Business and Leadership

13 ways to be a compassionate leader

In my work, I have the fortune of being able to lead people and influence the community.  I also have the privilege of learning how to lead compassionately.  What is compassionate leadership?  For me, it is a way of leading people in a real and human way by making heart-felt and ethical decisions, which sometimes is the opposite of what they taught me in business school.  So, here’s how I do it.

1.      Listen to feed back

This is the most important thing you can do.  Listen to your people, listen to stakeholders, listen to your critics, listen to your fans, listen to EVERYTHING.  I’m not saying that you should take everything to heart, but have a measured idea of how you’re doing and where you stand.

2.      Hire good people and let them do their jobs

This means that you must relinquish control of every little thing that happens in your domain.  You have people there to do a job, and you must let them do it.  Nothing undermines the progress of a good team like a control freak or a micromanager.

3.      Be real

You’re human.  It does no one any good to pretend otherwise.  If you’re afraid you’ll look weak to your subordinates, then you need a reality check.  Trying to mask emotion or illness or stress is counterproductive and leads to overall burnout.  Be real and honest with your team.  They’ll thank you for your authenticity and this will lead to trust in your organization.

4.      Don’t be afraid to make tough decisions

I hate firing people, but sometimes it must be done.  I hate walking away from losing situation because I think I can always win.  These things, whether an unproductive employee or the proverbial Kobayashi Maru, are facts of life and pursuing them is a drain on you, your team and your resources.  Know when to cut your losses.

5.      Don’t Lie and Don’t tolerate Liars on your team.

Period.

6.      Lead with your Heart and not your Head

Instinctively, we know what’s right for our teams and what we need to accomplish a goal.  Sometimes this is counter intuitive to those higher on the food-chain or is contraindicated in your Ops plan.  If you know what’s right and what it takes to get to where you need to be, don’t be afraid to stick up for it.

7.      Know when to say No

It is just as important to put the kibosh on a bad idea as it is to boldly go forward with an innovative one.  So if it’s unrealistic, unethical, or just plain unattainable based on current resources, know when you can tactfully say no to those pushing the "Next Big Thing."  Your team will thank you for sticking up for them and recognizing their workload.

8.      Say Thank You – Often

Everyone wants to be appreciated.  So recognize people for what they do and bring it back to what it means to the organization and the bigger picture.  People don’t just want to work for a pay check, they want to have what they do mean something.  It’s up to you to make sure that bigger picture remains paramount and that your people feel a part of it.

9.      Have a Vision You’re Passionate About

You may be steering the ship, but your people are doing all the rowing.  You’ll get to your goal faster if they all are on board with your vision.  The easiest way to do that is to identify a vision that gets you excited.  Impassioned leaders make impassioned employees and accomplish amazing things.

10.   Practice self-compassion

Hey, you’re not perfect.  And that’s ok.  Let go of the idea that you need to be and that you need to help accountable for every single bump in the road.  As much as we would all like to think we’re omnipotent, let’s be realistic: we’re not.  So don’t beat yourself up if something goes sideways.  This self-flagellation leads to guilt and guilt demands punishment.  That’s no way to lead an organization.

11.   Admit when you’re wrong

Sometimes you get it wrong.  Admit this when it happens and own up to your mistakes.  Don’t pass the buck, don’t dodge the issue, and don’t ever carry on like you didn’t screw up.  Nothing will tear down the trust you’ve built faster than pretending to be saintly when everyone knows you totally fumbled.

12.   Let go of Ego

Letting go of ego is probably the toughest thing you will try to do because normally leaders tend to be addicted to their egos.  In fact, whole nations have risen and fallen on the whim of some leader’s ego (Er… North Korea… Rome, anyone?).  So, just like you need to be able to swallow your pride and admit when you’re wrong, you need to be able to let go of claiming all your victories for your own.  You may be in charge, but by no means did you do all the work.  Which leads us to….

13.   Be humble, be gracious, and ask for help

You’re not an island.  And it is foolish and unrealistic to expect to be able to accomplish your goals without the help of others.  Don’t be squeamish about reaching out and building alliances with others.