Strategy & LeadershipHow compassionate leadership inspires high-performing teams

How compassionate leadership inspires high-performing teams

The business world has changed, so when it comes to leaders inspiring high performance, the status quo has changed. Heidi-Lynne Kurter, leadership expert and HRD Thought Leader, explains her take on this, and why compassion in particular is the key to organizational success in 2020.

Healthy communication and compassionate leadership is the foundation of every successful business. There are a wealth of benefits that come from managers who look beyond employee performance and focus on the human element. In recent years, leadership development has become a priority for nearly 95% of businesses, making it a $366 billion global industry.

Interestingly, 77% of companies are experiencing a leadership gap, and 63% of millennials feel their leadership skills aren’t being fully developed by their employer. Without formal leadership training, managers will unintentionally resort to the way they’ve seen their managers lead, which, as we know, hasn’t not traditionally been the most effective or compassionate.

According to Compassion at Work, a 2014 study conducted by Cornell, compassionate leaders are rated as more effective leaders, appear stronger to their employees, and have more engaged followers. They’re also rated as more intelligent.

Compassion reduces anxiety, increases attachment and commitment to an organization, and allows individuals to recover from setbacks more quickly. In fact, in an article entitled ‘How to Foster Compassion at Work Through Compassionate Leadership’, Positive Psychology offered some analysis on the matter.

“This is why many leading organizations today emphasize building a compassionate environment before aiming for any other achievements,” it said.

Here are four ways compassionate leaders inspire high-performing teams that help organizations win.

Strengthens relationships and reputations

Traditionally, the workplace was seen as a place to produce results, make money and accept that this was not a place to have fun. However, this has all changed since the new generation of workers entered.

On average, workers spend 38 hours at work per week. Their day at work dictates their mood, health and how they show up in all areas of their life. If their leader is toxic, they’re going to either mimic that same behavior towards their friends and family or they’re going to turn inward and shut down.

However, if their leader is compassionate and caring, they’re going to have less stress and anxiety, be more excited to come to work, and be more present for their loved ones. It goes without saying, leaders who lack compassion experience increased absenteeism from their employees as well as decreased productivity, morale, retention and profits. 

Fosters collaborative cultures

Compassion is the foundation of effective leadership and high performing teams. Leaders who are compassionate inspire and influence their employees to mimic and embody their empathetic and compassionate traits.

Tal Selef, realtor and co-founder of Condo Wizard, said: “Compassionate leaders bring their team members together to work as a functional unit.

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“These leaders have no problem taking the lead when the team is in danger, and no problem stepping to the side to allow their team to experience the successes they have accomplished on their own. For teams to succeed, they need leaders who support and guide them to stay focused, especially when the stakes are high.” 

Compassionate leadership fosters healthy and strong relationships and collaborative cultures where individuals feel included and a part of the team.

Michele Hall Duncan, president and CEO of enCourage Kids Foundation, said: “When you cultivate a sense of collective ownership, you instill a greater sense of commitment to the organization, contribute to lower rates of employee turnover, and ultimately create a stronger framework for sustainable success.”

Furthermore, compassionate leaders attract the best talent. This could give companies a competitive advantage, particularly in the current climate. 

Contributes to lower turnover and higher productivity

Compassionate leaders create happy employees who feel heard, respected and cared about. As a result, employees become loyal to their manager and the company and want to do their best work because of that loyalty.

As such, everyone benefits; employee engagement soars, turnover decreases, productivity increases and the bottom line improves.

A compassionate leader builds trust and encourages and welcomes their employees to bring their whole selves to work, flaws and all. Employees are less stressed and more committed to getting their work done faster and with fewer mistakes.

As someone who was bullied by my HR manager who lacked the compassion, empathy and kindness to lead her team, I struggled deeply with heightened anxiety and avoided sharing my ideas or perspectives for fear of being reprimanded.

My loyalty to the company eroded due to the poor leadership of my manager and I was eager to find another place that would value my contributions and insights.

Creates a safe space where employees feel heard

Continuing, Duncan said: “When you treat each person as an essential thread in the fabric of the organization, you inspire them to want to do a better job.”

What’s more, Harvard Business Review surveyed more than 1,000 leaders and 91% said “compassion is very important for their leadership”. “80% said they would like to enhance their compassion but don’t know how”.

This arguably serves as proof that employees are aware of how big a role compassion plays in building high-performing teams.

Lastly, take the time to notice when employees are stressed or not performing as they normally do; listen and be someone they feel comfortable leaning on. Accept criticism and understand where the person is coming from as well as being sensitive to how you communicate opinions to an under-performer.

This healthy flow of communication improves an organization’s overall health and inspires a culture of high performance. Those who are ill-treated or feel neglected lose motivation and, consequently, do the bare minimum.

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