Better leadership starts with compassion

What would you say are the key traits of effective leadership? Focus, the ability to motivate, perseverance – these are all important, but they tend to focus on tasks rather than people. Great leadership comes from the realization that it is your people, not your products, that are most important to your organization. The key trait when it comes to people-oriented leadership is compassion. Leaders haven’t always understood the connection between compassion and leadership, but it really is central to an organization’s success, especially in uncertain times.

Not only is it important to be compassionate yourself, and to treat your team members with compassion. You need to encourage a culture of compassion among your team as well. Compassion should be one of the hallmarks of your organization’s internal and external connections, alongside gratitude and pride.

Cultivating compassion in your team

Gratitude, pride and compassion are not just HR watchwords. Cultivating these three interlocking emotional traits will always have a positive effect on your business outcomes too. Innovation and achievement are team efforts, and all teams that recognize and nurture the emotional needs of their members will do better in the long run. Each team member is hired for their specific set of skills, expertise and experience, but these must be combined through active cooperation in order to reach the best results. In turn, effective cooperation comes about through strong social bonds. These bonds can only be created and developed through compassionate communication among your team members, a sense of shared gratitude for the organization’s resources, goals and incentives, and a strong bond of mutual pride in the outcomes. Although the unifying emotions of gratitude, pride and compassion must permeate the team as a whole, it is up to the leaders to initiate them and ensure that they are instilled in each member and the collective. 

Traditional motivational tactics have often involved a combination of discipline and incentive. “Just keep your head down and do the work, and you will each see rewards in the end.” While this approach does yield limited success, it is no substitute for a team that is self-driven, bonded by a sense of compassion for one another, and united in shared gratitude and pride for their organization and their places in it. Simple discipline has a tendency to isolate, while gratitude, compassion and pride cause people to behave in more supportive and mutually encouraging ways. As a result, leaders who encourage pride, gratitude and compassion are sure to have happier, more motivated teams, and will experience increased productivity and innovation as a result. Compassion, in particular, builds dedication. People who work in conditions characterized by trust, acceptance and social cohesion, demonstrate heightened engagement, better performance, higher energy levels, lower absenteeism and increased work satisfaction. 

Compassion, gratitude and pride motivate individuals and teams to cooperate and invest in themselves, their colleagues, their organizations and products. They encourage each team member to appreciate their part in the team and the process, and thus to strengthen their commitment to the organization’s goals. Individuals who experience compassion from their colleagues and leaders, and who respond in kind, as well as feeling proud of their contribution to communal achievements, are sure to be happier and more productive team members.

Corporate Class Inc. is a global authority in leadership coaching and empowerment. We strive to develop exceptional leaders and to assist organizations in developing effective leadership approaches. Based in Toronto, and with a worldwide presence, we have helped to nurture mindful leaders since 1984. Contact us for more information on the connections between compassion and leadership, and how to develop mindful, empathic leadership practices.

4 tips to lead with compassion

We all want to be enthusiastic and positive leaders, ones who inspire our team members to contribute and excel. We want to foster teams that thrive and that seem to generate their own abundant energy. We want to be leaders who connect with our team members, identify their strengths and weaknesses and help them work with both. How do we foster that ability to connect? Here are four steps to help you lead with compassion.

Embrace self-awareness and self-compassion

Success as a leader starts with you – how you treat and understand yourself. Your step, therefore, is to accept your own feelings and reactions. Be compassionate with yourself as you assess your own responses and your perceived strengths and weaknesses. How much do you expect of yourself? How do you respond to yourself when something goes wrong, or when a deadline is looming, and you need to push yourself through an 80-hour week to achieve it? Be kind to yourself. Practise discipline by all means, but also know when to take your foot off the gas, and even give yourself some acknowledgement and rewards.

Develop a gratitude practice

Never underestimate the power of gratitude. It has genuine, measurable positive effects on your mental health. Too many people – leaders among them – focus on problems, faults, shortfalls and crises. Their approach to daily tasks and to leadership will reflect this focus. A negative focus will not foster a compassionate and success-driven approach. Choose to cultivate gratitude instead, and let this drive your approach both to the daily routine and unforeseen crises. This will require you to take a step back from your busy schedule for just a few minutes each day. Just take a moment to pause and reflect on what makes you feel grateful. This helps clear your mind of distractions, allowing you to focus more clearly on the present and uncover hidden opportunities. Once you have mastered this approach, you can easily share it with your team members – it is amazing how contagious feelings of gratitude and contentment can be.

Practice and hone emotional intelligence

Business is never just business. While it is important to behave professionally, doing so does not require repressing your emotions for the duration of the working day. On the contrary, you and your team should be encouraged to bring your emotions to the workplace and express them in an adult manner, while also honing your ability to listen to, and understand the emotions of others. Encourage open-mindedness and the willingness to share.

Embrace curiosity, open-mindedness and innovation

Being a leader does not mean that you must come up with all the ideas, nor does it mean that everyone needs to think as you do. On the contrary, diversity of thought is crucial to the success of any enterprise. You must always be curious about new ways to approach your work. You should always ask your team members to contribute their thoughts on the subject and show a willingness to adopt their ideas if they prove tenable and constructive. Encourage everyone to share this approach, sharing ideas openly and actively seeking and discussing ways to innovate, to reach goals more efficiently, and produce better outcomes. This fosters an environment of collaboration in which each team member feels that they have a part to play, and that their contributions are appreciated. It also lays a strong foundation for growth and innovation, helping your business move forward into an uncertain and fast-moving future.

Corporate Class Inc. is a global authority in leadership coaching and empowerment. We strive to develop exceptional leaders and to assist organizations in developing effective leadership approaches. Based in Toronto, and with a worldwide presence, we have helped to nurture mindful leaders since 1984. Contact us for more information on how to develop mindful leadership and lead with compassion.

Cultivating compassionate leadership during the pandemic

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic reach further into our daily lives than many of us understand or are prepared to admit. It is not simply a matter of changing the way we do business every day, or the way we interact with our colleagues and clients. These are simply the most obvious, external consequences of the crisis. It has affected each of us on a deeper level, with feelings of fear and uncertainty affecting our view of the future. Managing a team in this environment, moving companies forward through the pandemic, requires compassionate leadership.  

The psychological cost of Covid-19 

A crisis on the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic triggers a complex range of psychological responses, including feelings of distress, a general increase in negative affect and heightened sensitivity to emotional stimuli. Under these conditions, people look around for a place of safety – familiar people and situations that can help ease their feelings of fear and hopelessness. The struggle to adjust to such drastic changes in our daily environment can trigger feelings of grief, shock, anger, denial and depression. 

It is in these circumstances that strong, mindful leaders really come to the forefront. The problem is that leaders are also feeling the effects of the crisis and are dealing with their own feelings of grief and fear. Unless you, as a leader, are mindful of your team members’ feelings in this situation, you can very easily retreat into your own survival mechanisms, busying yourself with various tasks and addressing operational issues that draw your attention away from rising sentiments of fear and distress. Mindful leaders will take note of these impulses and use them to drive a renewed, conscious and compassionate leadership approach that will help to pull themselves and their team members out of the mire and move forward through the crisis. Recognizing and understanding one’s own fears can help one to be more compassionate towards others – and that compassion is a vital trait for leaders during a crisis like the global pandemic.

How to practise compassion during the pandemic

You can foster mindful, compassionate leadership during this crisis (or any other, for that matter) with the following four practices: understand and integrate your own feelings, practise daily gratitude, open yourself to the care and empathy of others, and finally, turn outward to project your self-knowledge and compassion towards others. 

Create time for self-awareness. Look at your own feelings and responses towards the crisis, and identify them without judging them. You may notice feelings of anxiety, or heightened physical or emotional sensitivity. Simply understand these impulses for what they are and show compassion for yourself. Spend some time with yourself each day, and be aware of how you are feeling. During this time, also make a conscious effort to practise gratitude. Conscious gratitude is highly beneficial for mental health. It renews and inspires and helps to counter feelings of fear and hopelessness. Be willing to be more open and vulnerable with your feelings and be willing to accept expressions of care and compassion from others. Finally, turn outward and share this compassion and understanding with your team members. In doing so, you can help to develop a new perspective on the situation, unify your team, take better care of your team members and encourage them to care for each other, and ultimately, reframe the crisis and develop a plan to get through it and thrive.  

Corporate Class Inc. is a global authority in leadership coaching and empowerment. We strive to develop exceptional leaders and to assist organizations in developing effective leadership approaches. Based in Toronto, and with a worldwide presence, we have helped to nurture mindful leaders since 1984. Contact us for more information on how to foster mindful and compassionate leadership.

Want to learn how to be a great leader?

We’d all love to be excellent leaders; to inspire and motivate those around us, to be respected and admired, to lead with conviction and authority. Being a great leader is, as we all know, often easier said than done. There seems to be a certain set of indefinable qualities that we find within great leaders. Sometimes we can put our finger on it; other times, it eludes us.

Despite our occasional inability to define what it is exactly that makes a great leader great, one thing is certain: all great leaders possess certain qualities that propel them to “Great Leader” status. Let’s take a look at what some of those qualities are:

  1. Push and Pull

    One thing that everyone can agree on is that inspiration is the pull and motivation is the push.Great leaders will inspire as well as After inspiring team members, sometimes a leader witnesses a team member who seems to have lost motivation. A great leader will now motivate that person to action. A doer, on the other hand, will take upon themselves to get the job done; a project manager will give it to someone else; a great leader will find out why it is not getting done and motivate the team member to get it done. Great leaders empower.

  1. Impressions

    To be anointed a leader, you first have to be perceived as one. Think of the king of the jungle – the lion. By no means is the lion the smartest, strongest or even bravest animal out there, so why is he deemed “the king?” The lion certainly possesses genuine power, and an image – majestic, charismatic and strong – and related behaviour that serves to effectively communicate that power. All great leaders look like they belong, whether it’s a combination of dress, grooming, demeanour, fitness, or the creation of great first impressions.

  1. Trust

    When we first meet someone, we immediately answer two questions: “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” – trust and competence, respectively. We do not value both of these questions equally, and in fact, we value trust above all else. Historically, our ancestors needed to determine whether an outsider posed as a threat immediately, before they determined whether this person could be an asset to their group. Often times when we introduce ourselves to others, we are focused on showing our competence, when people are really looking for our warmth. Great leaders know this and focus primarily on building relationships on trust, especially in the beginning. After all, trust is a conduit of influence.

  1. Conversational intelligence

    It takes much more to be a great conversationalist than knowing what words to use and when; being a great conversationalist comes down to one’s ability to Great leaders talk less and listen more, and when they do speak, they ask questions.

All great leaders possess different but strong leadership skills that make them the inspiring, motivational leaders that they are. Once this is certain, however: all great leaders possess presence. We know it when we see it. The great thing about presence is that it can be learned; presence is neither exclusive nor elusive. To find out how you can increase your presence, visit our EP workshop, courses, and Lunch and Learn pages.

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Happy New Year! How will you ring in 2013?

Many of us start off a fresh year by making a resolution or two, aiming to better ourselves through small changes to our habits. This year, consider making a professional New Year’s resolution – because even small improvements in your routine in the office or your business interactions can help you to advance your career or make your mark professionally.

Resolve to Make Connections

Are you a shy person who only talks to familiar colleagues at networking events – or just skips the event altogether? In 2013, resolve to break out of your shell by making new professional connections, both inside and outside of your company. Besides participating in networking events, take other steps to build your contact list: set lunch dates with potential partners or clients, or schedule informational interviews with business contacts. Creating and maintaining professional relationships is an important piece of advancing and growing in your field.

Resolve to Be a Leader

Displaying leadership in the workplace is a solid building block for moving up in your company. You can demonstrate leadership in tasks big and small: anything from taking the initiative to assist a new colleague, to planning and executing an important project. Consistently displaying leadership qualities will work to your advantage, especially as management begins to notice your initiative. Practicing leadership can also boost your confidence and comfort level in the workplace.

Resolve to Improve Your Presentation Skills

No matter how impressive the content of your work, your messages simply will not resonate with colleagues or clients if you cannot deliver them in a strong presentation. Giving great presentations is something that many professionals struggle with, whether it is due to stage fright, nervousness or just unfamiliarity with speaking in front of a large group. Awareness of the key elements of an effective presentation – body language, posture, articulation, well-planned slides and talking points, appearance and attire – plus lots of practice can help you to strengthen your presentation skills and effectively deliver your messages.

Resolve to Build Your Executive Presence

Executive Presence
is not a single trait that can be acquired overnight; rather, it is a hybrid of characteristics, which are all critical for a successful professional to have. A recently published study by the Center for Talent Innovation defines the foundations of Executive Presence as gravitas, communication and appearance, and makes no question of the importance of Executive Presence, stating that it “accounts for 26 percent of what it takes to get the next promotion.” You can work on building your own Executive Presence through training programs, Lunch and Learn sessions, customized webinars and individual consultations that focus on skills such as communication, business etiquette, and professional image.

Even through small changes, we can all work toward becoming stronger and more successful professionals. What better time to improve your daily habits for lasting results than at the start of a brand new year!