Countless studies have shown that employees are most productive, engaged, happy and healthy in work environments that are caring, connected and collaborative.
Professor Christina Boedker of the Australian School of Business researched the link between leadership and organisational performance, collecting data from more than 5600 people in 77 organisations. She concluded that out of all the various elements in a business, the ability of a leader to be compassionate, “to understand people’s motivators, hopes and difficulties and to create the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be”, had the greatest correlation with profitability and productivity.
Yet leaders across all fields of work are generally taught to lead with their heads and not with their hearts. Leaders are expected to be strategic, rational, bottom-line business people who focus on results. As a leader, it’s likely that you already excel when it comes to these qualities that come from the head. However, if you want to improve your leadership, to really connect with your people, and stretch their potential, then you need to also look at the types of leadership qualities that come from the heart – such as compassion.
So, what exactly is a compassionate leader?
Compassion implies an interpersonal closeness that comes with responsibility, vulnerability and an absence of self-interest. Compassionate leaders operate under the knowledge that they don’t have all the answers – the people they have around them can enhance their knowledge and learning and hence enable them to lead even more effectively.
This in turn, stimulates trust and connection. Connection, another great driver of potential, is critical to develop as the best version of oneself from 3 different standpoints.
As you connect to self, you foster a deep understanding of your values, strengths and behaviours. This self-awareness allows you to know best when your potential is being stretched, what is bringing you that challenge that feels like a chance to grow. Connecting to yourself, keeps you alert. In the know and ready.
As you connect to others, you are spotting the potential of the team, what is it that everyone brings and how to leverage this for new things to happen, elevated goals to be set and met. It is also a great way to keep motivation and engagement high.
As you connect to the organisation’s purpose and your purpose beyond, you bring alignment to your environment facilitating the emergence of opportunities for potential to flourish.
Without alignment, connection or compassion, we run the risk of getting bogged in the doing, in the day to day. This represses our ability to explore and be curious, to grant ourselves the space, the time and energy that is needed to expand the possibilities. Like the oxygen needed to ignite a flame, these elements are the catalysts that stretch potential.