The three key traits of compassionate leaders

compassionate leader, team meeting, listening

Being a leader is a thankless task; if things go wrong we are responsible and if things go right we feel guilty for taking the credit for someone else’s hard work.

Taking on the role of a leader is like walking around with a bull’s eye stuck to our back, which can manifest into feelings of isolation and loneliness, so therein begins the development of unhealthy and unhelpful behaviour patterns to deal with the demands of the role.

When we feel isolated the last thing we instinctively want to do is show any weakness. In the act of being strong we end up coming across as being cold and detached, to try and hide any weakness. In a world of deadlines, targets and the general chaos that is life, often there is very little support and help, it’s easy for us to lose our heads. In those moments we have become the very arseholes we often frown at. You know those leaders, the leader’s that comes across as snappy, impatient, highly strung, uncompassionate and sometimes inconsiderate. When we try to live up to what everyone else expects of us, ignoring advice and assistance because it would seem as an admission of our shortcomings we create toxic work environments not only for everyone else around us, but also for ourselves.

We cannot control what life with throw at us, which does not mean we have to just accept the pressures or injustice or (FILL IN THE BLANK). It does mean that we do have to become more aware of our own behaviours and the things we are able to control.

In 2016 I wrote the book Compassionism to help business leaders address some of these issues. Like 7 billion other people on this planet, I am constantly faced with what feel like impossible situations/people who challenge my ability to communicate with compassion. Being a compassionate leader requires commitment and learning.

Compassionate leadership and communication aren’t fluffy notions of employee togetherness and singing kumbaya around a fire (although sometimes I do think if we could, life would be much simpler, anyway I digress). It is about building our resilience, accepting our vulnerability and creating a microcosm of support, creativity, effectiveness, efficiency and upping productivity. In a lot of organisations that means more money. So, what traits do great leaders have in common that inspire people? What is it that they are doing differently that help them grow their business? (No, they are not singing kumbaya with one another around a fire!).

Compassionate leaders are:

  1. Aware of self and the other.

Through knowing the self well, we are able to acknowledge our “humanness” and it is through this process compassionate leaders, know how to see things from other people’s perspectives and show real empathy. That does mean a bit of navel gazing now and again, it is also stretching our empathy muscles further into our prejudices and often beyond that, to get insight.

  1. Resilient

Compassionate leaders find a way of not letting the “tricky” situations throw them of balance for too long. They have learnt techniques that help them “bounce back” quickly. They keep going and adapt course as necessary.

  1. Are accepting

Compassionate leaders accept their vulnerability and are comfortable with it. The acceptance is of their own vulnerability and those of the people around them. And they work to build teams that complement one another and make up for the others vulnerability. The ego has to take a back seat once in a while.

About the author

Kavitha Chahel MBA FRSA is a compassionate communication expert and the author of Compassionism. She focuses on developing compassionate leaders, to create effective teams and a happy workforce.

She’s an experienced business coach and company director. For 20 years Kavitha has worked in business development, business leadership and strategy across the corporate, public and charitable sectors across EMEA, The Americas and APAC. Kavitha is a non-executive director of ASHA Projects, a charity that helps victims of domestic violence.

Kavitha is a speaker and has been a guest lecturer at the university of Middlesex and London Metropolitan University.

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