Compassionate leadership in difficult times

It is more important than ever to prioritise your mental health and wellbeing. This is also a time when managers and leaders can make a real difference to the mental wellbeing of colleagues. This article from the DfC Work Psychology Service provides suggestions and tips to help leaders and managers support their people through this challenging and uncertain time.

Suggestions and tips to help leaders and managers support their staff

In your role as a leader, you have the opportunity to influence an team culture which can help your people develop resilience and thrive in a time of uncertainty. By setting a tone of positivity you can also improve co-operation and decrease conflict, which will have positive implications for your team, outlasting the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This is an opportunity to practice compassionate leadership for the benefit of your team and your own wellbeing.

Compassion can be described as recognising the circumstances of another person or group of people and, critically, feeling compelled to take action to improve those circumstances.

Being compassionate means you:

  • are present, pay attention, and listen with interest
  • try to understand the causes of the problem
  • empathise, you must feel at some level the difficulty that the other person has, which gives you the motivation then to help them and to intervene to make a difference

What is compassionate leadership?

Compassionate leadership is about trying to be present; understanding the issue; empathising, and where possible, providing a solution. It also involves being kind to yourself.

Why practice compassionate leadership?

It helps to:

  • enhance motivation
  • promote a culture of learning and risk within boundaries as opposed to blame and fear
  • reduce stress and the likelihood of making errors
  • enable those who experience it to be more likely to demonstrate it towards others
  • improve performance
  • build trust and respect and increase the willingness of individuals
  • display that compassion is not just for others. It is also effective for you.

How to demonstrate compassionate leadership

  • supporting: acting considerately; showing sympathy and support when someone is upset or anxious; and providing encouragement and support when there is a difficult, stressful task to complete
  • recognising: providing praise and recognition for effective performance; significant achievements and special contributions
  • leading by example: setting an example of behaviours which are reflectice of our values and standards
  • acknowledging uncertainty: Acknowledge and express empathy for your team’s uncertainty and share the process with them you are using to get more information about the evolving situation. Honesty and consistency are key success factors to create engagement during uncertain times
  • providing context:  Help your colleagues understand the context of the task as this reinforces why people are doing what they are doing and the impact of their work. This will help with engagement and sense of purpose

Compassionate Leadership Quick Guide

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