Compassionate Leadership – Need of the hour in the new normal

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the world has only seen suffering. A large number of people lost their loved ones, their basic source of income, accessibility to food and other basic necessities, and many were even forced to relocate, the world over. The pandemic affected not only our physical health, social life and economic condition but also had a detrimental effect on our mental health. The whole world has been distressed. Now more than ever, we need people who are empathetic and compassionate. 

Compassion can be defined as a sense of empathy and caring for other people’s suffering. Being compassionate involves recognising, and understanding people’s pain and problems and making an effort to reduce their suffering or to help them deal with it. 

Compassion is a valuable quality that is much needed in today’s time. Many workplaces nowadays lack compassion. It is usually due to the pressure of high productivity, good performance and efficiency that people feel showing compassion to anyone or sharing their own problems will make them seem weak. This has been a culture common to many organisations. The fear of being seen as weak or the guilt of burdening others with one’s problems stops many from bringing up their issues in the work environment. Many feel that sharing their personal problems in the workplace goes against their work ethic of keeping their personal and professional lives separate. Also, it affects their performance at work along with bringing sad or negative energy in the workplace. 

Everyone goes through their share of problems. Experiences like losing a loved one, breaking up from a relationship, financial hardships, serious illnesses are things that almost everyone faces at some point in their lives. These issues create an imbalance in our emotional and mental health and act as a barrier in our everyday life. They make it difficult for us to concentrate and function efficiently. To top it all, we have bosses who expect us to meet deadlines, complete all tasks effectively and efficiently. The distress makes it difficult to cope with personal issues and the personal issues make it difficult to give our best at work. We are left with heavy feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. 

This calls for a great need for compassionate leadership in organizations. To begin with, a compassionate leader is a compassionate person who cares for his colleagues and employees and also encourages them to be empathetic and compassionate towards others. Compassion involves trying to understand other people’s problems with a genuine urge to help reduce their suffering. This often strengthens the work relationships. They try to establish a work environment that does not neglect, rather is inclusive of everyone’s emotional or mental health. With something bothering us internally, it is not possible to perform at our optimal level. A compassionate leader understands this. When a person is emotionally disturbed, it is normal for them to be unable to deliver their best. 

Compassionate leaders create a compassionate environment by building strong relationships with their employees. They also encourage the team members to know each other better and create bonds outside their workplace relationships. When people know each other well, they can recognise a change in behaviour and mood. Compassionate leadership provides everyone with a space to openly discuss whatever is bothering them without any mental burden of work pressure or guilt. 

Qualities of a Compassionate Leader 

  • Recognizing when someone is suffering or is in distress – The first quality of a compassionate leader is being sensitive and recognising other people’s problems and struggles. While most people are busy with their work, it can be difficult to care for other people but a compassionate leader would notice when people are suffering and will try his best to help them. 
  • Being empathic – A compassionate leader understands the emotional pain of others by putting himself in the place of the other and trying to feel the pain exactly as the person must be feeling. 
  • Being accepting and non-judgemental – A compassionate leader understands that problems are a part of everyone’s lives. He accepts and validates the feelings or experiences of his employees without being judgemental or making the employees uncomfortable. 
  • Ability to handle difficult emotions – Being a compassionate leader requires a person to be able to handle the stress of hearing out the difficult experiences of other people’s lives. This can easily overwhelm a person and sometimes even trigger them in case they have had a similar experience. Many times, people might recognise others’ suffering but turn their backs on them as they don’t feel emotionally comfortable providing any help. 
  • Taking action to help the person who is suffering – A compassionate leader not only recognises the problems and empathises with others but also makes a genuine effort to deeply understand the problem and offer help to the person in distress. A compassionate leader tries to alleviate the pain of another individual.

A compassionate leader is also easily approachable and not intimidating. Compassionate leaders encourage close relationships as this can make us feel more empathy towards our friends in the workplace. They even share their own problems with their team to encourage an open and supportive atmosphere. 

As the famous Dalai Lama once said, “When we are motivated by compassion and wisdom, the results of our actions benefit everyone, not just our individual selves or some immediate convenience.” 

Compassionate leadership doesn’t only benefit the sufferer but also benefits the leader, other employees, clients and the organization. Showing compassion to someone helps them reduce their distress and deal with their problems in a better manner. This in turn makes them capable of being of help to others facing similar problems. Compassion, when cultivated in the workplace, creates a positive and welcoming environment which increases the employees’ commitment to their organization and even improves their performance. We don’t need difficult and strict bosses. Rather, the need of the hour is compassionate leadership which is not only concerned with the success of the organization but also the mental and emotional health of its employees.

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