don’t quit their jobs because of salary or a slight committed by the organization. People, generally, quit because the people around them are not hearing and reacting to their needs. This often boils down to a lack of simple human compassion.

Leaders who form robust, committed teams truly appreciate their employees by viewing them as more than simply employees. It is easy to only appreciate the work of the high achievers.

Though, it is much more worthwhile to appreciate each person on your team, regardless of their relative success. Team members who feel valued by you will give value to you in return.

5. Pay attention

There are literally thousands of books about leadership. But, unfortunately, all the knowledge in the world won’t make you a successful leader.

It’s the passion for the work and the compassion for the workers that really makes the difference between insufficient and stellar leadership.

Leaders who care deeply about the work but who also care about the people who are involved in the work are the most effective at compassionate leadership.

Think about your team’s mindset when working on projects. The people who are passionate about their work don’t do it “to look busy” until the clock rolls around to 5 p.m. They’re motivated by interest and inspiration to learn about and change the world around them.

Soft Skills Development

Building the critical skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace

6. Active leadership

When something distracts your employees, the compassionate leader steers the ship back on course. An active and reactive leader’s vision and passion spread throughout the team, engaging and enabling employees to do their best work.

Leadership is an action, not a job title.

It creates energy through enthusiasm while simultaneously expresses urgency, generating focus allowing people to see themselves as a part of something meaningful. This is a powerful and often underutilized tool.

7. Keeping your employees’ eyes on the prize

While creating a thriving corporate culture of mutual dedication and shared success certainly doesn’t happen overnight, a compassionate leader can create an environment that allows for team members to embrace the culture you’ve crafted. Compassionate leaders create a system in which employees hold themselves accountable for raising their performance standards.

Further reading

The 5 Changing Traits of Today’s Modern Leader

The Future of Work: Skills of a Modern Leader

How Do You Rate Your Management Skills?

Why Organizations Are Failing to Develop Global Leaders 

8. True passion is compassion

Leading with both passion and compassion sends a strong message that can ripple throughout the whole organization. But, the most important facet of that message should come directly from spending time with team members. Through these interactions, leaders learn about their employees’ needs and motivators and—most importantly—they can learn what truly makes their work meaningful to them.

Team members who know their leader cares about them are naturally more actively involved in the work they do. A compassionate leader with a dedicated workforce can move mountains.