The importance of compassionate leadership in 2020
For many, the word ‘leader’ will naturally evoke connotations of an imperious, militaristic dominance. In the world of business, this has long been perceived as the go-to method in getting employees to conform and perform.
However, in recent years, the corporate space has experienced a gradual change in landscape. ‘Soft skills’ is a term that has crept into the common parlance, with a greater emphasis being placed on attributes such as communication, empathy, active listening and emotional intelligence.
In 2020, this trajectory has been notably amplified by the onset of COVID-19. With the ensuing fragility of both people’s home and work lives, compassionate leadership skills and trains have never been more important.
Management methods for right now
But what exactly is compassionate leadership, and how can it be achieved? Many of the most effective methods that leaders can adopt in order to be more compassionate revolve around communication – an increasingly important topic in the world of business.
One study into the role of communication in leadership even found that 70% of leaders surveyed said they felt they needed to improve how they communicated with their employees in order to resolve performance issues and improve motivation.
To tackle this, there are a series of steps that leaders can take:
- Ensure communication is frequent and regular. This should include a range of 1-2-1 and team sessions.
- Directly engage with employees and display empathy when confronting both personal and professional issues.
- Establish a culture of democracy, inclusiveness and open dialogue.
The above steps will enable employees to feel heard, included, and supported, and will help to establish a mutual trust between the leader and the employee.
Ultimately, this will culminate and create an environment of psychological safety: when an individual feels that they will not be subjected to scrutiny or judgement in expressing professional or personal views.
This is another concept that has gained popularity since the coronavirus pandemic and is thought to bear a wealth of benefits for the individual, the team and the wider organisation.
Impact on the individual
In order to truly understand the importance of adopting a more compassionate approach, leaders must also appreciate the difference this can make to their teams and the power it can have in respect to individual wellbeing.
With the devastating and wide-reaching impact of COVID-19, mental health is undoubtedly the key issue at play here. It has even been recently reported by the Centre for Mental Health that nearly one-fifth of the population (10 million) will need mental health support as a direct consequence of COVID-19.
These figures serve to illustrate the crucial role of managers right now, and the collective responsibility that people leaders currently share. If approached with compassion and understanding, leaders have the ability to help manage and tackle mental ill health among their teams, and this could bear profound knock-on effects in terms of performance – something at the forefront of every organisation’s minds given current economic pressures.
Indeed, performance and compassion go hand in hand; if employees feel that a concerted effort is being made by the organisation to show them care and compassion during a difficult time, it stands to reason that engagement and productivity will elevate accordingly.
The World Health Organization (WHO) echoed this theory in a resource published online. It said: “Workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.”
What’s more, the WHO went on to report that mental illness costs the global economy nearly £1bn per year in lost productivity. That statistic alone is enough to make any leader take notice.
Impact on the organisation
Finally, during a time where economic downturn has taken its toll on countless businesses financially, it should be noted that the above could conceivably produce numerous benefits at an organisational level, too.
For instance, the talent space is notorious for being particularly difficult to navigate, and this has only been compounded by the effects of the pandemic. However, organisations can expect to see healthier levels of employee retention if a culture of kindness and compassion is enacted among its leadership.
Numerous studies have demonstrated this link, including one study into job satisfaction and employee retention which found that, of a group of employees who were “very unlikely” to leave their position within the next 12 months, 62% stated that they were “very satisfied” with their jobs.
In short, the common-sense correlation between retention and job satisfaction is demonstrably clear, and leaders can ensure that job satisfaction levels remain high via an approach founded on compassion and kindness.
In the long run, this stands to ensure greater profitability and longevity for the organisation as a whole.
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