A while after the pandemic began, a study was conducted which asked the question: what do you believe could come out of this crisis? One of the top three responses from managers, employees, and solo workers, was, “Increased compassion for all.” This survey by the Centre for Compassionate Leadership is a herald of things to come — across the world, experts are calling for a more compassionate form of leadership in response to the stress, anxiety, and worry we face. But are leaders and managers equipped to bring this to the table while making informed and pragmatic decisions that ensure business success in these uncertain times?
The Potential Project decided to find out by designing an assessment for informed, compassionate leadership. By plotting compassion along the x-axis and wisdom along the y-axis, we see whether leaders are practicing caring avoidance, wise compassion, smart manipulation, or ineffective indifference. If you fall into one of the 4 quadrants, how do you fare?
The quadrant of caring avoidance
If you fall into this quadrant, you tend to be a caring, concerned manager. Your team can count on you to help when the workload is too much or an unexpected crisis erupts, and you feel successful when your team is succeeding and thriving. However, your tendency to avoid conflict makes you overlook concerns and sweep issues under the carpet. When a team member is struggling with tasks, for instance, you might look the other way and hope that the problem resolves itself. However, that doesn’t help to solve the deeper issues that may be causing this problem. Worse, it can make other team members feel frustrated at picking up the slack.
Instead of ignoring performance problems or allowing team members to take advantage of your tendency to avoid conflict, highlight and resolve such problems promptly. Have a frank one-on-one conversation about poor performance or unexpected issues that crop up, suggest practical tips to tackle the situation, and monitor to ensure that the team member improves performance.
The quadrant of smart manipulation
If you’re in this quadrant, people probably see you as a leader focused on the business at the cost of the team’s success, wellbeing, and needs. You need to find ways to be more kind to your team and earn their trust.
The first step to becoming a more compassionate leader begins with self-awareness and self-compassion. Accept your weaknesses — as leadership expert Uvinie Lubecki recommends, “Extend kindness toward ourselves as leaders and recognize when things get tough that we’re doing our best.” Also, actively ask others if they need help, and find ways to engage with your team by offering feedback and appreciation.
The quadrant of ineffective indifference
Leaders and managers in this quadrant are probably not applying sound judgment or compassion when making business or personnel decisions. They may not be spending enough time on understanding the industry, the business, the product, or the market. They usually aren’t spending enough time understanding their team or addressing their concerns either.
To move away from this quadrant and practice compassionate wisdom, constantly update yourself about news and insights that affect the business and the industry. This will help you make more informed decisions for your team. At the same time, practice empathy and get to know your team better, so that you can understand their motivations and give them constructive advice when they face stumbling blocks.
The quadrant of wise compassion
Managers in this quadrant are likely to be brave, honest leaders who can take difficult decisions or be vulnerable in front of their team. They try to build a secure, connected work culture where employees are guided to overcome challenges and maximize their potential.
This is the ideal quadrant, but even here, leaders must be constantly careful of the way they approach the team — Rasmus Hougaard cautions against mistaking empathy for compassion. He points out that when you empathize with those close to you, you risk driving away those who are not close or those who are different from you. As compassionate leaders, we all sometimes need to step back and consider how we can help even when a person’s situation seems unrelatable to us.
No matter where you stand in terms of compassion and wisdom, mindfulness can help you respond to the challenges you face as a manager and improve your ability to lead with wise compassion. Take these small steps towards mindfulness and create more meaningful workplace relationships.