Leadership and career

What Compassionate Leadership Looks Like

As leaders, we share the desire to motivate and inspire our teams. We also have money to make and goals to set.  Is there room left in the schedule for compassion, empathy and kindness? Our business bookshelves groan with advice, and most experts will touch on the importance of the “softer” side of leadership.  And maybe we’ll even read those books. All of them! Someday.  When we have time.

For now, let’s hit some highlights. Read on, and then let’s learn from each other.

Compassion First

I like the old saying, “Be hard on the results, and soft on the person.” It refers to responding with empathy when a normally high-performing person makes a mistake or drops the ball.  As a leader, take a deep breath and try to understand what went wrong. Then move on.

Default to Trust

Meddling and micro-managing is a trait I see in inexperienced, ineffective leaders. Rather than getting bogged down in the details and breathing over shoulders, demonstrate trust by stepping back appropriately.  Teams will usually respond with great work as a way to keep your trust and maintain a buffer of “space.”

Know the Difference Between Skill and Will

Why do people underperform? Either they don’t know how to do it right or they just don’t want to.  As a leader, you know to recognize the difference. If skills are lacking, provide support and training.  If the will isn’t there, resolve to motivate the employee or make a change.

Systematize Team Contribution

You’ll get better results if your team is part of the planning and goal-setting process than if you deliver your grand vision from the mountaintop. Employees tend to hit goals more efficiently and enthusiastically if they had a part in setting them.

Family First, Work Second

If someone on your team has an urgent family issue, that’s their priority. Accept that.  Family issues impact work performance, so make sure your people know you respect their desire for balance.  If this sounds too touchy-feely for you, then think carefully about the reasons former employees cited for accepting other job offers.  How often did they say the new post would give them some flexibility they needed?

Explain the Why

Getting buy-in from your team isn’t always possible, but it’s a worthy goal. After all, an enthusiastic employee can get a job twice as fast as one who’s grumbling.  Make sure you communicate the “why” in your directives.  Why is this important?  Why am I asking you to do it?


Maurice GilbertMaurice Gilbert is Managing Partner of Conselium Executive Search, which specializes in placing Compliance Officers and Legal Counsel for clients in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. Maurice is also CEO of Corporate Compliance Insights, a worldwide publication devoted to governance, risk and compliance issues. Maurice can be reached at maurice@conselium.com or maurice@corporatecomplianceinsights.com.

Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.  

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