What’s your picture of leadership?

If you had to draw a picture that represents what leadership means to you, what picture would you choose and what are the words and memories that come to mind?  

The picture that comes into my head is one of immense joy; of looking up to the sky, stretching high and wide and feeling I could take on the world. It is a picture of possibility and the unleashing of potential. It is vibrant and dynamic and tangible. My picture is not one of a leader, rather it is the impact that leadership has had on me. I can remember with real fondness who I loved working for and who valued me for me, who got the best out of me, who enabled me to thrive and grow. 

I am one of the lucky ones. Sadly, we hear of too many cases where leaders fail to take the time to get to know their people, who in a quest to shine themselves, dampen the fire and disintegrate the confidence of those around them.  A 2019 Gallup poll found that 65% of people feel undervalued at work. That’s a lot of brilliance we’re missing out on, and it comes at a huge cost. 

Dis-engagement cost the UK an estimated £50-70m

in lost revenue each year.

So what kind of leadership does it take to enable people to find joy at work; to create workplace cultures that unleash potential, make everybody feel valued and motivated to bring their best every day?  

As I reflect back on my own experience, I can see that although each of my leaders were very different people, they shared one thing in common, they led themselves and their people with Compassion. 

Compassionate Leadership is empathy in action, it is an act of service. It brings out the best in the people entrusted to our care, and in doing so, enables organisations to thrive as human entities as well as business and economic ones.  

Leadership is the Stewardship of lives entrusted to you

Bob Chapman

This is a huge responsibility and requires a lot of giving. 

So how can we ensure leaders have what it takes to shoulder the responsibility and give what’s needed?

We think Compassionate Leadership requires an understanding of leadership from 2 perspectives.  Leadership of self, and leadership of others. 

Leadership of self…

In recent months we have had many conversations with leaders about how tough it feels in this time of change and uncertainty, particularly when they may be struggling to understand and work through that change themselves, but feel they have to keep up a positive front. They are running on empty and it is manifesting itself in emotion, exhaustion and a lack of clarity. 

In order that we can nurture the brilliance in others, it’s important we first understand how to nurture ourselves, to allow our own brilliance to shine through. Compassionate leadership begins with the ability to love ourselves for everything we are and to practice self-nurture. Self-nurture means understanding, and more importantly making time for, the things that enable us to be our kindest and most wonderful self.  

This means getting clear on our values, understanding our strengths and our potential blind spots.  It means understanding how we react and respond in different situations and knowing when we need to give ourselves the space to re-energise. It means treating ourselves with compassion, without judgement or guilt.

At some point today give yourself a little self-nurture, take 15 minutes to go for a walk, to clear your head, to simply have a coffee and a chat with a friend.  You’d encourage anyone in your team to do these things…Show the same kindness to yourself as you would to others. Notice how it makes you feel.

Leadership of others…

In a world where many of us just want to be able to give each other a hug at the moment, kindness is an essential part of leadership.  One common challenge we hear, particularly during these unprecedented times, is that leadership involves having difficult conversations and how can those be kind?  

Compassionate leaders are kind and tough.  They know that it is important to be honest with people and share the harsh truths of a situation. They understand their role in sharing stories that bring clarity where they can; are open to say they don’t have all the answers and are focused on giving people a reason to believe in the next step. 

Compassionate leaders take the time to get to know what’s important to people both in and out of work because they genuinely care about every individual in their care. In creating a culture of transparency and honesty, Compassionate Leaders know that leadership can be tough, but it should also always be kind.

If you’d like some ideas of what we mean by Compassionate leadership, check out our “24 Acts of Compassion this Advent”. It provides 24 everyday ways to bring compassion to this festive season.  We have been blown away by the response to this. It is wonderful to hear the stories of how you are bringing this to life in your different homes and workplaces.  If you haven’t already got your copy you can download it here for free https://bit.ly/Compassionate_Cultures

I began by asking you a question. If you had to draw a picture that represents what leadership means to you, what picture would you choose and what are the words and memories that come to mind?  

If you want to find out more about how we are developing Compassionate Leaders, and the 7 core attributes that underpin a Compassionate Leader, please get in touch through our contact page below

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